July 21st, 2010
02:24 PM ET

Security Brief: CIA names new spy chief

The man who oversaw the CIA's counterterrorism efforts in Pakistan will now be in charge of the agency's spy operations.

John Bennett, one of the CIA's most experienced spies, was named Wednesday by Director Leon Panetta to be the next head of the National Clandestine Service. He replaces Michael Sulick, who is retiring after three years in the job. FULL POST

May 20th, 2010
09:42 PM ET

'Reason to believe' Pakistani Taliban plotting to strike U.S.

U.S. intelligence has strong reason to believe that the Pakistani Taliban is actively plotting to hit interests in the U.S. and American targets overseas, a U.S. official told CNN Thursday.

The concerns about the group that authorities say directed the Times Square bombing plot are coming from multiple streams of information, including from Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bombing suspect, the official said.

The official told CNN that CIA Director Leon Panetta and National Security Adviser Jim Jones relayed the new terror threat information to Pakistan's government on their trip there earlier this week.

The threat information was not down to the level of specific cities, the official said.

May 20th, 2010
11:22 AM ET

Security Brief: When a terrorist is caught, who do you call?

The ever-growing list of acronyms used in Washington has two additions from the counterterrorism world which you'll likely hear more about in the future: HIG and MIT.

Last summer, the president's task force on terrorist detentions and interrogations recommended putting together an interagency High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG, to deploy teams to participate in or support the interrogations of suspected terrorists in custody. The HIG would be housed in the Federal Bureau of Investigation and led by an FBI officer with two deputies, one from the CIA and the other from the Defense Department. The Mobile Interrogation Teams, or MITs, would be comprised of FBI agents, CIA officers and other members of the intelligence and homeland security community.

Not much was heard about the status of HIGs and MITs until the January congressional hearings following the failed attempt to blow up a civilian airliner on Christmas Day. Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the suspect in the attack, was questioned briefly by the FBI after he was detained and then read his Miranda rights. AbdulMutallab then stopped answering questions. When Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair was asked by a senator if he was consulted about the decision to read the suspect his Miranda rights, he said HIG should have been called in to assist with the interrogation. But HIG was not yet fully operational at that time. Government officials had not completed work on the charter setting up the parameters of the group and its teams.

But now HIG and MIT are more than acronyms. With charter now in hand, the teams are now participating in key investigations including the recent Times Square bombing attempt, according to John Brennan, the president's counterterrorism adviser.


May 20th, 2010
10:29 AM ET

Security Brief: Tracking top spy doesn't always take a sleuth

So much for being covert.

CIA Director Leon Panetta is currently on his ninth mission overseas, a high-profile visit to Pakistan with National Security Advisory James Jones.

Usually CIA trips are kept way under the radar. The nation's top sleuth, and probably most of his international peers, prefer working in the shadows. But when it comes to Pakistan, it seems to slip out, one way or another, that he is in country.


April 28th, 2010
07:30 AM ET

Security Brief: Smart change is slow for U.S. intel agencies

There they stood, an unprecedented public gathering of all heads of the American intelligence community. The 16 leaders of the agencies and departments which make up the intelligence community stood at attention behind Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the DNI's formation.

Change doesn't come easy, especially when dealing with the entrenched bureaucracy of the federal government. So it's not surprising that five years after Congress created the position of Director of National Intelligence to run the sprawling 16 member community, that it is still very much a work in progress.

But did this rare appearance in front of TV cameras by a group of people who prefer not being seen really reflect the reality of a seamless intelligence community, sharing information and collaborating together to keep the nation safe?

The answer can be found in what had the potential to be the worst attack on the U.S. since September 11th if it had been successful. The failed attempt to blow up a commercial airline on Christmas Day exposed many weak points.


March 17th, 2010
07:31 PM ET

U.S. official: Iran's nuclear pursuits clouding talks

Iran's continued failure to comply with international mandates on its nuclear program is casting a shadow over the upcoming Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference, according to a top U.S. energy official.

Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman called the NPT the cornerstone of global non-proliferation efforts and said it is being "seriously challenged" by Iran's behavior.