The use chemical weapons is a crime against humanity and must be punished, United Nations chief Ban Ki-Moon told journalists Monday in Seoul, South Korea.
Washington may be preparing to take on the role of the punisher, if reports the Syrian government used poison gas against civilians are verified.
U.N. inspectors on the ground in Syria may be close to doing that.
South Korea's government said Sunday it believes North Korea may test a missile around April 10, citing as an indicator Pyongyang's push for workers to leave the Kaesong Industrial Complex by then.
Seoul "is on military readiness posture," said South Korea's Blue House spokeswoman Kim Haeng in a briefing. She said national security chief Kim Jang-soo also based the assessment on North Korea's hint to foreign diplomats in Pyongyang to send personnel out of the country.FULL STORY
One day after winning a bruising nomination battle, Chuck Hagel is in charge of the Pentagon.
Hagel, the former Republican U.S. senator from Nebraska, was sworn in as secretary of defense Wednesday morning. He took the oath in a private ceremony at the Pentagon on his first day at work and will make remarks to service members and civilian employees of the department later Wednesday morning.
The Senate confirmed him Tuesday following a long battle with Republican senators who opposed some of his previous statements and positions.FULL STORY
The embattled nomination of Chuck Hagel as U.S. defense secretary cleared a Senate test vote Tuesday, breaking Republican attempts to delay consideration further and setting up what is expected to be a final vote in favor of his confirmation later in the day.
Hagel's nomination has been subject to harsh criticism from some Republicans over past statements on sensitive political and national security matters. A shaky performance at his Senate confirmation hearing and subsequent political wrangling over his selection and on unrelated matters have not helped his case.FULL STORY
President Obama will deliver his fourth State of the Union address before Congress tonight. Watch CNN.com Live for all of your political coverage.
Today's programming highlights...
Ongoing coverage: North Korea's nuclear test
9:30 am ET - Military sequestration hearing - What would threatened across-the-board budget cuts mean for the U.S. military and national defense? Top Pentagon and military officials discuss the matter before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Furloughed workers, reduced combat readiness, shrunken naval operations and cuts to Air Force flying hours and weapons maintenance.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta listed those consequences as he provided a stark warning Wednesday about the effects of impending budget cuts on the military. The result, he said, would be "the most serious readiness crisis" faced by the military in over a decade.FULL STORY
Same-sex spouses of U.S. service members could soon be granted some benefits that they had been denied until now.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is expected to announce this week that service members' same-sex spouses will receive some of those benefits, according to an Obama administration official.
The Pentagon has been reviewing what benefits it could extend without violating the Defense of Marriage Act. Gay rights groups have been calling for the change. Among the benefits gay rights groups say can be legally extended are housing on military bases, military ID cards to access on-base activities and programs, access to commissaries and the consideration of a same-sex spouse and family in duty assignments.FULL STORY
President Obama will deliver his fourth State of the Union address before Congress on February 12. Watch CNN.com Live for all of your political coverage.
Today's programming highlights...
9:30 am ET - Hagel on the hot seat - Former senator Chuck Hagel could be in for a bumpy ride when he faces the Senate Armed Services Committee over his nomination to become the next secretary of defense.
The U.S. military is ending its policy of excluding women from combat, and will open combat jobs and direct combat units to female troops, CNN has learned. Multiple officials confirm to CNN that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will make the announcement tomorrow, and notify Congress of the planned change in policy.
"We will eliminate the policy of 'no women in units that are tasked with direct combat, a senior defense official says.
But the officials caution that "not every position will open all at once on Thursday."
Once the policy is changed, Department of Defense will enter what is being called an "assessment phase," in which each branch of service will examine all of its jobs and units not currently integrated and then produce a timetable in which it can. The Army and Marine Corps, especially, will be examining physical standards and gender-neutral accommodations within combat units. Every 90 days, the service chiefs will have to report back on how they're doing.FULL STORY
As this third week in January starts, we're learning three things about the U.S. military aircraft carrier program:
– The Pentagon may be looking at reducing the number of carriers in the U.S. fleet from 11 to 10 to save money.
– The military's new F-35C Joint Strike Fighter may not be suitable for carrier use.
– Aircraft carriers make fine automobile transports.
On the first point, The Washington Times reports, citing unnamed sources, that the U.S. Navy may be trying to cut one of its 11 carriers to save money.
Congress has mandated by law that the Navy maintain 11 carriers. But the Pentagon is also under orders from the Obama administration to cut $488 billion from its budget within the next 10 years, Rowan Scarborough reports in the Times.
Cutting a carrier, along with the other forces that make up and support a carrier battle group, could save the Navy billions of dollars, according to the Times report.
A U.S. investigation into a November airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani troops points to "inadequate coordination" possibly exacerbated by Pakistani distrust of the Americans as one of the reasons behind the incident, the Pentagon said Thursday.
The findings are likely to further erode the already fragile relations between the United States and Pakistan, as sources within Pakistan disputed the U.S. findings.
The investigation found that the U.S. forces acted in self-defense, though poor coordination between the two militaries resulted in the incident.
An American team heading toward an Afghan town near the Pakistani border came under attack from machine gun fire, to which they responded by firing back and displaying a "show of force," with a U.S. aircraft that made its presence known and dropped flares illuminating the area, said Brig. Gen. Stephen A. Clark, who led the investigation.
What followed over the next hours were three engagements between the two sides as higher-ups tried to ascertain - unsuccessfully - if Pakistani forces were in the area.
The narrative of the timeline is complicated, Clark said, adding that "this is a fairly comprehensive report."FULL STORY
Irene recovery under way as Katia forms - States in the Northeast - particularly Vermont, New Jersey and New York, which saw the worst of Irene's wrath - were struggling with basic recovery efforts: rebuilding roads and bridges, restoring power and stemming the flow of floodwaters after Hurricane Irene struck this weekend. The Passaic River in northern New Jersey was still making the town of Little Falls look more like Niagara Falls. A resident in Montclair said the Passaic was high before Irene, but after the hurricane's rains, "the river began to rage."
One Vermont town hit hard by Irene decided to look for a silver lining. Some Pittsfield residents - there are only 427 of them in all - decided to throw a barbecue. Homes were underwater and roads were impassable, but they nonetheless gathered at a local park for hot dogs and hamburgers. Said Jason Evans, owner of the ski town's Clear River Tavern, "No one in this town was expecting the flooding to be what it was, and we've all gotta eat."
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Katia was strengthening in the Atlantic Ocean and threatening to become a hurricane by Wednesday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center said. Early Wednesday, the storm was almost 1,000 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands, moving west-northwest at 21 mph. Katia could grow into a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph by Saturday evening, forecasters said. It is too early to say if or when the storm will make landfall.
Editor's note: For more details of those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan please visit our Home & Away interactive feature. You can also click on the names of those who died in the Chinook crash below to leave a message or memorial. You can also click here to learn more about each of those who died and what their family members had to say about them.
[Updated Friday at 7:53 a.m. ET] The U.S. Defense Department released the names of U.S. military personnel killed in Saturday's downing of a helicopter in Afghanistan.
Thirty-eight people were killed in that attack, eight of them Afghan military personnel. It was the single largest loss of life for U.S. troops since the Afghan war began in late 2001.
Of the 30 Americans, 17 were Navy SEALs. Twenty-two of the dead were U.S. Navy personnel, the Pentagon said. Fifteen were SEALs belonging to the top-secret unit that conducted the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at a compound in Pakistan. Two others were SEALs assigned to a regular naval special operations unit.
Five were so-called conventional forces with particular specialties who regularly worked with the SEALs. The other eight U.S. troops killed were three Air Force forward air controllers and five Army helicopter crew members.
NATO said it killed the militants responsible for the attack. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid rejected that, saying a NATO airstrike killed a separate group of insurgents.
Leon Panetta was sworn in Friday as U.S. defense secretary, replacing Robert Gates.
The Senate confirmed Panetta, the former CIA director, in a rare 100-0 vote last week.
After his confirmation vote, Panetta pledged to "work to ensure that we continue to have the strongest, best-trained and best-equipped military in the world."
Among Panetta's top priorities: overseeing the completion of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq this year and beginning the process of winding down the unpopular war in Afghanistan.
About 33,000 U.S. "surge" troops are expected to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by next summer, with the remaining 68,000 leaving by the end of 2014.FULL STORY
Doubts in Strauss-Kahn case – A source familiar with the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case tells CNN that prosecutors are expected to notify the court Friday about troubling believability issues with the hotel maid who alleged the former International Monetary Fund chief sexually assaulted her. Prosecutors disclosed the problem in a meeting Thursday with Strauss-Kahn's defense team, the official said. In a hastily scheduled court hearing set for Friday morning, the defense will ask the court to modify Strauss-Kahn's bail.
Syria demonstrations – Activists expect protests to across Syria on Friday to demand the departure of President Bashar al-Assad and his regime. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said al-Assad is "running out of time."
The Casey Anthony trial could wrap up testimony today, while a royal couple continues a visit to Canada. Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage on these developing stories.
Today's programming highlights...
8:30 am ET - Leon Panetta begins new job - Leon Panetta is sworn in as the new defense secretary, replacing Robert Gates.
9:00 am ET - Casey Anthony trial - Testimony could conclude today in the trial of the Florida woman accused of killing her young daughter.
In his last full day on the job, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor. President Obama gave Gates the medal during a tribute in front of the Pentagon.
"I'm deeply honored and moved by your presentation of this award," Gates said. "It was a big surprise. But we should have known. ... You're pretty good at this covert ops stuff."
Gates' career has spanned four decades of public service, throughout the administrations of eight presidents. He is being succeeded by former CIA Director Leon Panetta.
Considered the ultimate Washington insider, Gates, himself a former CIA chief, replaced Donald Rumsfeld in 2006. Gates served as secretary of defense in the administrations of both George W. Bush and Obama.
On Thursday, Gates described the transition between the Bush and Obama teams as "a first of its kind" during a war in over 40 years.
Obama called Gates "one of the nation's finest public servants," noting Gates' "profound sense of duty" that led him to continue serving in the Obama administration despite his desire to return to civilian life.
Obama said Gates "challenged conventional wisdom" to reduce wasteful military spending and save "hundreds of billions."
"Today we see the lifesaving difference he made," Obama said.FULL STORY
The Casey Anthony trial could wrap up soon, while the debt ceiling debate continues to rage in Washington. Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of these developing stories.
Today's programming highlights...
9:00 am ET - Casey Anthony trial - Testimony continues in the trial of the Florida woman accused of killing her young daughter.
9:45 am ET - Robert Gates says farewell - Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates is honored at the Pentagon for his years of service. President Obama will be among those participating in the ceremony.
[Updated at 9:06 a.m. ET] President Barack Obama is presently mulling how many troops to bring home this summer and how many to bring home late next year, a source says.
He is expected to discuss preserving flexibility in force levels on the ground so commanders can adjust as conditions warrant, an administration official said.
The drawdown will involve both bringing troops home without replacing them as well as canceling some proposed deployments.
Bringing the troops home by late 2012 would give U.S. forces another two fighting seasons before coming home, sources say.Read CNN's full coverage of the Afghanistan troop withdrawal announcement
[Updated at 10:35 a.m.] Authorities closed commuter routes in the area around the Pentagon on Friday, snarling morning rush-hour traffic, after detaining a man acting suspiciously in Arlington National Cemetery and finding a car abandoned in bushes on the side of an area road.
No explosives or other suspicious material were found in the vehicle, a red 2011 Nissan, FBI Special Agent Brenda Heck told reporters. A backpack the detained man was carrying held bags of what Heck called a "non-explosive unknown material" that was being investigated, she said.
"There was not a device," said Heck, who specializes in counterterrorism but said her presence in the case was to represent the FBI in determining if any federal laws were violated.
Heck also said authorities believe the man, who was detained sometime after midnight, acted alone, and was thought to be in his mid-20s. She provided no further details of his identity or what he had told authorities.