State Department: Clinton not dodging Benghazi hearings
Secretary Clinton speaks during a news conference during her visit to Northern Ireland on December 7, 2012 just before returning to the United States later that day.
December 18th, 2012
02:39 PM ET

State Department: Clinton not dodging Benghazi hearings

By Adam Levine

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is "on the mend" and working from home, the State Department’s spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Clinton had been recovering from a bout of stomach flu last week when she fainted and ended up with a concussion. Clinton informed the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees this weekend that she would be unable to testify at upcoming hearings about the deadly events in Benghazi, Libya, at the advice of her doctors. In her place, deputies Thomas Nides and Bill Burns will testify on Thursday.

Clinton was finishing her cover letter to Congress to accompany the independent Benghazi review that was just completed, as she recuperates at home from her concussion injury and stomach virus, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

The classified version of the independent review is being sent to Congress Tuesday afternoon, and an unclassified version could be released for public consumption as early as Wednesday, the same day that former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, who led the review, brief congressional committees about their findings.
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With conflict stopped, Israeli military touts successes
November 21st, 2012
05:32 PM ET

With conflict stopped, Israeli military touts successes

By Adam Levine

The relentless pace of the Israeli airstrike on Gaza gave the country's military time to make a significant dent in the offensive capability of Hamas, the Israeli military said.

Over the eight day conflict, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) looked to deplete some of the estimated 12,000 rockets Hamas has in its arsenal and destroy tunnels that are said to be used to smuggle weapons.

"We are very satisfied with the achievements that we have had in this operation," Israel Defense Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich said on CNN's 'Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.'

The operation was not without human cost. Nearly 150 Palestinian and Israelis, though mostly Palestinians, were killed and many more were injured.

But the IDF said the operation allowed it to accomplish "its pre-determined objectives for Operation Pillar of Defense, and has inflicted severe damage to Hamas and its military capabilities," according to a media release sent soon after the cease-fire took effect on Wednesday.

The military gains were a factor in Israel agreeing to stop the airstrikes, according to the IDF.

"These operational achievements provided the underlying framework for this evening's cease-fire agreement," the IDF release said.

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Filed under: Gaza • Israel • Israel-Gaza 2012 • Middle East • Palestine
Why Obama administration is avoiding 'cease-fire'
November 20th, 2012
03:46 PM ET

Why Obama administration is avoiding 'cease-fire'

By Jamie Crawford and Adam Levine

The Obama administration is stressing that the aim in talking to all parties is for a "de-escalation" of the fighting between Israel and Hamas. But while administration officials talk about trying to stop the fighting, they are assiduously avoiding using the term "cease-fire."

At a press conference Tuesday in Cambodia, National Security Council spokesman Ben Rhodes said he was not refraining from using the term, but then he refrained from using the term:

REPORTER:   Ben, you keep using the phrase “de-escalate the situation.” Are you avoiding using the word “cease-fire”?

RHODES: No, I mean, there are many ways that you can achieve the goal of a de-escalation. Again, what our bottom line is, is an end to rocket fire. We’re open to any number of ideas for achieving that goal. We’ve discussed any number of ideas for accomplishing that goal. But it’s going to have to begin with a reduction of tensions and space created for the situation to calm. So we’ll be discussing going forward, as we have been over the last several days, what are the various ways in which we can accomplish that goal.

At the State Department briefing on Tuesday, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also emphasized de-escalation over cease-fire, saying there are many ways to lessen the violence: FULL POST

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Filed under: Diplomacy • Gaza • Israel • Middle East • Palestine
Iran still not cooperating with nuclear inspectors
November 16th, 2012
01:10 PM ET

Iran still not cooperating with nuclear inspectors

Iran is not cooperating sufficiently with the United Nations' nuclear watchdog for it to conclude that the country is conducting "peaceful activities," the agency said Friday.

In a 13-page report, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that despite its effort to step up talks with Iran, the nation has offered no "concrete results."

The agency's director general is, in turn, "unable to report any progress on clarifying issues relating to possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme," the report said.

Iran has completed installation of centrifuges at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, an underground facility, giving it greater capability of enriching uranimum to 20-percent.  That would be a key capability if Iran chooses to enrich further to make it weapons grade.   Iran has not informed the IAEA how much of the site will be devoted to enriching to 20 percent and how much will be devoted to lower enrichment.

The report said Iran is still not granting inspectors access to the Parchin site, calling it a "matter of concern" that "extensive and significant activities" have taken place there this year. The report lists some of the observed activity at the explosive containment vessel on the site, which the IAEA is concerned could be used to for "possible nuclear weapon development." Iran has said the allegation is "baseless." The new report lists some of the activity observed since February of this year: FULL POST

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Filed under: Iran • Nuclear
November 12th, 2012
02:26 PM ET

Assessing security implications of Petraeus' infidelity

With reporting from Suzanne Kelly and Pam Benson

While affairs may be commonplace in Washington, when they involve the director of the CIA, things can take on a different tone.

A U.S. official has said there was no breach of national security as a result of David Petraeus' affair, but that hasn't stopped discussion that Paula Broadwell could have gained access to classified information as a result of what she has routinely described as "unprecedented access" to Petraeus.

That discussion seemed to gain momentum Monday thanks to comments Broadwell made in a speech last month at the University of Denver.

"I don't know if a lot of you have heard this, but the CIA annex had actually taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner and they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to get these prisoners back," Broadwell said.

A senior intelligence official told CNN on Monday, "These detention claims are categorically not true. Nobody was ever held at the annex before, during, or after the attacks."

Broadwell's source for that previously unpublished bit of information remains unclear, and there's no evidence so far that it came from Petraeus. Administration officials have said the Benghazi assault was a terrorist attack. FULL POST

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Filed under: CIA • Intelligence • Libya • Middle East • Petraeus
President Obama calls long distance
File photo
November 8th, 2012
02:27 PM ET

President Obama calls long distance

The newly re-elected president had a busy morning returning calls to world leaders who had sent messages of congratulations, according to a White House statement.

"In each call, he thanked his counterpart for their friendship and partnership thus far and expressed his desire to continue close cooperation moving ahead," according to the statement.

Not everyone got a call returned by President Obama, mind you. The statement notes the president returned "some" of the messages personally.

Here's a list of who got called: FULL POST

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Foreign Policy • White House
Military prepares for Sandy impact
October 29th, 2012
10:08 AM ET

Military prepares for Sandy impact

By Adam Levine

The U.S. military is preparing to help with response to Hurricane Sandy and working to protect its own equipment.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was "monitoring" the storm from the Pentagon on Monday, according to a tweet from his press secretary George Little.

Over the weekend, Panetta appointed "dual status" commanders, according to the Department of Defense website.  The commanders are authorized to command both federal and state National Guard forces.

"This special authority enables them to effectively integrate the defense support operations and capabilities that Governors request. The Secretary is prepared to quickly agree to similar requests from other States," according to a press release about the decision. 

The decision was made by Panetta at the request of governor from Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island

Over the weekend, the National Guard had approximately 1,500 forces on active duty in New York, Massachussets, Virginia, Delaware, Connecticut and Maryland.  The troops are assisting local first responders and the Federal Emergency Management Agency with route clearance, search and rescue, equipment and supplies delivery and evacuations.

U.S. Northern Command has put helicopters, planes, and rescue teams on alert to be ready to deploy as needed.

In addition to aiding in response, the military has been moving aircraft and ships to avoid damage during the storm.  Bases in New York, New Jersey and Delaware have all moved aircraft, according to the Department of Defense.  The Navy has also moved vessels including the USS Wasp, USS Taylor USNS Kanawa, USNS Medgar Evers and the USS Ross.

Get the latest CNN coverage of Hurricane Sandy

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Filed under: Military • Panetta • US Northern Command
Analysis: Debate leaves unanswered national security questions
October 15th, 2012
03:00 AM ET

Analysis: Debate leaves unanswered national security questions

By Adam Levine, CNN

Foreign policy will get increased attention in the two debates left between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, with the final debate set to be entirely devoted to the subject.

The slugfest between the vice presidential candidates highlighted the toughest challenge for the Republican ticket, namely how to differentiate from Obama administration policies. The vice presidential debate left a number of questions unanswered about how each side distinguishes itself when it comes to national security.

Here's a look at a few of those issues.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Afghanistan • Biden • Foreign Policy • Iran • Libya • Obama • Romney • Ryan
October 12th, 2012
03:52 PM ET

White House backs Biden's statement about Benghazi security requests

The White House faced a political maelstrom after Vice President Joe Biden's claim during Thursday's vice presidential debate about who was aware of requests for additional security at the diplomatic office in Benghazi.

""We weren't told they wanted more security. We did not know they wanted more security," Biden said during the debate.

As was pointed out by CNN's Fact Check team, just days earlier there were State Department security officials who testified to Congress about requests made and denied for more security.  But it's coming down to what the meaning of "we" is.

The White House explanation, on Friday, was that such requests were not made to the White House, they were handled by State.  Here's one of numerous exchanges between White House Spokesman Jay Carney and reporters: FULL POST

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Libya
September 27th, 2012
04:29 PM ET

Defense secretary says Benghazi assault was planned terror attack

By Barbara Starr and Adam Levine

The assault on the diplomatic office in Benghazi was clearly a planned assault by terrorists, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Thursday.

"As we determined the details of what took place there and how that attack took place, it became clear that there were terrorists who planned that attack," Panetta said.

Panetta's comments are the most definitive to date by an administration official that the Benghazi assault was planned.  The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said on September 16th that the attack "began spontaneously" as a protest against an anti-Muslim film that "spun" from there. Last week, testifying to Congress, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center said, at that point, there was no indication of "significant" plotting.

"What we don't have at this point is specific intelligence that there was a significant advanced planning or coordination for this attack," Matt Olsen said. FULL POST

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