Greg Myre

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Updated at 12:15 p.m. ET Tuesday

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a broad statement Tuesday that calls for a "firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," after their historic summit in Singapore — the first ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Gina Haspel as CIA director, making her the first woman to lead the spy agency, despite the controversy surrounding her role in the waterboarding program.

The Senate vote of 54-45 in favor of Haspel came mostly along party lines. She needed support from several Democratic senators to win confirmation.

Updated at 3:15 p.m. ET

The Pentagon said Thursday that an investigation into the deaths of four American soldiers in Niger last year found "individual, organizational and institutional failures." But it said no sole reason was responsible for the ambush.

Gina Haspel's appearance before the Senate intelligence committee on Wednesday promises to be a very unusual confirmation hearing.

Most every nominee for a top government job has a long public record that is open for scrutiny. Not so with Haspel, who would be the first woman to lead the CIA.

When Michael Hayden ran the CIA and the National Security Agency, his public comments were largely confined to congressional testimony. Now that he's retired, "I'm on Twitter and I'm on CNN," said Hayden.

He was also the featured guest as dozens of former national security officials and several current ones spoke at a recent conference on threats the U.S. faces.

The Pentagon has started briefing the families of four soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger last October, and the military acknowledges a series of missteps contributed to the deaths, one family member told NPR.

"I think in any instance where people lose there lives, there were obviously mistakes that were made," said Will Wright, the brother of one of those killed, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright. Will Wright is himself a combat veteran, having served as a staff sergeant in Afghanistan. He and his family were briefed by military officers on Thursday.

John Brennan's tenure as CIA director ended the same day that President Trump entered office last year, and since then, the former spy chief has been a relentless critic of the president.

"I think he is dishonest, he lacks integrity, he has very questionable ethics and morality, and he views the world through a prism of 'how it's going to help Donald Trump?,' " Brennan said in a wide-ranging interview with All Things Considered.

"I just think that he has not fulfilled the responsibilities of the president of the United States," Brennan added.

A Pentagon report has found that Islamist extremists ambushed and killed four U.S. troops in Niger last October after a series of missteps left the Americans exposed and vulnerable in a remote corner of the African nation.

The Pentagon has sent the classified report to Congress and military officers have started to brief the families of the soldiers who were killed. The report has not been released publicly, but an official who has seen it described it to NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman.

Gina Haspel, the first woman nominated to lead the CIA, has a five-foot-tall poster of Johnny Cash in her office. She's an avid University of Kentucky basketball fan — though she transferred from that school and graduated from the rival University of Louisville. She majored in journalism.

President Trump likes Mike Pompeo.

Trump's decision to dispatch Pompeo for a secret meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is the latest and most dramatic demonstration of how the president keeps elevating Pompeo's role.

In a turbulent administration, Trump has dismissed several top national security and foreign policy advisers, including former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The president has nominated Pompeo, the CIA director, to replace Tillerson.

President Trump called Syrian leader Bashar Assad a "monster" on Friday night as he announced airstrikes to punish Assad for an apparent chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians.

On Saturday morning, a tweet by the Syrian Presidency account showed a video of Assad walking into the presidential palace in Damascus wearing a dark suit and tie, briefcase in hand — business as usual.

Updated at 8:40 p.m. ET

President Trump signed a proclamation Wednesday for the deployment of National Guard troops along the Southern border with Mexico in a bid to cut down on illegal immigration.

Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said earlier in the day that Trump's order would direct her department and the Pentagon to work with governors of the states along the Southwestern border.

Updated at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, wife of the late South African leader Nelson Mandela, and a leading anti-apartheid figure in her own right during the country's most turbulent years, has died at age 81.

The Mandela family said in a statement that she died Monday in Johannesburg "after a long illness, for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year."

Congress was in a generous mood when it passed a spending bill last week, giving the military at minimum an additional $61 billion and boosting its overall budget to $700 billion this year.

The Senate confirmation hearing for Gina Haspel, President Trump's choice to lead the CIA, hasn't yet been scheduled. But several senators have already expressed reservations because of Haspel's role in the CIA's waterboarding of al-Qaida suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, posted this tweet Tuesday:

Mike Pompeo, whom President Trump tapped Tuesday to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, has an extraordinary résumé. He graduated at the top of his class at West Point. He served as a tank officer in Europe. He went to Harvard Law School.

He was a corporate lawyer who launched a successful aerospace business. He got elected to Congress as a Tea Party Republican from Kansas in 2010. For more than a year, he has run the CIA.

However, he has never been a diplomat, either by profession or temperament.

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un don't exactly travel in the same circles. Yet there's a man who's spent quality time with both of them: Dennis Rodman.

Trump fired Rodman for misspelling his wife's name when the ex-NBA star appeared on Trump's reality TV show, The Apprentice, in 2013. And Rodman has visited North Korea several times, including last year, to serve as an informal diplomat and basketball guru to Kim.

At first glance, five killings in three states since last May appeared to be unrelated, isolated cases.

But a common thread is emerging. Three young men have been charged, and all appear to have links to the same white supremacist group: the Atomwaffen Division.

Atomwaffen is German for "atomic weapons," and the group is extreme. It celebrates Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson, its online images are filled with swastikas, and it promotes violence.

What weapon did the gunman use in the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida?

If you said the AR-15, you'd be wrong. And we'll explain in a moment.

For more than a half-century, the AR-15 has been popular among gun owners, widely available in gun stores and, for many years, even appeared in the Sears catalog.

Yet over the past decade, the AR-15 and its offshoots have been used in many of the country's worst mass shootings. This has reignited the debate about their widespread availability.

Intelligence Infighting

Feb 16, 2018

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

China's Spies

Feb 9, 2018

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

An estimated 300 Americans attempted to join the Islamic State and other radical Islamist groups in Iraq and Syria, including a small number who rose to senior positions, according to the most detailed report to date on this issue.

So far, 12 of those Americans have returned home, yet none has carried out an attack on U.S. soil, according the report released Monday by George Washington University's Program on Extremism.

According to President Trump, some Republicans in Congress and conservative media outlets, the Russia scandal is heating up.

No, not that one.

It's an alternative Russia scandal. And the claims go like this:

As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton approved the 2010 sale of a mining company to Russia. This gave the Russians control of 20 percent of U.S. uranium and placed U.S. national security at risk. In return, the Clinton Foundation received $145 million in pledges and donations.

When the Iranian nuclear agreement was reached in 2015 there was a hope — and it was just a hope — that the deal would lead to a more moderate Iran.

As tough sanctions were lifted, Iran received billions of dollars in oil revenues that had been blocked. The country's international isolation eased, raising the possibility that Iran's friction with the U.S. and some Arab states might give way to greater engagement, at least in some areas.

No one is talking like that now.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The CIA has a favorite phrase: "We can neither confirm nor deny."

It was born as part of a strange Cold War drama, involving Howard Hughes, that now has a new twist.

Back in March 1968, a Soviet submarine and its nuclear missiles suffered a catastrophic accident and sank to the dark, chilly floor of the Pacific. All 98 sailors died.

Most U.S. presidents pursue a two-track policy with Russia: confrontation on some fronts, cooperation on others.

President John F. Kennedy waged a showdown with the Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 — and signed a nuclear test ban treaty with Moscow the following year.

Ronald Reagan famously called the Soviets "the evil empire" — and reached a major arms control deal with them.

Barack Obama got Russia to join a sanctions campaign against Iran — and also imposed sanctions against Moscow.

A hundred years ago this month, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Espionage Act to deal with spying against the U.S. in World War I.

Historically, the most notorious U.S. spy cases have been tried under the act, like the one against Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted in 1951 of giving nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union and executed two years later.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a notorious Afghan warlord known as the "Butcher of Kabul," returned to the city he so often attacked with rockets and was welcomed Thursday by President Ashraf Ghani, who thanked him for "heeding the peace call."

Hekmatyar, 69, is among the most prominent surviving figures from the early days of war that began with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and grinds on to this day.

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