National editor's pick of the top news stories in the nation and world at this hour:
A massive manhunt was under way in Southern California after a former LAPD officer killed a couple in Irvine, wounded one officer in a shootout in Chino, and killed one officer and severely wounded another in an ambush in Riverside, police said. Christopher Jordan Dorner, 33, claimed responsibility for the rampage in a manifesto in which he said he was fired for exposing police brutality and racism on the force. Of the "horrendous murders" of which he was suspected, he wrote,
Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta faced sharp questions from senators who believe the U.S. botched the response to the attack on its consulate in Benghazi, Libya, but he insisted the U.S. military couldn't have gotten there faster. "This was, pure and simple, a problem of distance and time," Panetta said, meaning the positioning of military teams far from Benghazi made it difficult to respond more quickly. "The United States military is not and should not be a global 911 service capable of arriving on the scene within minutes to every possible contingency around the world," Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee. But Sen. John McCain scoffed at the claims of Panetta and similar comments by Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey. "For you to testify that our posture did not allow a rapid response, did not take into account threats to our consulate ... is simply false," McCain told Dempsey. The general stood by his claims, "your dispute of it notwithstanding," saying that because of time and positioning of forces, "we wouldn't have gotten there in time." Panetta and Dempsey also revealed Thursday that they had both supported sending arms to the rebels in Syria -- a position that differed with that of the White House.
CIA nominee John Brennan also faced tough questions Thursday at his confirmation hearing about openness with Congress and the public, and he pledged to be forthcoming and to repair a "trust deficit" with lawmakers. He was questioned about leaks of classified information, and he said, "I do not think it is ever appropriate" to leak such information. Asked about the policy on drone strikes -- one he helped craft for the Obama administration -- he said they are not used to punish past behavior but to prevent future attacks. Answering another question, he said, "We need to acknowledge publicly" when an innocent person is accidentally killed. Brennan was questioned hours after the committee was given a top-secret White House memo outlining the rationale for drone strikes targeting al-Qaida operatives overseas. Brennan's hearing was delayed by shouting, sign-waving protesters who had to be removed from the room.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Thursday ruled out direct talks with the United States at a time when Washington is "holding a gun" to Tehran in the form of sanctions. Talks are still scheduled this month between Iran and six other countries, including the U.S., but Khamenei's comments may signal that Iran will insist that sanctions be lightened before any progress is made on Iran's nuclear agenda. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is visiting Cairo, made similar comments Thursday, saying, "Such talks will be meaningless if someone raises a club." In another affront to the U.S., Iran said it had decoded the data from a captured U.S. drone, and on Wednesday night it broadcast video from the drone said to show the city of Kandahar, Afghanistan and a U.S. drone base.
Wouldn't it be terrible if there was another celebrity oops at the Grammys to send people scurrying to their computers to see who spilled out of their clothes this time? Seeking to prevent that very thing, CBS sent out a memo described as a "Standard and Practice Wardrobe Advisory," which reads: "CBS Program Practices advises that all talent appearing on camera please adhere to Network policy concerning wardrobe. Please be sure that buttocks and female breasts are adequately covered. Thong type costumes are problematic. Please avoid exposing bare fleshy under curves of the buttocks and buttock crack. Bare sides or under curvature of the breasts is also problematic." Way to keep things classy, Grammys.
The Wire, a summary of top national and world news stories from the Associated Press and other wire services, moves weekdays. Contact Karl Kahler at 408-920-5023; follow him at twitter.com/karl_kahler.