April 26th, 2013
06:22 AM ET

Suspects' father delays trip to U.S.

The parents of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects have left their home in Dagestan for another part of Russia, the suspects' mother Zubeidat Tsarnaev told CNN Friday. She said the suspects' father, Anzor Tsarnaev, is delaying his trip to the United States indefinitely.

He was to fly to the United States as soon as Friday to cooperate in the investigation into the attacks. But his wife called an ambulance for him Thursday.

She told CNN's Nick Paton Walsh that her husband was delaying the trip for health reasons. She wouldn't elaborate.

Anzor Tsarnaev agreed to fly to the United States after FBI agents and Russian officials spoke with them for hours this week at the family's home.

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Filed under: Boston • Chechnya • CIA • CNN on the ground • Crime • Kyrgyzstan • Massachusetts • National security • New York • Russia • Security • Security Brief • Terrorism • Times Square • U.S. • World • World Update
September 13th, 2010
03:04 PM ET

New information emerges on hunt for bin Laden

A European intelligence official has disclosed new information about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Western intelligence agencies were able to form a detailed picture of Osama bin Laden’s movements in the years after 9/11; and came closer to capturing or killing him than has so far been acknowledged, a former European intelligence official has disclosed.

The former official, who declined to be identified, told CNN that in 2003 and 2004 an informant in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region with close connections to Al Qaeda’s top leadership provided a stream of reliable information on bin Laden’s movements. But the information was never quite fresh enough for Western intelligence agencies to target Al Qaeda’s leader.

Nearly nine years ago, bin Laden and others in the al Qaeda leadership escaped as its last haven among the caves and mountains of Tora Bora – close to the border with Pakistan - came under withering U.S. air attacks. Despite being the world’s most sought after fugitive, to date very little has been reliably reported about his movements beyond a consensus that he is now likely hiding somewhere in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

The former official said that in the period after Osama bin Laden left Tora Bora, under pressure and on the run, he and his lieutenants were little able to communicate with each other. But gradually, al Qaeda restored its communications and was able to resume meetings.

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September 13th, 2010
12:47 PM ET

Former spy shifts gears, 'Pedaling for Patriots'

The Memorial Wall at CIA headquarters in northern Virginia.

To call it "shifting gears" would be an understatement.

Robert Richer was used to avoiding the spotlight, as were his colleagues who worked at the CIA. They saw themselves as the silent professionals. But when a suicide bomber took the lives of several of Richer's ex-colleagues last year in Afghanistan, the former No. 2 man in charge of clandestine operations at the CIA decided to sport spandex and launch the mission of his life over the weekend with a cross-country bike ride called "Pedaling for Patriots."

In December, the suicide bomber killed five of Richer's colleagues as well as CIA security contractors and a Jordanian Intelligence official. The victims were preparing to meet the man who, unknown to them, was working as a double agent for the bands of al Qaeda hiding in a remote region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. When the man arrived at the remote Afghan base, he detonated his explosives as everyone gathered to greet him. Many of the victims died instantly; others sustained serious injuries.

The agency added their stars to the Memorial Wall at its northern Virginia headquarters in June, but otherwise, there has been little fanfare for the fallen.

Which is why Richer's mission is so unique. Richer and his wife, Kim, are on the third day of biking some 3,200 miles across America from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Diego, California, to help raise the profile of, and money for, the CIA Officers Memorial Foundation, an organization that helps to pay for schooling of kids of fallen officers.

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September 1st, 2010
12:30 PM ET

Key Pakistani Taliban leader charged in U.S.

An announcement in a Pakistani newspaper in 2009 for 'The Names of Most Wanted Terrorists' included Mehsud.

Hakimullah Mehsud, a key leader of the Pakistani Taliban, has been charged for his alleged involvement in the murder of seven U.S. citizens at an American military base in Afghanistan in 2009, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

A $5 million reward is being offered for information leading to the capture of Mehsud and another top Pakistani Taliban leader, Wali Ur Rehman, U.S. officials announced Wednesday.

A complaint listed two criminal charges against Mehsud.

The group - which was declared a terrorist organization by the United States - is believed to be responsible for terrorist acts, including the December 30, 2009, suicide attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan and the attempted Times Square bombing earlier this year.

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Filed under: Pakistan • Security Brief • Taliban • Terrorism
August 24th, 2010
03:17 PM ET

Conway says U.S. troops could be in Afghanistan for years

Gen. James Conway, the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps said Tuesday that it will be a "few years" before the U.S. could turn over the fight to Afghan Security Forces.

President Barack Obama has ordered a withdrawal to begin in less than a year, although he has not said how many U.S. troops should withdraw or how fast when that July 2011 deadline arrives.

"I think it will be a few years before conditions on the ground are such that we would expect to be able to turn it over to the Afghan forces. And I think there's a mindset that needs to accompany that on the part of our Marines, that it may be a while," Conway told reporters at the Pentagon in what may be his last briefing here before his expected retirement this fall.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Military • Security Brief
August 17th, 2010
03:51 PM ET

Karzai to Afghan contractors: Join us or leave

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is upping the ante, if you will, by declaring that within four months, security firms operating in his country either become part of the Afghan National Police force or find something else to do.

It's a tough card to play in an environment where even the president is protected by private security firms and the Afghan National Police are trained by them.

The use of private security firms has mushroomed since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, and now, more than seven years later, the U.S. is still struggling with ways to manage and oversee the use of the thousands of contractors it employs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are about 110,000 private contractors working for the Department of Defense alone in Afghanistan, and that doesn't include the thousands more working for the Department of State or USAID. More than 24,000 of those contractors are armed and are providing security for convoys moving supplies throughout the country, protecting diplomats and even securing bases.

What we're seeing now is the political collision of U.S. needs in completing its objectives in Afghanistan and the Afghan president's needs in making clear that he has control of his own country.

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August 17th, 2010
10:28 AM ET

Karzai issues decree disbanding private security firms

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai issued a decree Tuesday disbanding all private security firms within four months.

The decree involves international and national private security companies and the security employees of those companies are able to join the Afghan national police with their weapons.

"In order to protect Afghan life and property, avoid corruption, security irregularities and the misuse of military weapons, ammunition and uniforms by the private security companies which have caused tragic incidents, and after the required assessment, I approve shutting down all private security companies within four months, including both domestic and foreign," the decree said.

"Employees of private security companies who wish to, and are eligible, can join the ANP (Afghan National Police) with their weapons and ammunition or without. After they register with the ANP,  the Ministry of Interior must commence the process of shutting down private security companies."

The decree said that ammunition belonging to private security companies but registered with the Ministry of the Interior should be transferred to Afghanistan's government. FULL POST

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Filed under: Security Brief
August 16th, 2010
10:11 AM ET

Pentagon: Defense Secretary Gates wants to retire

Defense Robert Gates is expected to leave his post in the spring of 2011, a senior administration source told CNN on Monday.

A Pentagon spokesman confirmed that Gates wants to retire some time next year. Gates was quoted in an article in the magazine Foreign Policy published Monday saying he wanted to step down before the end of 2011.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said references in the article to Gates' desire to retire next year "accurately reflect the secretary's thoughts."

According to the senior administration official, Gates privately promised President Barack Obama he would not leave the Cabinet in 2010 in order to maintain stability at the Pentagon while more U.S. forces are heading to Afghanistan.

In addition, the senior official said, Gates does not want a potentially difficult confirmation battle for his successor to take place in the presidential election year of 2012.

Gates, who became defense secretary in 2006 under former President George W. Bush, stayed in the post when Obama took office in 2009.

He previously spent almost 27 years in the Central Intelligence Agency, including posts at the White House serving four presidents. Gates also was president of Texas A&M University prior to becoming defense secretary.

– From CNN Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence

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Filed under: Military • Security Brief
August 13th, 2010
02:42 PM ET

New Wikileaks documents feared "even more damaging"

The Pentagon fears that the 15,000 leaked documents about the war in Afghanistan that website WikiLeaks says it will soon post are "potentially even more damaging" than the more than 70,000 already published, said Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan.

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August 12th, 2010
02:43 PM ET

The road to terror training camps sometimes begins in the U.S.

Omar Hammami is living proof that there is no one road to terrorism.

U.S. officials believe the journey for Hammami - one of 14 U.S.-born and naturalized citizens to be indicted last week on charges of conspiring with a Somali terrorist organization affiliated with al Qaeda - took him from a small town in Alabama to a radical command role in Somalia.

Hammami was a late convert to Islam, becoming passionate about his father's faith during high school in Alabama. He was born in Daphne, a small town nestled in the Bible belt where Islam was not only uncommon, but rebuffed. His hijab and public prayer made Hammami a target for insults in the conservative community.

He dropped out of the University of South Alabama in 2002, moving to Toronto, Canada, and then to Cairo, Egypt, as he searched in vain for a setting where Islam was practiced as rigidly as he believed it should be.

It is possible that Christof Putzel - a correspondent for Current TV's documentary series, "Vanguard" - once brushed arms with Hammami. Putzel was finishing a story in Somalia in 2006 as Hammami entered the country to seek out al-Shabaab. Putzel later created a documentary that retraces Hammami's steps from young American to "American Jihadi."

"American Jihadi" culminates in Somalia, where Hammami joined the ranks of al-Shabaab, or "The Youth."

Hammami is a top commander of al-Shabaab and the organization's most successful recruiter, Putzel says. Since he appeared on the Al-Jazeera TV network and the YouTube website in 2007, more than 30 young Muslims have disappeared from Hammami's old stomping grounds in the U.S and Canada, only to reappear fighting with al-Shabaab. FULL POST

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Filed under: Security Brief
August 12th, 2010
09:29 AM ET

Military trial for Canadian-born terrorism suspect Omar Khadr is underway

Guantanamo Bay Navy Base, Cuba (CNN) The Obama Administration’s first full military trial of a terrorist suspect at Guantanamo Bay Navy Base in Cuba formally started Thursday morning.

The panel of 7 military officers seated for the Military Commission began hearing opening statements in the case against Canadian-born terrorist suspect Omar Khadr, captured on the Afghanistan battlefield in 2002, when he was 15 years old.

The prosecution says Khadr was an enemy combatant in violation of the laws of war, that he was helping assemble and plant roadside bombs for al Qaeda and that he killed a special forces solider, Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer with a grenade. Speer’s wife, Tabitha, is expected in the courtroom and will be a key prosecution witness in the sentencing phase if Khadr is found guilty. FULL POST

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Filed under: Security Brief
August 11th, 2010
11:13 AM ET

Path to terror: alienation, isolation

Omar Hammami is living proof that there is no one road to terrorism.

U.S. officials believe the journey for Hammami - one of 14 U.S.-born and naturalized citizens to be indicted last week on charges of conspiring with a Somali terrorist organization affiliated with al Qaeda - took him from a small town in Alabama to a radical command role in Somalia.

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Filed under: Justice • National security • Security Brief
August 10th, 2010
06:39 PM ET

Youngest Gitmo detainee faces jury pool in court

Accused terrorist Omar Khadr on Tuesday briefly addressed the 15 prospective members of a military jury that will decide the case of the youngest captive at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility.

Dressed in a gray suit and tie, rather than his usual white prison uniform, Khadr was asked by his attorney to stand and speak to the 11 men and four women - all military officers - who are the pool for a jury of at least five members. In a soft voice, Khadr appeared to say, "How are you?" The prospective jurors sat in silence.

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Filed under: Justice • National security • Security Brief
August 10th, 2010
08:10 AM ET

Gates proposes cutting Joint Forces command from defense budget

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced some far-reaching proposals Monday for restructuring the massive budget at his agency, including getting rid of the U.S. Joint Forces Command. The cuts could mean a loss of thousands of jobs.

The current Defense Department budget totals more than $530 billion a year, and defense officials believe they need increases of 2 to 3 percent a year to sustain the force structure and meet modernization needs.

However, the recession caused the department to propose a 1 percent budget increase for next year, and the cuts announced Monday were intended to help hold down overall costs.

"We must be mindful of the difficult economic and fiscal situation facing our nation," Gates told reporters at the Pentagon. "As a matter of principle and political reality, the Department of Defense cannot expect America's elected representatives to approve budget increases each year unless we are doing a good job, indeed, everything possible to make every dollar count."

Gate's acknowledged the plan was "politically fraught," and congressional criticism began even before Gates was finished announcing the moves. The proposal to eliminate the Joint Forces Command, which is based in Norfolk, Virginia, met with opposition from both the state's U.S. Democratic senators.

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Filed under: Security Brief
August 10th, 2010
07:59 AM ET

Cost of Afghan conflict escalating, U.N. says

The human cost of the Afghan conflict is escalating, with killings and attacks on children by the Taliban and other insurgent groups soaring, the United Nations said in a report released Tuesday.

"Afghan children and women are increasingly bearing the brunt of this conflict," says Staffan de Mistura, special representative of the U.N. secretary-general. "They are being killed and injured in their homes and communities in greater numbers than ever before."

According to the United Nations' 2010 Mid-Year Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, in the first six months of this year, 55 percent more children were killed or wounded by the Taliban and other anti-government groups than in the same period in 2009. The number of women killed or wounded by the Taliban and other insurgents increased by six percent.

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Filed under: Security Brief
August 9th, 2010
12:51 PM ET

Security Brief: Who is Omar Khadr?

The preliminary legal maneuvering in the military trial of suspected terrorist Omar Khadr serves up two starkly different images, portraying him both as a child forced into war by adults and as a committed al Qaeda fighter.

Prosecutor Jeff Groharing told the court Monday morning that Khadr was aware of al Qaeda ideology. "He embraced it and used it to justify his own activities," Groharing said.

At the same time Pentagon-appointed defense attorney, Lt. Colonel Jon Jackson, has repeatedly called Khadr a "child soldier" who was forced into fighting in Afghanistan by adults and later threatened with rape and death if he did not provide statements to U.S. interrogators. FULL POST

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Security Brief
August 5th, 2010
02:16 PM ET

Pentagon asks WikiLeaks to return leaked documents

The Defense Department has demanded WikiLeaks return all documents belonging to the Pentagon and delete any records of the documents, department spokesman Geoff Morrell said Thursday.

"We are asking them to do the right thing," Morrell said. "This is the appropriate course of action given the damage that has been done."

Morrell denied published claims that WikiLeaks has asked the Pentagon to review some 15,000 documents it has yet to publish from leaked Afghanistan military reports.

WikiLeaks reportedly has 91,000 United States documents about the Afghan conflict. About 76,000 of them were posted on the site last month in what has been called the biggest leak since the Vietnam War's Pentagon Papers.

FULL STORY

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Filed under: National security • Security Brief • WikiLeaks
August 5th, 2010
11:21 AM ET

Source: 14 indicted on Somalia terror-related charges

Fourteen naturalized U.S. citizens have been indicted on multiple counts in connection with the conflict in Somalia, a law enforcement official told CNN on Thursday.

Most of those charged are believed to be outside the United States, with all of those perhaps in Somalia.

The 14 have been indicted on multiple counts unsealed on Thursday in three federal districts - Minnesota and the southern districts of Alabama and California. Two are under arrest and are believed to be in Minnesota.

The case has been going on for a few years and brings to 19 the total indicted on criminal charges, which include providing material support to a terrorist organization, the official said.

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Filed under: Security Brief • Somalia • Terrorism
August 2nd, 2010
12:33 PM ET

Alleged American jihadists – Connecting the dots

On a sunny morning in March, thousands of anti-war protesters converged on Washington – carrying banners with slogans like "No to War; Yes to Peace." Many groups joined the demonstration across from the White House; some well-established and others less so.

One was RevolutionMuslim, a New York based group whose leaders have in the past voiced support for the 9/11 attacks and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Among its supporters at the event were two young men – one from Virginia and one from New Jersey. Within weeks both would be arrested on terrorism charges, and their alleged links to others in militant Islamic circles would begin to surface.

The backgrounds of these men and how they allegedly met and communicated illuminate the growing phenomenon of 'domestic radicalization" in the United States, and the daunting task facing US intelligence in separating militant rhetoric from plans to wage jihad.

FULL POST

July 30th, 2010
12:59 PM ET

WikiLeaks disclosures are a 'tragedy'

Gen. Michael V. Hayden was appointed by President George W. Bush as CIA director in 2006 and served until February 2009. He also was director of the National Security Agency and held senior staff positions at the Pentagon

In a 1997 light-hearted comedy, "Excess Baggage," Benicio del Toro (an inadvertent kidnapper) asks Alicia Silverstone (the unintended kidnap victim), "How stupid do you think I am?" Silverstone classically deadpans her response, "How stupid is there?"

I thought of this scene often this past week as I watched WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange attempt to explain and then justify his dumping of some 75,000 classified U.S. intelligence documents into the public domain.

It was hard to suppress a laugh as he attempted to justify the release of documents based on their content when most of us in the actual business of secrets know that reports are more often classified because of their source, not their content.

Suppress a laugh. Except that this isn't a comedy. It's a tragedy. And innocents will die.

First of all, let's look at the "up" side of this release. These documents "prove" that war is grittier when viewed by an infantryman than by a policymaker; that Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, is a difficult partner; that in war innocent civilians sometimes die; and that the Taliban has been growing in strength over the past several years. Not quite "stop the presses" kind of revelations. FULL POST

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