March 30th, 2011
11:57 PM ET
March 30th, 2011
09:49 PM ET

CIA operating in Libya: Join the Live Chat

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/02/liveblogfinal.copy.jpg]

Tonight on AC360°, two major stories from Libya – reports that President Obama has secretly authorized CIA involvement on the ground. And, Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa surfaced in London Wednesday and told officials there that he has resigned his post with the Libyan government. Plus, updates on situation in Syria and the nuclear emergency in Japan.

Scroll down to join the live chat during the program. It's your chance to share your thoughts on tonight's headlines. Keep in mind, you have a better chance of having your comment get past our moderators if you follow our rules.

Here are some of them:

1) Keep it short (we don't have time to read a "book")
2) Don't write in ALL CAPS (there's no need to yell)
3) Use your real name (first name only is fine)
4) No links
5) Watch your language (keep it G-rated; PG at worst - and that includes $#&*)

Filed under: Live Blog
March 30th, 2011
07:45 PM ET

Crippled Japanese plant's reactors to be decommissioned, chief says

CNN Wire Staff

Tokyo (CNN) - The chairman of the Japanese company that owns the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant said Wednesday it has no choice but to decommission four of the plant's six reactors.

Tsunehisa Katsumata, chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co., made the comment in a news conference as workers struggled to keep the reactors cool and prevent the further spread of radiation from the earthquake- and tsunami-stricken plant.

"Looking at current conditions, I have to say there are no options other than decommissioning reactors 1-4," Katsumata said.

He also said he is aware the Japanese government is considering nationalizing the company in the wake of the disaster, but "we want to make every effort to stay a private company."

Radioactive iodine at more than 3,000 times the regulatory limit has been found in ocean water near the plant, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said.

Monitoring data collected Tuesday afternoon detected the I-131 isotope at 3,355 times the regulatory limit, the agency said. The sample was taken 330 meters (1,080 feet) away from one of the plant's discharge points, the agency said.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
March 30th, 2011
07:36 PM ET

Beat 360° 3/30/11

Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite! Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:

Pro wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, television personality Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, and pro wrestler John Cena attend the WrestleMania XXVII press conference at Hard Rock Cafe New York on March 30, 2011 in New York City. (Photo credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Update: Beat 360° Winners:

Sam Meyer
“I can’t believe she gets better ratings.”


Lorraine Darretta
"We are in a situation now!"

___________________________________________________________________________Beat 360° Challenge

Filed under: Beat 360°
March 30th, 2011
07:30 PM ET

Source: CIA operating in Libya, in consultation with opposition

CNN Wire Staff

Benghazi, Libya (CNN) - The CIA is operating in Libya to help the United States increase its "military and political understanding" of the situation, a U.S. intelligence source said Wednesday.

"Yes, we are gathering intel firsthand and we are in contact with some opposition entities," the source told CNN.

The White House refused to comment on a Reuters report Wednesday that President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel troops.

"I will reiterate what the president said yesterday - no decision has been made about providing arms to the opposition or to any group in Libya," said White House press secretary Jay Carney in a statement. "We're not ruling it out or ruling it in. We're assessing and reviewing options for all types of assistance that we could provide to the Libyan people, and have consulted directly with the opposition and our international partners about these matters."

Meanwhile, another senior Libyan official broke Wednesday with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, whose loyalist forces have opposition fighters on the run after a string of successes.

And members of Congress questioned administration officials as to why they weren't asked to authorize Obama's decision to commit U.S. forces.

According to the Reuters report, Obama signed the covert aid order, or "finding," within the past few weeks. Such findings are required for the CIA to conduct secret operations, the report said.

A U.S. official not authorized to speak publicly could not confirm the finding but noted when there are crises like this, "you look at all instruments of national power."

In early March, a U.S. official told CNN "the intelligence community is aggressively pursing information on the ground" in Libya.

There has been growing discussion over whether the coalition will arm the opposition and provide training on the use of effective weapons systems.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
March 30th, 2011
06:01 PM ET
March 30th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

Western leaders consider arming Libyan rebels

CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - European and American leaders weighed the pros and cons of arming Libya's rebels Wednesday - a possibility made more urgent by a series of new military setbacks for forces seeking to topple strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

Government forces have been pushing from Bin Jawad to Ras Lanuf, a critical eastern oil town that the opposition seized on Sunday. Gadhafi's military has also launched escalated strikes in the western town of Misrata.

The new offensive was launched in the wake of an international arms embargo and airstrike campaign designed to establish a no-fly zone and provide humanitarian relief for civilians threatened by the Libyan military.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons Wednesday that the United Nations Security Council mandate "allows all necessary measures to protect civilians and populated areas (and) this would not necessarily rule out provision of assistance to those protecting civilians in certain circumstances."

"As I've said before, we do not rule it out but we have not taken the decision to do so," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday he is also open to the possibility of arming rebel fighters.

"I'm not ruling it out, but I'm also not ruling it in," he told NBC.

In a separate interview with ABC, Obama said that "if we wanted to get weapons into Libya, we probably could. ... We're looking at all our options at this point."

One significant problem, however, is the need to train opposition forces on how to use advanced weaponry.

"The notion of the gang that couldn't shoot straight might be lived out," retired Maj. Gen. James "Spider" Marks told CNN Tuesday night.

"There must be some degree of training associated with arming this force," said Marks, a former commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center. "However, some weapons systems, clearly they can get a handle on and they can use immediately. It's the more lethal weapon systems that would require training, and I don't think there's time to do that."

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
March 30th, 2011
03:00 PM ET

Enraged mother stands by daughter, allegedly raped by Gadhafi's men

Reza Sayah

Tobruk, Libya (CNN) - Like everyone else, Aisha Ahmad watched the riveting drama unfold in a Tripoli hotel as a desperate woman burst into a dining room filled with journalists, sobbing, screaming, wanting the world to know she had been raped by 15 of Moammar Gadhafi's militia men.

The arresting images of how swiftly the woman, Eman al-Obeidy, 29, and the journalists were stifled stirred viewers around the world. But perhaps none more so than Ahmad.

This was her daughter. And she was enraged.

Just weeks before, Ahmad might have wept in silence. But now, with war engulfing Libya and its future hanging in the balance, Ahmad feared Gadhafi no more.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Reza Sayah
March 30th, 2011
09:30 AM ET

Syria's al-Assad leaves state of emergency in place

CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad defied expectations and dashed widespread hopes during an anticipated nationally televised speech Wednesday when he made no mention of lifting a state of emergency.

In his rambling 45-minute speech to the National Assembly, he acknowledged that Syrians want reform and that the government has not met their needs.

Making several references to an anti-Syria "conspiracy" and threats to "stability," al-Assad said strife cannot win out over future reforms.

"Although President al-Assad did acknowledge the need for reform, his failure to address head-on the lifting of the state of emergency smacks of procrastination," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and Africa. "He could declare this tomorrow if he wanted.

"He should have immediately ordered his security forces to stop using unwarranted force and announced steps towards implementing key human rights reforms."

U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said "the speech fell short of the type of reforms the Syrian people demanded" and lacked substance.

Al-Assad made few concrete promises after weeks of anti-government demonstrations that have left at least 61 people dead, according to Human Rights Watch.

The address "failed to commit to a specific reform agenda that would safeguard public freedoms and judicial independence and prohibit the Syrian government from encroaching on human rights," the group said.

Reem Haddad, a spokeswoman for the Syrian Information Ministry, told CNN the emergency law "will be lifted," but she said procedures must be worked out.

"The president presented his own vision" on an announced package of reforms, Haddad said. Details will come in a "limited time frame," she added.

Asked if Syrians received enough information, Haddad said, "I wouldn't say the people expected more."

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Middle East
March 30th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #800 'Be careful about the man on the ropes'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama is watching the developments in Libya by the hour, and what is coming tomorrow is far from certain. Uh…except my next, daily letter to the White House.

Dear Mr. President,

The great boxer Muhammad Ali won many victories with his now infamous rope-a-dope technique. He would collapse against the side of the ring, stagger for a few rounds, and when it appeared that he was ready to fall in a badly beaten heap, he would roar to life. In a few furious seconds he would destroy his opponent who appeared so certain of victory just moments ago.

With that in mind, I have been surprised over the past 48 hours at the number of people asking questions such as: What will the new Libyan government look like? Who will its leaders be? Where will Gadhafi go?

In case these members of the chattering class have not noticed, Moammar Gadhafi (at least as of this writing) is still in power. He still has a military. And he still seems to be giving about as good as he is getting from opposition forces. In other words, there is a big difference between being on the ropes and being out of the fight, as Ali demonstrated so many times.

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