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June 7th, 2013
08:45 AM ET

Debate over privacy versus security – Jim Harper, Dir. of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, weighs in

Reports that the NSA is collecting extensive phone and Internet data from U.S. citizens have ignited a debate about privacy versus security among government officials and American citizens. Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, weighs in on the controversy.

“If we’re gonna have a debate about privacy versus security let’s have it in the open," Harpe says. "Let’s have some oversight of the National Security Agency and let’s have some oversight on the part of Congress. We in the public need to oversee our Congress much better because they’re not doing their job so far.”

Harper adds that collecting all the data from every American’s phone calls “can’t possibly be useful for link-based investigation.”

May 2nd, 2013
10:56 AM ET

Mayor Landrieu: Importance of security reviews after Boston marathon bombing

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu discusses today's meeting of the nation's mayors to talk about city culture and to readdress security measures in wake of Boston marathon bombing.


Filed under: Boston Marathon bombing • Security
November 9th, 2012
12:07 PM ET

Did Navy SEALs threaten national security in revealing secrets for a video game? Fmr. Navy SEAL commando weighs in

From CNN's Security Clearance blog:

Seven U.S. Navy SEALs have been reprimanded for giving up classified information connected to their trade craft so a video game could seem more realistic, according to a navy official.

The seven were charged with the unauthorized showing of their official combat gear and dereliction of duty for disclosing classified material after an investigation found the seven to have worked as paid consultants for two days with the video game company Electronic Arts, according to a U.S. Navy official familiar with the investigation.

The work, done around the late spring and early summer, was unauthorized by their commanders and against military regulations according to the Navy official.

All seven are active duty members of SEAL Team 6, considered the most elite of the Navy’s SEAL community. At least one of the team members was on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden last year, according to a Navy official.

This morning on "Starting Point," Former United States Navy SEAL Commando Christopher Mark Heben weighs in on what the SEALS could have shared, and whether it could put our troops in harms way.

READ MORE: Navy SEALs punished for revealing secrets to video game maker


Filed under: Navy SEALS • Security
August 17th, 2012
09:22 AM ET

OPSEC president: Security leaks 'had to be from the highest levels of government'

(CNN)- A web video featuring former special forces officers accuses President Barack Obama of taking too much credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden and allowing classified information about the raid to become public.

The organization behind the ad, the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, has posted the 22-minute web video on its website. A spokeswoman says the group has raised about $1 million toward an advertising campaign in some key swing states.

Over a picture of Obama, the video's narrator says that the group's mission is to stop politicians from using sensitive intelligence about the bin Laden raid and other clandestine programs for political benefit.

In a series of interviews, former military and intelligence officers accuse Obama of seeking political gain by disclosing successful secret operations.

Former Navy Seal Scott Taylor is the president of the organization that released the video and he joins Starting Point this morning to discuss the campaign and the backlash the video's received.

"We're upset about the unprecedented amount of leaks that have come out of the administration as well as the over politicized of the [Osama bin Laden] raid," Taylor says.

Responding to those who have criticized OPSEC's claim that top level White House officials are involved in the leaks, Taylor explains, "What the American public needs to understand is that security is very compartmentalized. There's only a finite amount of people that know certain aspects of security, so it had to be leaks from the highest levels of government."


Filed under: Security
July 30th, 2012
02:19 PM ET

Sens. McCain and Ayotte on holding Town Halls on defense spending, say $500 billion in cuts 'very serious'

Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are visiting four key states this week - Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and New Hampshire - to highlight pending defense cuts.

At the end of this year, the Defense Department budget could see $500 billion in cuts if Congress and President Obama do not act. The cuts are part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which was passed last year to avoid a fiscal crisis. It slashed more than $1 trillion from the budget, split evenly between non-defense and defense programs.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has warned that the cuts to defense could be disastrous for the US military.

Sen. McCain and Sen. Ayotte, members of the Armed Services Committee, explain the purpose of their Town Halls on how defense budget cuts could harm US security.


Filed under: Budget • Defense • Security
June 7th, 2012
12:41 PM ET

Sen. Cornyn (R-Texas) calls for special counsel on intelligence leaks, says issue is 'bigger than party or politics'

From CNN wires:

Washington (CNN) - Congressional leaders on intelligence issues will meet Thursday with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on apparent leaks of classified information involving a cyberwarfare program against Iran.

The meeting comes amid bipartisan outrage over a report in The New York Times last week that provided classified details of what it described as a U.S cyberattack targeting Iran's nuclear centrifuge program.

Some Republicans led by veteran Sen. John McCain of Arizona alleged that the White House must be knowingly involved because of the nature of the leaked information. The White House rejected the accusations.

On Wednesday, a U.S. official said on condition of not being identified that the FBI was investigating the leaks. FBI spokesman Paul Bresson had no comment.

The White House says it is grossly irresponsible to even suggest that the administration would leak classified information for political gain. And in a rare display of bipartisanship, leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees warned the leaks threaten to do imminent and irreparable damage to our national security.

Armed Services Committee member Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) talks with Soledad this morning on "Starting Point" and says a special counsel needs to be appointed to investigate the matter.

"This is not a partisan issue," Cornyn says. "The chair of the intelligence committee, Senator Feinstein, said this is the worst leaking she's seen in her time here in Congress. And this is threatening not only the methods but also the sources and the cooperation of our allies when it comes to two of the most sensitive areas of national security, that is stopping the Iranian nuclear threat and fighting out and taking out al Qaeda through the drone program. So, this is very serious stuff. I don't think we can just let the White House investigate itself or take its word for it that it is not the source of these leaks."

"This is a serious matter," Cornyn reiterates. "It's much bigger than party or politics. And that's why I think you are seeing such bipartisan concern into leaks into one of the most sensitive national security programs that exist."


Filed under: Leaks • Security
June 7th, 2012
10:26 AM ET

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) says McCain's charge that White House intentionally leaked classified intel 'very serious'

The FBI is now investigating whether the White House leaked classified intelligence information to try to score some political points. It's a claim that has the White House firing back hard.

Press Secretary Jay Carney says "Any suggestion that this administration has authorized intentional leaks of classified information for political gain is grossly irresponsible."

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) jumped into the conversation as well, saying he would 'expect nothing else' from the White House. "The fact is that portrayal of the President in these stories is obviously nothing short of heroic," McCain says. "I don't think there's any doubt, according to Mr. Sanger, that dozens of administration officials who were involved in this."

Senator Bob Casey (D-Penn.), member of the Foreign Relations Committee and chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, talks with Soledad on "Starting Point" this morning and says the leaks should not be considered 'political football.'

When asked to respond to McCain's comment, Casey says "that's a very serious charge that's been made against the administration. I think that the proposal that Senator Carl Levin has made, chairman of the armed services committee, to have a hearing in closed fashion makes the most sense. Any time you make a charge like that, it's very serious. We have to make sure that we're resolving this in the right way."

Casey also responds to whether the Wisconsin recall election results could affect the presidential race in 2012, and previews what he hopes to hear from Fed chairman Ben Bernanke in a hearing before the Joint Economic Committee today.


Filed under: Intelligence • Leaks • Security
June 6th, 2012
01:33 PM ET

New York Times' David Sanger on al-Libi drone strike: Al Qaeda appears in disarray

The Obama Administration has dealt another big blow to Al Qaeda. Abu Yahya al-Libi, the organization's second in command, has been killed in a drone strike in Pakistan. He was a public face of the terror network often appearing in Al Qaeda videos. The strike that killed al-Libi was the third drone attack in as many days in Pakistan.

David Sanger, "New York Times" chief Washington correspondent and author of "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power," examines increasing reliance on drone strikes and their effectiveness. This morning, he explains how important the al-Libi drone strike was to further dismantling Al Qaeda, and the increasing threat of cyber attacks.


Filed under: Security
May 16th, 2012
11:08 AM ET

Rep. Mike Rogers: The TSA needs to be a lot 'smarter, leaner and tougher'

According to the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, the TSA is failing to adequately report airport security breaches and took action to fix only 42% of the breaches reported at Newark airport.

Congress is holding a hearing on airport security this afternoon chaired by Rep. Mike Rogers, who joins Starting Point this morning to explain the purpose of the meeting.

"The TSA can't come up with mechanisms and processes to resolve [security] breaches if they don't know about them," Rogers explains. "The TSA needs to be a lot smarter, leaner and tougher."

Overall, Rep. Rogers says that he thinks the TSA has done an acceptable job based on the fact that there hasn't been an attack on the U.S. in a decade. However, Rogers stresses that the issue needs to be resolved because "the fact is that the bad guys are way ahead of the curve in trying to find new and novel ways to get through" airport security.


Filed under: Security
April 19th, 2012
10:50 AM ET

John Brennan explains why he took his clothes off during a TSA pat down, says 'nakedness shouldn't be illegal'

Since the 9/11 attacks, airport security measures have become much more intrusive to protect the flying public. On Tuesday, Portland, Oregon resident John Brennan decided to make a stand against screening pat-downs...by stripping down.

Shocked onlookers averted their eyes as 49-year-old Brennan disrobed in protest of the security procedures, after his clothes supposedly tested positive for explosives. When Brennan refused to get dressed, he was arrested.

On Wednesday, he was charged with indecent exposure, while a second charge for disorderly conduct was dropped. The TSA issued a statement, saying "TSA partners with the traveling public to screen all passengers safely and efficiently. When a passenger chooses to be purposefully disruptive, we notify law enforcement."

Brennan talks with Soledad this morning on "Starting Point" and explains why he chose to take off his clothes in public.

"I found out I tested positive for nitrates, which is an explosive," Brennan says. "I decided the best way to show them that I'm not carrying a bomb is to take off my clothes. They get to choose when they see us naked in those machines, and I just decided I'm going to speed the process up."

"As an Oregonian, I know my right to free speech includes nude protest," Brennan adds. "As I look at any situation, I'm aware that's one way I can communicate and have a voice. And so, this, certainly, was not premeditated."

In the second video below, he explains that he's willing to give up some of his liberties for the sake of safety and understands that TSA workers have a job to do, but he felt that in his case it went too far.

"I went through a metal detector and I was patted down through my crotch by a stranger," he says. "That's giving up a lot. When they took me past that step, I said, here's what I'm going to do. I did not impede the search process. They were uncomfortable that I was naked, but it shouldn't be illegal. My nakedness should not be illegal."

Brennan did admit that he wishes he didn't have such a big belly, but says he's not ashamed of his body.

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