January 7th, 2013
07:52 PM ET

Taking to the air on hunt for dirty bomb threats

By Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd

Residents of Washington may be surprised by a helicopter flying low overhead this week, endlessly prowling the city to map its radiation signature.

The helicopter is crisscrossing the city, like a lawn mower covering a lawn, flying as low as just 150 feet off the ground. CNN spotted it northwest of downtown on Monday, flying low over the buildings, back and forth, east to west.

The purpose: to produce a baseline scan of the natural radiological readings in the capital. Once the map is done, any new anomalies - or suspicious radioactive activity - could be more easily detected.


October 19th, 2012
04:51 AM ET

Drunk contractors cause harm in Afghanistan, lawsuit alleges

By Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd

The amateur video shows men, shirtless and seeming dangerously drunk, rolling on the ground or staggering near a counter top covered with booze bottles. Another part of the video shows a man babbling incoherently with a syringe nearby.

This is not a scene at a college frat house. It is a video of employees of an American security contractor working in Kabul, Afghanistan.

"It reminded me of times I'd visit my friends going to college that were in fraternities," said John Melson, a former employee of Jorge Scientific who was based at that villa in Kabul on assignment to support efforts to train Afghan security personnel.

The images in this video are now part of a lawsuit by two former employees of Jorge Scientific who allege that contractors with the firm were careless with their guns, abused local staffers, wrecked cars, destroyed furniture, and often could not perform their duties due to drunkenness.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Contractors • Kabul • Lawsuit
May 23rd, 2012
06:20 PM ET

Filmmakers' access to bin Laden info

By Brian Todd and Dugald McConnell

Newly released documents have reignited the debate in Washington over whether Obama administration officials granted too much access to filmmakers making a movie about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden - and whether national security was compromised in the process.

The documents show, for example, that a defense official offered the filmmakers access to a planner from SEAL Team Six, the super-secret special ops division that successfully executed the high-stakes raid in Pakistan last year.

It is not clear if any such access eventually took place. But according to a transcript from the meeting, on July 14 of last year, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers told screenwriter Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow that the defense department would offer up a plum interview.

"They'll make a guy available who was involved from the beginning as a planner; a SEAL Team 6 Operator and Commander," Vickers said, according to the transcript.

February 15th, 2012
04:25 PM ET

Worries that Iran could target U.S. Jewish groups

By Carol Cratty, with reporting from Ross Levitt and Dugald McConnell

With tensions between Iran and the West running high, law enforcement officials are concerned Iran or its surrogates could mount attacks against Jewish targets inside the United States - but there is no specific information that any plots are in the works, according to an intelligence bulletin obtained by CNN.

On February 8, the Department of Homeland Security and FBI sent state and local law enforcement partners a memo titled "No Specific Threat to American Jewish Community, Despite Recent World Events." FULL POST

December 13th, 2011
10:26 PM ET

Hezbollah claims to reveal 10 CIA spies in Lebanon

By Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd

The militant group Hezbollah claims it has blown the cover of 10 alleged CIA officers working in Lebanon.

In the latest round of an escalating spy war, Hezbollah's media arm, al Manar, posted a video Friday accusing the CIA of running espionage operations from the diplomatic cover of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.  It discloses the alleged names of the current CIA station chief (including his birthdate), the former station chief, and three other officers, as well as code names for five others.

If those are indeed the names of CIA officers, their covert abilities have been compromised, and they will likely leave the country, according to two former CIA agents.

"The truth is, almost everybody probably knows who the station chief in Beirut is - at least if you're the bad guy," said former CIA officer Reuel Marc Gerecht.  But if the identities of officers have been publicly revealed, he said, "they (agency officials) most definitely yank you." FULL POST

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Filed under: CIA • Hezbollah • Intelligence • Lebanon