First female chief for spy satellite agency
Launch of National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite
April 25th, 2012
06:50 PM ET

First female chief for spy satellite agency

By Pam Benson

The glass ceiling has cracked a bit further as another woman is appointed to lead one of the big five U.S. intelligence agencies.

James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, announced Tuesday that Betty Sapp will take the helm of the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency that oversees the nation's supersecret satellite systems.

Sapp, who joined the intelligence community in 1997, has served as the NRO deputy director for the past two years. She will replace Bruce Carlson, who announced his departure will be July 20.

In a written statement, Clapper praised Sapp as "a smart, exceedingly professional and unflappable leader ... who has already established herself as an expert in her field."

The DNI also touted Carlson's accomplishments, noting the NRO had launched six satellites in just seven months last year.

Sapp becomes the second woman to head a key intelligence agency. Letitia "Tish" Long was appointed director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in August 2010.

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Filed under: Clapper • Intelligence • ODNI • Satellite imagery
Creating a classified cloud for spies
The architects: Kelly Miller, NSA; Jeanne Tsinger, CIA; Grant Schneider, DIA; Al Tarasiuk, ODNI; Jill Tummler Singer, NRO; Keith E. Littlefield, NGA
March 28th, 2012
03:00 AM ET

Creating a classified cloud for spies

By Suzanne Kelly

The Intelligence Community (IC) is undergoing its biggest technological change ever as a team of hundreds works to build a computer system that links together nearly all of the 17 intelligence entities through a series of classified servers. To call it an ambitious project might be an understatement. The architects of the undertaking aim to get an initial version going by the end of the year.

The chief information officers at the most prominent agencies of the Intelligence Community were assigned the mission last summer when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper began to brace for budget cuts that would hit the community hard. For the first time in a decade, the IC would be forced to downsize under the strain of a budget that could no longer maintain the expansive growth the community had experienced since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

By last fall, Clapper was paraphrasing a favorite quote by a New Zealand physicist Earnest Rutherford who, in the midst of his own country's budget deliberations in 1927, said, “We’re running out of money so we must begin to think.”
FULL POST

Iran nukes: How would the world know?
Fordow enrichment plant near Qom, Iran
March 26th, 2012
03:00 AM ET

Iran nukes: How would the world know?

By Pam Benson

American officials are adamant. The U.S. will respond - possibly with military force - if Iran crosses a red line and decides to actually make nuclear weapons.

But will the U.S. know with an degree of certainty that a line has been crossed?

The decision itself to push ahead really comes down to one person, according to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Clapper told a Senate hearing recently that any decision would be based on "the supreme leader's world view and the extent to which he thinks that would benefit the state of Iran or, conversely, not benefit."

Clapper was referring to Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the supreme leader of Iran.

FULL POST

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Filed under: CIA • Clapper • IAEA • IAEA • Intelligence • Iran • Iraq • Khamenei • Nuclear • ODNI • Petraeus • Petraeus • Stuxnet • weapons
Counterterrorism center can keep data on Americans for longer
Operations Center at the National Counterterrorism Center
March 23rd, 2012
11:26 AM ET

Counterterrorism center can keep data on Americans for longer

By Pam Benson

The Obama administration has revised guidelines to allow the National Counterterrorism Center access to data about Americans that it can search and store for a longer period of time, even if that information is not related to terrorism.

The revision, announced Thursday night, will allow the center to obtain data from other government databases that include nonterrorism information on U.S. citizens and residents, and retain the material for up to five years.

Guidelines established in November 2008 only allowed the center to keep the information for up to 180 days before permanently removing it.

FULL POST

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Filed under: 9/11 • Clapper • Intelligence • NCTC • ODNI • Terrorism • Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab
Different shades of red line for Iran
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inspects centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear site
March 1st, 2012
07:00 PM ET

Different shades of red line for Iran

Analysis by Pam Benson

The time frame for knowing whether Iran has crossed a so-called red line toward making a nuclear weapon could be shrinking as Iran increases its uranium enrichment capacity. (Read also: Rational or not, Iran is a real danger)

Last week's report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) indicated Iran had significantly stepped up its enrichment operation, adding centrifuges used to process uranium at its Natanz and Fordow facilities and producing far greater quantities of 20% enriched uranium.

If Iran continues to enrich uranium to that level at the current expanded rate, nuclear experts say Iran would have enough material to further enrich to make a crude bomb, at the very least, by early next year. To do so, Iran would have to go another step and further enrich to the 90% level to make weapons-grade uranium, but analysts believe that is not a technically difficult achievement for Iran.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Analysis • Clapper • Hillary Clinton • IAEA • Intelligence • Iran • Israel • Nuclear • Panetta • Rep. Mike Rogers • weapons
February 22nd, 2012
06:40 PM ET

Military: Thousands of troops needed to secure Syrian chemical sites

By Barbara Starr

The U.S. military has calculated it could take more than 75,000 ground troops to secure Syria's chemical warfare facilities if they were at risk of being looted or left unguarded, CNN has learned.

The conclusion comes from a military analysis of options for Syria that the Department of Defense is preparing for president should he request it, according to a senior U.S. official.

Securing Syria's chemical sites would be "extraordinarily difficult" given the scope of the problem, a Department of Defense official told CNN. FULL POST

Iran a threat to U.S. on many fronts
February 16th, 2012
01:35 PM ET

Iran a threat to U.S. on many fronts

By Suzanne Kelly

Iran poses a laundry list of threats to U.S. national security, according to top officials in the intelligence community.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that Iran poses a threat on a number of fronts, including its ability to develop a nuclear weapon, and the fact that any nuclear attack would likely be delivered by a ballistic missile.

"Iran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East, and it is expanding the scale, reach, and sophistication of its ballistic missile force, many of which are inherently capable of carrying a nuclear payload," Clapper said during his opening remarks to the committee. FULL POST

Assad's daddy issues
February 16th, 2012
10:43 AM ET

Assad's daddy issues

By Adam Levine

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad will not leave or change course short of a coup, mostly because of the president's need to "emulate his father," U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Thursday.

Clapper said the Syrian opposition, while mostly local, has been infiltrated by al Qaeda elements, maybe without the opposition knowing about it.

His comments about the situation in Syria were the most detailed assessment to date of the U.S. intelligence read on Syria, and came during testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee about threats to the United States. FULL POST

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Filed under: Clapper • Intelligence • Middle East • ODNI • Senate Armed Services Committee • Syria
Scaling back on wars, spending elsewhere
The expensive Joint Strike Fighter program will be slowed down to save money in the coming years
February 13th, 2012
01:19 PM ET

Scaling back on wars, spending elsewhere

By Larry Shaughnessy, with reporting from Elise Labott at the State Department

The Pentagon spelled out in billions of dollars on Monday precisely how it wants to save nearly half a trillion dollars in defense spending over the next five years, as the Department of Defense and other parts of the American national security apparatus sought to rebalance their books to account for new areas of concern.

Beginning this year, the military wants to spend far less on the war in Afghanistan compared with recent years as the U.S. draws down its forces, with an eye on the exit for most by the end of 2014.

In 2013, the Department of Defense expects to spend $88 billion on overseas contingency operations, almost all of it on the war in Afghanistan. That's compared with the $115 billion it expects to spend this year.

Those savings have to come from somewhere. FULL POST

Help wanted, must keep a secret: the case file on ODNI's Stephanie O'Sullivan
February 9th, 2012
12:02 AM ET

Help wanted, must keep a secret: the case file on ODNI's Stephanie O'Sullivan

By Suzanne Kelly

Editor's note:  In the Security Clearance "Case File" series, CNN national security producers profile the key members of the intelligence community.   This story is the first in a special Case File series focusing on the roles women play in the U.S. intelligence community

You never know when a life of espionage is right there in front of you, in an advertisement, calling you to a new adventure.  At least, Stephanie O'Sullivan says she didn't know when she answered a help wanted ad more than two decades ago for an employer looking for someone with experience in "ocean engineering."

The recent college graduate with a civil engineering degree had moved in with her parents in Annapolis, Maryland, while her fiance, whom she'd met in college, finished up his own program.  Her parents, in full anticipation of sailing off into the sunset when her father retired, had bought a boat, and that's where the three of them lived.

"I thought, 'Well I know about that, I live on a boat and I've been into boating all my life because my father was into it," said O'Sullivan, who answered the ad, not really understanding the full scope of what "ocean engineering" meant.  She soon realized why the ad was so cryptic:  it was for work on a classified program. "It turned out to be intelligence community work and it was luck because it's been a career of infinite challenge." FULL POST

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