By CNN's Kevin Liptak
The NSA is denying a report in a German newspaper that the agency’s chief – Gen. Keith Alexander-had informed President Obama in 2010 about the monitoring of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone.
NSA spokeswoman Vanee’ Vines told CNN: "Gen. Alexander did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel. News reports claiming otherwise are not true."
The United States has been waging a multi-country diplomatic effort to ensure Edward Snowden is returned to American authorities to face espionage charges, Secretary of State John Kerry asserted in an interview with CNN Monday.
Snowden, who admittedly leaked top secret information about government surveillance programs, left Hong Kong on Sunday and has thus far avoided U.S. extradition efforts. The United States has revoked his passport and encouraged countries to deny him asylum.
Asked how a man wanted on espionage charges was able to travel freely from Hong Kong to Russia, Kerry defended the U.S. government's role in trying to apprehend Snowden. He noted Snowden's passport was revoked as soon as the government's complaint against him was unsealed last week – before Snowden departed Hong Kong.
"We don't know what authorities allowed him to leave under those circumstances," Kerry told CNN foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott. "We obviously have to find out from the Chinese what happened. We hope that the Russians will recognize the request of the United States."
By Kevin Liptak
The private firm that vetted Edward Snowden in 2011 is under criminal investigation for routine failures in properly investigating the backgrounds of people in line for security clearances, Sen. Claire McCaskill said during a Senate hearing Thursday.
Additionally, a government watchdog told lawmakers his agency believes the check into Snowden's background conducted by USIS, a Virginia-based government contractor, may have been faulty.
Snowden, who held a top secret clearance, admittedly leaked documents this month detailing two government surveillance programs. At the time of the leaks, he was an employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.FULL STORY
By Kevin Liptak
Extensive fraud has been committed by investigators responsible for conducting background checks used in granting security clearances to national security employees, a government watchdog will tell lawmakers on Thursday.
Patrick McFarland, the inspector general for the Office of Personnel Management, will tell a joint hearing of Senate subcommittees on homeland security that his office doesn't have the resources it needs to ensure the checks – which were required of the millions of Americans with clearances – are not falsified.
So-called "fabrication cases" occur when background investigators "report interviews that never occurred, record answers to questions that were never asked, and document records checks that were never conducted," McFarland will say, according to prepared testimony.
By Kevin Liptak
The names of dozens of detainees held at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were released for the first time on Monday after a newspaper sued the federal government for the information.
The list identifies 46 inmates being held for “continued detention” at the facility, which President Barack Obama has vowed to close. The report was made public after a lawsuit from the Miami Herald. The Obama administration first acknowledged that detainees were being held indefinitely in Guantanamo in 2010, but didn't make their identities public until now.
Recently, more than half of the 166 current Guantanamo detainees have staged a hunger strike. They are protesting their treatment and indefinite detention, resulting in force feedings of more than 20.FULL STORY
By Kevin Liptak
Even as President Barack Obama seeks to rally support for his plan to further assist Syrian rebels at this week's Group of Eight conference in Northern Ireland, polls show Americans back home casting a wary eye on providing arms to opposition forces in the conflict-torn nation.
In a Gallup survey conducted over the weekend, 54% of adults said they disapproved of the Obama administration's decision to provide military aid to rebel fighters in Syria, compared to 37% who said they approved of the move.
The announcement of the new lethal aid to Syria came on Thursday, when the White House said it had confirmed that chemical weapons were used by President Bashar al-Assad against rebels and his own people, and thereby crossed a "red line." While the Obama administration did not specify what type of military support it would provide, sources have told CNN that small arms and ammunition are part of the package.FULL STORY
By CNN's Rachel Streitfeld and Kevin Liptak
Sen. John McCain visited rebels in Syria on Monday, his communications director confirmed to CNN, making the Arizona Republican the highest ranking elected official from the United States to visit the war-torn country.
Brian Rogers confirmed a report that originally appeared on The Daily Beast, which indicated McCain entered Syria through Turkey, and remained in the country for several hours.
While in Syria, McCain met with Gen. Salem Idris, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, according to the Daily Beast. He also met with other rebel leaders who traveled the country to meet him.
McCain is the leading voice in Congress for a greater U.S. role in ending Syria's civil war, which has been waged for more than two years. He has suggested establishing "safe zones" for Syria's rebels and taking out the regime's air assets, along with providing lethal weapons to Syria's opposition.
By CNN's Kevin Liptak
The way the military has prosecuted sexual assaults within its ranks is deplorable, two congresswomen who have served in the armed forces said Sunday, calling for a new system for reporting those kinds of crimes.
Reps. Tammy Duckworth and Tulsi Gabbard, both Democrats, said last week's report indicating a 30% rise in the number of service members anonymously reporting sexual assaults was an indication the military's leadership has failed in its duty to protect members of the armed forces.
"I want the military to be a place where women can succeed and thrive the way I was able to. And the military leadership at this point has shown that they have not been capable of fixing this problem," said Duckworth, who represents Illinois and is an Iraq War veteran.
Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," Duckworth argued that individuals in positions of power should be able to halt the problem, but have thus far failed in their attempts to stop sexual abuse.FULL STORY
By CNN's Kevin Liptak
The Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee offered legislation Monday that would allow the United States to provide lethal weapons to the Syrian opposition, a step President Barack Obama has yet to publically endorse.
Sen. Robert Menendez's bill would allow U.S.-provided arms, military training and supplies to go to groups that have been vetted and cleared, and establish a $250 million fund to help support a political transition in Syria, where a civil war has been waged for over 2 years.
The bill comes amid reports that chemical weapons have been used in the country. The White House notified lawmakers in April that the United States had established, with "varying degrees of confidence," that a sarin gas attack had taken place in Syria. But over the weekend a U.N. official said evidence points to the use of the deadly nerve agent by Syrian rebel forces, not the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. A spokesman for the Rebel Free Syrian Army disputed those claims.
Menendez, along with a group of other lawmakers, has pushed for greater U.S. involvement in Syria since before the reports of chemical weapons emerged.FULL STORY
An award for drone operators that drew an angry response from lawmakers was downgraded to a lesser distinction Monday by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal, which was approved last month by Hagel's predecessor, Leon Panetta, was to recognize "extraordinary direct impacts on combat operations." But the honor denotes that the action is not bound by a "geographic limitation," meaning operators on unmanned drones would have been eligible.
Some lawmakers expressed concern the medal would be placed above those for battlefield valor, including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. In March, the production of the medal was halted so Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey could conduct a review.
"The Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the concurrence of the service secretaries, have recommended the creation of a new distinguishing device that can be affixed to existing medals to recognize the extraordinary actions of this small number of men and women," Hagel said Monday. "I agree with the Joint Chiefs' findings, and have directed the creation of a distinguishing device instead of a separate medal."