Entries in National Security (15)


Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano Regrets Timing of Immigrant Release

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had no part in a decision by underlings to release low-risk illegal immigrant detainees as a way to save money before the sequestration, and was surprised to learn about it, Napolitano told ABC News in an exclusive interview.

"Detainee populations and how that is managed back and forth is really handled by career officials in the field," Napolitano said.

Napolitano added that the release, which has been criticized by congressional Republicans, was poorly timed.

"Do I wish that this all hadn't been done all of a sudden and so that people weren't surprised by it? Of course," she said.

When asked why the detainees were in jail in the first place, Napolitano replied, "That's a good question. I've asked the same question we're looking into it."

With the sequestration deadline looming over the country Thursday, ABC News asked Napolitano if Americans should feel safe waking up in the morning. She said sequestration will have an effect on border security and safety.

"We are always going to put safety first, and that's why we're not going to be abbreviating our safety procedures or any of that," Napolitano said. "But, by way of example, the number of Border Patrol hours that will need to be reduced equates to the equivalent of 5,000 Border Patrol agents."

The cut, she said, would mean "the large narco traffickers, human smugglers," and other bad players could have easier access to the U.S.

"We deal with a lot of bad actors and we will have fewer agents to do that with," she said. "We'll have fewer hours that the Coast Guard is going to be patrolling along our maritime shores."

The secretary stressed that the department will keep safety first but the effects of the sequester are not to be taken lightly.

"Sequestration is a pretty tough nut," she said.

And, she insisted, it is not crying wolf to warn citizens they will see longer TSA lines at the airport and longer lines at the border.

"I think a citizen is going to notice. If there's citizens that are trying to go back and forth to Mexico and Canada, to the land ports of entry, where we already have some problems with long lines at very busy times, you're going to see those lines really grow," she said.

This wait increase will also apply to those coming through international airports and needing to go through customs.

"Those lines are going to grow significantly at some of the larger airports," she said. "We're going to have fewer people to do the checks we do. The checks are going to have to be the same. We do those for security reasons. But we're going to, over time, have fewer people to do them."

And while the effects won't be seen the first Saturday following sequestration, the impact could be felt as early as the following week and should be seen as more of an inconvenience than a security concern.

"From this department's standpoint, the longer lines at the ports, the reduction of Border Patrol hours and Coast Guard operations, those are the things that will be most visible," she said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Republicans to Press Benghazi Issue With National Security Nominees

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Making clear they are not relenting in trying to hold the Obama administration accountable for the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, a trio of Republican senators said Friday they’ll continue to press the matter at nomination hearings for Obama’s national security nominees.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., released a list of questions they said are still “unanswered” about Benghazi, noting, “As the U.S. Senate considers President Obama’s key national security nominations in the coming weeks,” the questions must be addressed.

President Obama has had to replace key members of his outgoing national security team. The nominees, including John Brennan for CIA director and former Sen. Chuck Hagel for Department of Defense, all need to be confirmed by the Senate.

The senators have hinted that they won’t move the nominees through unless their questions about Benghazi are answered.

Graham has threatened to delay Brennan’s nomination until the senators are satisfied with the answers from the White House on Benghazi.

“My support for a delay in confirmation is not directed at Mr. Brennan, but is an unfortunate, yet necessary, action to get information from this administration,” Graham said in a statement. “I have tried – repeatedly – to get information on Benghazi, but my requests have been repeatedly ignored.”

The questions, as outlined by the senators, are as follows:

1. “Was the president made aware of the classified cable that, according to published media reports, Ambassador Chris Stevens sent on Aug.15, 2012, stating that the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi could not survive a sustained assault from one or more of the threatening militia groups that were operating in eastern Libya?

2. Was the secretary of state made aware of that cable and its contents?

3. Did the president’s national security staff make him aware of the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that occurred in April and June of last year and the assassination attempt on the British ambassador in Benghazi around the same time?

4. If so, what actions did the president and secretary of state take?

5. When was the president first informed about the attack on Sept. 11, 2012, and what actions did he take?

6. What were the president’s activities during the seven hours the attack went on?

7. What were the secretary of state’s activities during this time?

8. On the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in American history, after multiple attacks this year on U.S. and Western interests in Libya, and with rising insecurity in countries across the Middle East, why were U.S. military units and assets in the region not ready, alert and positioned to respond in a timely fashion to what should have been a foreseeable emergency?

9. Why were the testimonies of the U.S. personnel who were evacuated from Benghazi on Sept. 12 – eyewitnesses who knew there never was a demonstration outside the consulate – not shared in a timely way with, and immediately factored in to the judgments of, our intelligence community?

10. Does this failure reflect obstacles that still exist to the free sharing of information across executive branch agencies, which was a key concern of the 9/11 commission?

11. Why has the administration refused to provide the full text of emails regarding the deletion of references to al Qaeda and terrorism in the talking points on which Ambassador Rice relied several days after the attack?

12. Considering that the president now labels the Benghazi attack as an act of terrorism, why has he designated the search for those responsible as a criminal investigation led by the FBI?

13. Has the FBI-led criminal investigation in any way impeded the ability of other government agencies to investigate and assist in identifying those responsible for the attack?

14. Why did the administration not do more to support and assist the new Libyan government that took power after the fall of Gadhafi as al Qaeda, affiliated groups and local militias established sanctuaries in the ungoverned spaces of eastern Libya – a development that directly implicates U.S. national security interests, and which is the real explanation why four Americans lost their lives in Benghazi?”

President Obama has called for a speedy confirmation hearing for his nominees.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Fiscal Cliff Is a National Security Issue

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Thursday that a failure to pass a budget deal would  have dangerous consequences for the global economy and weaken America’s standing in the world.

Clinton spoke at the Brookings Institute, where she outlined the state of the relationship between Europe and America. Clinton called a weak economic future on either side of the Atlantic one of the greatest threats to global security and transatlantic relations.

While she stressed that Europe needs to continue to fix problems with the euro zone, she also had a message for Washington.

“If we’re serious about strengthening our economic ties, we each need to build stronger foundations at home,” Clinton said. “For the United States, this means making tough political choices, it means investing in our own competitiveness to set the platform for stronger economic growth. And it means addressing our domestic fiscal challenges.

“Washington is gearing up for another round of budget negotiations and I am again hearing the concerns of the global implications of America’s economic choices,” she said. “And although I am now out of politics, let me assure you that for all the differences between the political parties here we are united in our commitment to protect American leadership and bolster our national security.   Reaching a meaningful budget deal is critical to both. This is a moment once again to prove the resilience of our economic system and reaffirm American leadership in the world. ”

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday that fiscal cliff negotiations were not making any progress, but Democrats denied that.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Paul Ryan Hits Obama on National Security: ‘If We Project Weakness, They Come’

J.D. Pooley/Getty Images(OLDSMAR, Fla.) -- Paul Ryan ratcheted up his criticism of President Obama on the issue of national security at a rally Saturday in Florida, a crucial battleground state, telling the crowd: “If we project weakness, they come” and if the nation is “strong” our enemies “will not test us.”

Ryan, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate, used the wave of anti-U.S. protests at embassies and consulates around the world this week and the attack on the consulate in Benghazi that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, to highlight criticism of the president for potential cuts to defense spending.

“We can’t keep spending money we don’t have,” Ryan said at a park in a residential neighborhood here. “It is getting out of control. And the worst about all this is the only net spending cuts the president seems eager to engage in is to gut national security. It is the primary responsibility of the federal government and it’s the one he wants to throw overboard first when it comes to taking the pencil out on the budget.

“Look, we turn on the TV and we see what’s going on,” Ryan continued, referring to the attacks on U.S. embassies in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. “If there is one thing that this reminds me it is that peace through strength works.  We need a strong military. We need a strong national security. If we project weakness, they come. If we are strong, they, our adversaries will not test us, and our allies will respect us.”

When the vice presidential nominee mentions defense spending cuts he is referring to the looming $500 billion worth of defense cuts known as the sequester.

Although Ryan blames the president on the campaign trail for the cuts, the debt limit was increased under an agreement that called on a bipartisan “super-committee” to negotiate an additional $1.2 trillion in savings, or face sequestration — meaning the automatic cuts that include those defense cuts and items unpalatable to each party. After the super-committee failed to strike a deal, the country was left with sequestration. Ryan has said he voted in support of the deal, known as the Budget Control Act, because it was a necessity.

Joined by his wife, Janna, and mother, Betty Douglas, who spends part of the year in South Florida, he also criticized the Federal Reserve and its new economic stimulus effort, saying “we don’t need “synthetic money creation, we need economic growth” and accusing the Fed of “debas(ing) its currency.”

“Just yesterday we heard that the Federal Reserve is coming with a new bailout,” Ryan said, dressed casually for the scorching heat in a navy blue polo shirt and khaki pants. “This matters. So the Federal Reserve is basically saying that we don’t have a recovery, Obamanomics didn’t work, so now they’re coming with their bailout. Here is the problem: we don’t need sugar high economics, we don’t need synthetic money creation— we need economic growth. We want wealth creation, we don’t want to print money, we want opportunity and growth, and when they do this to our money, it undermines the credibility of our money.”

The Federal Reserve Thursday announced its third quantitative-easing program in less than three years.

The House Budget chairman tailored his stump for the many Florida retirees in the crowd and those watching the coverage at home, saying the Federal Reserve is “undermin(ing) the value of our dollar” and “it wipes out our standard of living.”

The Obama campaign responded that the economic policy Romney and Ryan are proposing is the same one that led to the financial collapse four years ago.

“Congressman Ryan has no credibility when it comes to helping the middle class,” Obama campaign spokesman Danny Kanner said in a statement. “The Romney-Ryan plan is to allow the biggest banks to write their own rules again. That’s not a recipe for strengthening the middle class — it’s the same failed formula that crashed our economy and devastated the middle class in the first place.”

On Thursday, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll found Obama ahead in Florida by 5 percentage points. The president had 49 percent support in the state to Romney’s 44 percent.

Ryan heads back to his home state of Wisconsin today, but will be back on the trail Monday campaigning in Iowa, where his opponent Vice President Joe Biden will also be hitting the trail in a different part of the toss-up state.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Feinstein's Blaming White House for National Security Leaks Emerges as Campaign Issue

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- In remarks at the World Affairs Council, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, expressed concern Monday about leaks of national security information coming, she's concluded, from the Obama administration, saying, “The White House has to understand that some of this is coming from its ranks. I don’t know specifically where, but I think they have to begin to understand that and do something about it.”

Referring to David Sanger’s book Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power, Feinstein said, “There’s one book they can read and they’ll see it very clearly. And I think that should be the case.”

Feinstein said that, “what the president actually knows about this is difficult because with respect to intelligence he is in a bubble. He has his daily brief, called the PDB, the President’s Daily Brief, early every morning. And so he gets briefing from intelligence I don’t believe for a moment that he goes out and talks about it, I don’t believe the briefers go out and talk about it, but who knows who else? And I think that the importance of this has to be really set by the president himself. And hopefully he will do it, and I think he’ll most likely read the book and see it himself.”

Asked for more detail about the senator’s comments, a Feinstein aide says that when she said the leaks were “coming from its ranks,” the senator was referring to the Obama administration -- the federal government -- in general, not specifically individuals in the White House. The aide also claimed that the senator does not know who the leakers were; she was assuming.

Critics have accused the Obama administration of leaking information on such secret operations for political gain.

Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney on Tuesday made much of her remarks -- and the leak issue in general -- Tuesday in his speech to the VFW.

“After secret operational details of the bin Laden raid were given to reporters, Secretary Gates walked into the West Wing and told the Obama team to ‘shut up,’” Romney said, also referring to a passage in Sanger’s book. “And he added a colorful…word for emphasis.”

Said Romney Tuesday, “Lives of American servicemen and women are at stake. But astonishingly, the administration failed to change its ways. More top-secret operations were leaked, even some involving covert action going on in Iran. This isn’t a partisan issue; it’s a national security crisis. And yesterday, Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, quote, ‘I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from their ranks.’ End of quote.”

Gov. Romney said, “This conduct is contemptible. It betrays our national interest. It compromises our men and women in the field. And it demands a full and prompt investigation by a special counsel, with explanation and consequence.”

Feinstein Tuesday issued a statement saying she was “disappointed by the statements made by Mr. Romney today regarding a question I was asked yesterday at the World Affairs Council. I was asked whether the White House might be responsible for recent national security leaks. I stated that I did not believe the president leaked classified information. I shouldn’t have speculated beyond that, because the fact of the matter is I don’t know the source of the leaks.”

Feinstein went on, saying, “I’m on record as being disturbed by these leaks, and I regret my remarks are being used to impugn President Obama or his commitment to protecting national security secrets. I know for a fact the president is extremely troubled by these leaks. His administration has moved aggressively to appoint two independent U.S. attorneys. There is an investigation under way, and it is moving forward quickly. I know we are in a campaign season, but I hope the investigation proceeds without political accusation or interference from anyone.”

Responded the Romney campaign’s Ryan Williams: “It looks like President Obama has given Dianne Feinstein the 'Cory Booker treatment,'" referring to the Newark New Jersey mayor who made critical statements of the president only to come under fire from Obama staffers and then apparently reverse his position. "Yesterday she was speaking candidly about the leaks originating from this White House," Williams said, "today, she was forced to walk it back. As Governor Romney said today, we need a leader who will take responsibility and immediately halt these security breaches before more American lives are put in danger.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Analysis: Winners and Losers at GOP National Security Debate

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- ABC News Political Director Amy Walter gives her analysis of the "winners" and "losers" at Tuesday night's Republican National Security Debate:


Herman Cain: He didn’t have a 53-second brain freeze, but it was also clear that he was out of his element. His answers to questions on foreign policy were vague and showed a thin understanding of these issues.

9-9-9: This may be the first time at a Republican debate that the economic slogan didn’t get mentioned -- not in German or Spanish and not by any of the candidates, including Herman Cain.

Journalists as Questioners: The debate was shown on CNN and was hosted by Wolf Blitzer. But every question came from a person associated with conservative think tanks American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation, including from former Bush administration official Paul Wolfowitz and former Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney David Addington.

Leon Panetta: Perry thinks he should resign in protest of President Obama’s declaration that he’ll veto any attempt at reducing the automatic cuts to the military budget.


Newt Gingrich: The new frontrunner got to show his foreign policy chops and avoided any of the attacks that normally come with a rise in the polls. But will his position on amnesty for illegal immigration cause him some troubles among conservatives down the road?

“I don’t see how the party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century. And I’m prepared to take the heat for saying let’s be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families.”

President Obama: For the first time in a long time, the president didn’t take much oncoming fire from his GOP opponents.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Republicans to Face Foreign Policy Questions at Debate

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After months of focusing primarily on domestic issues, the Republican presidential field Tuesday night will turn its attention abroad at a debate in the nation’s capital that will focus primarily on national security and foreign policy.

Only a few blocks from the White House, where the GOP candidates hope to reside come 2013, the debaters at Constitutional Hall are likely to talk about U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the use of enhanced interrogation methods and the European debt crisis. Immigration, which has already generated some heated exchanges in this campaign, such as Mitt Romney’s feud with Rick Perry last month in Las Vegas, will likely be another hot-button topic.

Only six weeks before the first votes are cast in Iowa, the Republican campaign continues to take surprising twists and turns. Perry was the top threat to Romney two months ago, while it was Cain one month ago and now Newt Gingrich. The former House Speaker now leads the GOP race with 24 percent support, ahead of Romney’s 20 percent, according to a new CNN poll released Monday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hillary Clinton Defends Obama’s Handling of National Security

The White House/Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Now that Osama bin Laden, Moammar Gadhafi and Anwar al-Awlaki have meet their end under President Obama’s term in office, how does Hillary Clinton feel about Obama’s ability to handle national security issues, namely those “3 a.m. calls” she implied he wouldn’t be able to handle during the 2008 presidential primary campaign?

“President Obama has passed with flying colors every leadership challenge,” Clinton said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Asked about her accusation during their heated battle for the Democratic nomination that Obama wouldn’t be able to handle emergencies, the secretary of state, who by many accounts works well with the president, defended her boss.

“I think this president has demonstrated that, in a still very dangerous world, it’s important to have someone at the helm of our country who understands how to manage what is an incredibly complex world now,” she said.  “Yes, we have a lot of threats, but we also have opportunities, and I think President Obama has grasped that and has performed extraordinarily well.”

But though she praised Obama, she declined to wade back into politics.

“I’m out of politics, as you know, David [Gregory, host of Meet the Press].  I don’t comment on it.  But I think Americans are going to want to know that they have a steady, experienced, smart hand on the tiller of the ship of state, and there’s no doubt that that’s Barack Obama,” she said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cheney Fires Back at Past Obama Criticism of Interrogation Techniques

ABC/Heidi Gutman(WASHINGTON) -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney is hitting back at the Obama administration for past criticism of Bush administration tactics during the war on terror.  

Cheney said the Obama administration’s actions have been equally as aggressive, noting that the drone strike that killed al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki had “executed in effect an American citizen with a predator, with a drone strike.”

Cheney made his comments during an interview session with his daughter Liz as part of the Washington Ideas Forum being hosted by the Newseum in Washington, D.C.    

In an interview last week, the former vice president said he had asked for the Obama administration to apologize for past criticisms of its handling of the war on terror, particularly enhanced interrogation techniques. On Thursday, he said, the Obama administration might want to reconsider its criticism based on how aggressive it has been in fighting terrorists.

Cheney used Obama’s 2009 speech to the Muslim world in Cairo as his point of reference.

Said Cheney, “When he went to Cairo, he did announce that we’d sort of overreacted to 9/11, that we’d walked away from our ideals, that he, President Obama, had been the one who’d brought an end to torture and ordered that there not be any torture -- implying that we were torturing, and we weren’t.”

Cheney said he has no regrets about his time as vice president, saying, “On balance, I think we got it right....With respect to what we needed to keep the country safe, as I say, from my perspective, it worked.”

Cheney has not endorsed any Republican presidential candidate yet.

“I’ve stayed very carefully away from the contest,” he said. “They don’t need my advice.”   

He understands why the economy is the dominant political issue and “at this point, that’s what everybody’s focused on.”  But he added, he’s “very concerned that we not lose sight of how important it is that we maintain our vigilance in the global war on terror.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gates: Joint Chiefs Selection Was About Team-Building

Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(SINGAPORE) -- In his first public comments about the selection of the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Gen. Martin Dempsey's nomination to the post was about maintaining the cohesiveness of the Obama administration's national security team.

Traveling to Singapore to attend a security conference, Gates rejected news reports that the one-time front runner for the post, Gen. James Cartwright, was passed over for the job because of his stance during the administration's policy debate over the strategy for Afghanistan.

It was long believed that Cartwright's current job as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff put him on the inside track to becoming the president's top military advisor. Bob Woodward's book, Obama's War also described him as President Obama's "favorite general."

However, it was Dempsey, the Army's newly installed Chief of Staff, who was announced Monday to succeed Adm. Mike Mullen in the fall.

Some news reports suggested Cartwright's stance during the Obama administration's 2009 policy debate for a new Afghanistan strategy may have been a factor.

On Thursday, Gates denied that, saying, "I will tell you that some of the negative things that have been reported as influencing the decision, for example the Afghan piece, are completely wrong. It had nothing to do with it whatsoever."

During the policy debate, Cartwright had reportedly favored a counterterror approach that required fewer troops in Afghanistan and focused more on specifically targeting Taliban and al Qaeda operations. That stance was contrary to the counterinsurgency approach, favored by other top military officials that would require more troops and time. Ultimately, President Obama chose a slightly scaled-down version of the counterinsurgency approach that led to the surge of 30,000 more U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

On Thursday, Gates praised Cartwright as "one of the finest officers I have ever worked with, I think he has been an outstanding vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff" and said he considered him a friend.

He said his focus for the past year had been to maintain the cohesiveness of the Obama administration's national security team which he described as "an extraordinary asset for the president and for the country."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio