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Here’s a question I would ask outgoing CIA Director Leon Panetta during his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearings to become Secretary of Defense.
“Director Panetta, U.S. taxpayers so far have spent about $1 billion to pay for the NATO military operation in Libya. At the same time, the U.S. has frozen about $33 billion in Libyan assets in the United States. Would you support keeping a running tab on what U.S. taxpayers are spending to liberate Libya and then deduct that amount from the frozen Libyan assets?”
Based on what other Obama Administration officials have told me, his answer would probably be a polite and diplomatic NO. These other officials have raised questions about international law and whether using any of those frozen funds would be legal even though the money, of course, is designed to save Libyan lives and free the country from Gadhafi’s rule.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told me recently he supports the idea. “Not only the United States should do this, NATO should do it, France should do it, the countries that are involved there on the ground and in the air.” Reid said, “Yes. The answer is yes.”
Other members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, also agree it makes sense, especially at a time when the U.S. is under enormous pressure to cut spending at home.
If the Obama administration were to support the Libyan frozen assets idea, it would probably raise questions about potentially recouping money from oil-rich Iraq to pay for U.S. military operations there. That’s in part why I suspect Panetta’s answer would be NO.
Each day, Wolf Blitzer scours several news sources to stay on top of the day's most important stories. Below are some of his top recommended reads for today. Tune in from 5- 7 PM on CNN for the latest on these stories and more.
CNN: U.S. resumes airstrikes in Yemen; government forces battle militants
The United States and Yemen are taking on Islamic militants on the land and from the air amid fears that al Qaeda is exploiting the political chaos and leadership vacuum engulfing the unstable and impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.Yemeni government forces are trying to wrest the southern town of Zinjibar from Islamic militants, and an American official said U.S. military-led airstrikes have resumed and top insurgents have been killed.
CNN: Pervez Musharraf: Pakistan: A reality check amid the terror and chaos
Today Pakistan finds itself in the eye of the terrorism storm. An environment of controversies, contradictions, distortions and mutual suspicions prevails all around, polluting and weakening the war on terror. The situation demands a clearer understanding of ground realities in south Asia, bridging the acute trust deficit and developing a unity of thought and action among all coalition players. Blame games, rigidity, arrogance and insensitivity to others' interests will always remain counterproductive.
Politico: President Obama's campaign expands its 2012 map
President Barack Obama's campaign team is gaming out complex state-by-state scenarios for 2012 that anticipate uphill battles in recession-ravaged blue states – and new opportunities in Arizona and Georgia.Their underlying assumption is that the GOP presidential field remains so fluid – and the country’s economic outlook so devilishly unpredictable – that Obama must construct robust grassroots field operations in nearly every competitive state in order to hit the magic number of 270 electoral votes and win re-election.
CNN: Sources: Obama administration finalizing counter-terrorism strategy
The Obama administration is in the final stages of completing its first national counter-terrorism strategy, and public release could come within weeks, perhaps in a presidential speech, according to two sources. The sources, one of whom has firsthand knowledge, said the administration has completed interagency coordination of what will be President Barack Obama's opportunity to define his counter-terrorism vision and distinguish it from Bush administration policy in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden.
CNN: Career of dependability marks Panetta's path to Pentagon
Washington (CNN) - Even by Washington's standards, Leon Panetta's resume portrays the ultimate insider - a smooth navigator of Congress, the federal budget, the White House and the CIA. …And now, after four decades of public service - and years after most people are long retired - the 72-year-old Panetta is taking on his most challenging job ever: secretary of defense, as the nation fights a grueling war in Afghanistan and extricates itself from Iraq, and as the Arab world is imploding.
New York Times: Citi Says Credit Card Customers’ Data Was Hacked
Citigroup acknowledged on Thursday that unidentified hackers had breached its security and gained access to the data of hundreds of thousands of its credit card customers in North America.
"During routine monitoring, we recently discovered unauthorized access to Citi's account online," the bank said in an e-mailed statement. "We are contacting customers whose information was impacted."