Obama administration officials to brief intelligence committees on Benghazi
Extensive damage at U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya following September 11th attack
November 8th, 2012
05:53 PM ET

Obama administration officials to brief intelligence committees on Benghazi

By Pam Benson

Senior intelligence, State Department and FBI officials can expect to be grilled next week as congressional hearings resume on the terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya that killed four Americans.

Lawmakers want answers to many outstanding questions surrounding the September 11 armed assault on the diplomatic facility and a CIA annex in Benghazi.

Specifically, they want to know who was responsible, whether it was planned, the intelligence reporting on the threat to Libya prior the attack, and whether security was adequate.

The Senate Intelligence Committee will conduct a closed-door hearing on November 15. Scheduled witnesses include Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director David Petraeus, Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy, FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce and National Counterterrorism Center Director Matt Olsen.

Clapper, Petraeus and Olsen will also testify behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee on the same day.


September 28th, 2012
03:44 PM ET

FIRST ON CNN: Intel agency seeks to explain evolving understanding of Libya attack

By Suzanne Kelly

The U.S. intelligence community has revised its assessment of the deadly attack on the American consulate in Libya, saying it now believes it was a deliberate terrorist assault.

In an unusual statement on Friday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence sought to explain how it has revised its view of the September 11 attack on the diplomatic post that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.

The assessment moves away from the initial belief the attack began spontaneously following a protest over an anti-Muslim film. The intelligence community now believes it was "a deliberate and organized terrorist assault carried out by extremists" affiliated or sympathetic with al Qaeda.

The statement represents the fullest accounting yet of the intelligence community's changed understanding of the attack, and suggests it is trying to distance itself from the political debate over whether the Obama administration is being fully forthcoming about its understanding of events.

The release of such information outlining an ongoing investigation is rare and underscores just how controversial the issue has become. FULL POST

Filed under: Intelligence • Libya • ODNI
Battle to reauthorize powerful government spy tools
U.S. Capitol
September 11th, 2012
07:08 PM ET

Battle to reauthorize powerful government spy tools

By Suzanne Kelly and Pam Benson

The classified program that arms the U.S. government with powerful authorities to monitor communications of foreigners overseas is at the heart of a debate over just how much people should trust their government.

The Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act, originally enacted in 1978, was amended after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, allowing for a dramatic expansion of the abilities of the U.S. government to collect intelligence on foreign people in foreign countries. FISA sets procedures for the intelligence community to intercept e-mails, phone conversations and other communications of foreigners overseas who are suspected of threatening the United States.

The problem is that sometimes, in the course of collecting that electronic information, data also is collected on "U.S. persons" - meaning citizens or foreign residents of the United States.

First on CNN: Scoop on inside discussions over proposed leak provisions
Top leadership of Senate and House intelligence committees discuss concerns over leaks
July 5th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

First on CNN: Scoop on inside discussions over proposed leak provisions

by Suzanne Kelly

Discussions are ongoing over just how stringent new provisions should be as the Senate targets leakers in its upcoming Intelligence Authorization bill, according to a government source.

Many of the options up for consideration put far stricter limits on communications between intelligence officials and reporters, according to the source, who told CNN that early proposals included requiring government employees who provide background briefings to reporters to notify members of Congress ahead of time.

Such background meetings are not widely seen as opportunities to discuss classified programs. Reporters routinely use background briefings to gather contextual information on stories they are covering.

According to the government source, there were also discussions about consolidating some of the press offices within the intelligence community, limiting the number of people who are available to answer common media inquiries.


FIRST ON CNN: Intel chief rolls out new measures aimed at plugging leaks
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper
June 25th, 2012
10:34 AM ET

FIRST ON CNN: Intel chief rolls out new measures aimed at plugging leaks

By Suzanne Kelly

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is rolling out new measures Monday aimed at ending what recently has been a spate of leaks regarding classified programs and operations.

Among Clapper's recommendations, to be instituted across the 16 intelligence agencies, are an enhanced counterintelligence polygraph test for employees who have access to classified information, and the establishment of a task force of intelligence community inspectors general that will have the ability to conduct independent investigations across agencies in coordination with the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive.

Clapper has also called for a review of current policies that relate to interaction with members of the media, and how that interaction must be reported.

The new question that will be added to the current counterintelligence polygraph test - which intelligence community employees who handle classified information are required to take - will specifically ask whether the employee has disclosed classified information to a member of the media.


FIRST ON CNN: Intel chief wants more lie detector tests to deter leaks
June 7th, 2012
12:59 PM ET

FIRST ON CNN: Intel chief wants more lie detector tests to deter leaks

By Suzanne Kelly

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper wants more government employees to be subject to an enhanced lie detector test as a deterrent to leaking classified information, an intelligence source told CNN Thursday.

RECOMMENDED:  "Avalanche of leaks"

As he briefs top intelligence lawmakers who are outraged over a series of recent leaks of classified information, Clapper wants to widen the numbers of people across government agencies who would be required to take the “Counterintelligence Polygraph,” the source said.

The move would be aimed at government employees who hold top-secret clearance, including employees at the 16 intelligence agencies he oversees, but also at other departments, such as State and Defense, which have employees with access to similar information, according to the intelligence source. But the scope of Clapper's efforts would not include White House officials who also are privy to classified information. FULL POST

Supreme Court to review government's foreign surveillance program
May 21st, 2012
12:31 PM ET

Supreme Court to review government's foreign surveillance program

By Bill Mears

The Supreme Court said Monday that it will tackle a major national security and privacy dispute involving the government's little-known foreign surveillance program.

The justices announced they would hear an appeal from the American Civil Liberties Union, representing a coalition of "United States persons" - attorneys, journalists and labor, legal, media and human rights organizations.

Oral arguments will be heard this fall.

The larger issue involves the constitutionality of the federal government's electronic monitoring of targeted foreign people. A federal appeals court said the domestic plaintiffs who deal with overseas clients and co-workers reasonably feared the government was reading and hearing their sensitive communications, and those groups had taken costly measures to avoid such intrusions.

That New York-based three-judge panel last year ruled against the Obama administration proceeding.

The specific question now to be addressed by the high court is whether certain Americans have "standing" to challenge the federal law, without a specific showing they have been monitored. Plaintiffs say the National Security Agency has in turn refused to disclose specifics. The ACLU calls that "Catch-22" logic.

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Filed under: Clapper • Intelligence • Justice Department • NSA
Yemen plot exposes new world of U.S. spying
Yemeni militants, suspected of being members of al Qaeda, patrol on their pick ups in the restive southern city of Zinjibar
May 11th, 2012
04:11 PM ET

Yemen plot exposes new world of U.S. spying

By Pam Benson

As details of the foiled al Qaeda plot to blow up a U.S.-bound airline became public, the world learned not only about a daring operation to stop terrorists, but also about the new reality of how U.S. intelligence works.

American and foreign intelligence partners working hand in hand to rid the world of the scourge of terror. You didn't see much of that 10 years ago, but it's exactly what happened recently.

The Saudis infiltrate an al Qaeda terrorist group in Yemen with their own mole, and the CIA and others are brought into the mix to help run an operation that eventually foils a possible bomb attack against an airliner destined for America.

"I'm not at all surprised that the press accounts of this have liaison services, particularly the Saudis, playing such a prominent role," said former CIA Director Michael Hayden. "That's the way I would have expected it to go."


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Filed under: 9/11 • Afghanistan • Al Qaeda • AQAP • Arab Spring • CIA • Egypt • Intelligence • Military • Navy SEALs • NCTC • ODNI • Pakistan • Terrorism • Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab • Yemen
Spy chief orders review of bomb plot leaks
May 9th, 2012
02:08 PM ET

Spy chief orders review of bomb plot leaks

By Barbara Starr

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has ordered an internal review across the intelligence community to determine if leaks regarding a Saudi mole who infiltrated an Qaeda affiliate in Yemen came from any of the 16 intelligence agencies he oversees.

Recommended:  Mole infiltrated al Qaeda plot

The move comes after revelations this week that a mole helped foil a plot to blow up a U.S.-bound plane by penetrating al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

"We are looking internally to determine whether or not there were unauthorized disclosures of classified information," said a U.S. intelligence official, who has direct knowledge of the review but declined to be named and was only authorized to discuss it if no name was used. FULL POST

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Filed under: CIA • Clapper • FIRST ON CNN/EXCLUSIVE • Intelligence • ODNI
Public will get to read seized bin Laden documents
Pakistan demolishes compound in Abbottabad where Osama bin Laden lived
May 2nd, 2012
06:23 PM ET

Public will get to read seized bin Laden documents

By Pam Benson

Some of the mystery that shrouded Osama bin Laden will be partially lifted as the public gets its first opportunity to read some of the documents seized during the U.S. raid on the al Qaeda founder's hideout in Pakistan one year ago.

A selection of the more than 6,000 documents will be made available Thursday on the website of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

Michael Birmingham, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said 17 al Qaeda-originated documents will be released in their original Arabic as well as English translations. The CTC will provide a short report with an overview of the materials.

The documents were found on the five computers, dozens of hard drives and more than 100 storage devices, such as thumb drives and discs, confiscated from the Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound after bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs during the May 2011 raid.

U.S. officials have described the cache as a treasure trove of material, the single largest collection of senior terrorist material ever obtained. It included digital, audio and video files, printed materials, recording devices and handwritten documents.


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Filed under: 1 Year After Bin Laden's Death • 9/11 • Al Qaeda • AQAP • CIA • Intelligence • ODNI • Osama bin Laden • Osama bin Laden documents • Pakistan • Terrorism
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