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Early Bird

Court Discloses Drone Memo, Syria Hands Over Last Declared Chemicals, VA Plays Down Errors

By Jordain Carney ( @jordainc)

Welcome to NJ's Early Bird—today's best national security, defense, and foreign policy coverage. To contact us, email earlybird@nationaljournal.com.

 

Court Discloses Memo Approving Drone Strike on American
(The New York Times: Charlie Savage)
The Justice Department found it lawful to target Anwar al-Awlaki.

Syria Hands Over Last of Declared Chemical Weapons
(Associated Press: Toby Sterling, Menelaos Hadjicostis)
Syria finished handing over to Western powers the 1,300 tons of chemical weapons it acknowledged possessing, completing a deal reached last fall under threat of U.S. airstrikes.

U.S. Special Forces Get Legal Protection
(CBS News/Associated Press)
The Pentagon says the U.S. and Iraq have reached an agreement on legal protections for American commandos deploying into Iraq. 

 

VA Plays Down Seriousness of Its Errors, Report Says
(Marine Corps Times: Leo Shane III)
Officials there say the consistent "harmless error" defense often defies logic and hides "the severity of systemic and longstanding problems."

Base Closings Play Into Campaigns
(Politico: Jeremy Herb, Philip Ewing)
A specter is haunting the Senate primary in Mississippi and many other midterm races around the country: BRAC.

CONGRESS

Senators Seek More Information About Drone Killings
(Roll Call: Niels Lesniewski)
Two Senate Democrats want the public to know more about the rules behind the targeted killing of American citizens using drones.

Lawmakers Press VA on Transparency
(The Hill: Martin Matishak)
Committee members were skeptical of the VA's claim to have improved.

 

Bill to Cut Vets' Wait Times Hits Snag
(Politico: Jennifer Haberkorn)
Both the House and Senate versions require any doctors who participate to become federal contractors.

Congressman Seeks to Cut Egypt Aid After Press Crackdown
(Roll Call: Tim Starks)
Rep. Schiff will offer an amendment that "would cut and restructure American aid to Egypt—slicing nearly a third from the security assistance package."

IRAQ

In Iraq's Sectarian Violence, a Show of Each Side's Worst
(The New York Times: Rod Nordland, Suadad Al-Salhy
As such episodes increase, it becomes ever harder for the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government to make peace with Sunnis and Kurds.

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Obama Lining Up ISIS Targets and Keeps 'Prerogative' to Strike
(ABC News: Ali Weinberg)
Secretary of State John Kerry said Obama "each day" is gaining more certainty of the targets he would strike if the United States decided on its own to take military action.

Kerry Promises 'Intense and Sustained' U.S. Support for Iraq
(Reuters: Lesley Wroughton, Ahmed Rasheed)
He said the divided country would only survive if its leaders took urgent steps to bring it together.

U.S. Looks to Win Kurdish Support
(Reuters: Lesley Wroughton)
Kerry was in Iraqi Kurdistan to urge its leaders not to withdraw from the political process in Baghdad.

Sunni Militants Seize Crossing on Iraq-Jordan Border
(The New York Times: Suadad al-Salhy, Michael Gordon, Tim Arango)
The advance by the militants followed their seizing of an important border crossing with Syria at Qaim.

Poll: Many Americans Wary of U.S. Role in Iraq
(CBS News)
Fifty percent of Americans think the U.S. doesn't have a responsibility to do something about the recent violence in Iraq.

U.S. Special Forces Face Complex Challenge in Iraq
(Associated Press: Lolita Baldor)
Their work will be complicated by the stunning collapse of the Iraqi military, left leaderless by internal Sunni-Shiite divisions.

Pentagon: War Fund Not Used for Iraq Advisers
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
Instead, money currently allotted for the military's command in the Middle East, U.S. Central Command, will cover moves to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Records Show How Iraqi Extremists Withstood U.S. Anti-Terror Efforts
(McClatchy: Hannah Allam)
U.S. officials believed, incorrectly, that the group had been vanquished.

No Sign of Surrender as Iraq's Maliki Fights for Political Life
(Reuters: Ned Parker)
In eight years in power, Iraq's prime minister Nuri al-Maliki has never faced such a threat.

SYRIA

U.S. Ship to Start Loading Syrian Chemical Agents Next Week
(Reuters: Phil Stewart)
The Cape Ray will need weeks of round-the-clock processing to neutralize the chemical agents.

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

Suspected Insider Attack Injures Two ISAF Troops
(Stars and Stripes: Josh Smith)
A spokesman for the NATO-led coalition said the incident is under investigation and refused to identify the shooter.

Top Afghan Election Official Resigns Amid Candidate's Claims of Vote Fraud
(The New York Times: Azam Ahmed)
The move was the latest bit of electoral theater to grip the nation since the June 14 runoff election.

ASIA/PACIFIC

China Threat: Air-Sea Battle vs. Offshore Control?
(Breaking Defense: Wendell Minnick)
There are doubts in Washington that a U.S. president would ever approve the bombing of China.

EUROPE

Obama, Putin Speak About Ukraine
(USA Today: David Jackson)
President Obama urged Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to stop the flow of arms to separatists in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Poland, U.S. Reaffirm Ties After Leaked Tape
(The Wall Street Journal: Marcin Sobczyk)
Poland's leaders moved to reassure the U.S. that Warsaw hasn't lost faith in its relationship.

U.S. Presses NATO Members to Increase Defense Spending
(The Guardian: Ewen MacAskill)
The Ukraine crisis is seen as a game-changer, with only four countries meeting the U.S. target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense.

ARMY

Helicopters Herald Army's New Focus
(Honolulu Advertiser: William Cole)
The arrival of Army Apache helicopters on Oahu will bring a unique training mission for the attack choppers.

Special Forces Conducts Naval Training as Army Emphasizes Amphibious Mission
(Army Times: Lance Bacon)
A mobile Army could encroach on Marine turf—with sailors in the middle.

NAVY

Navy Yard Shooting Victims and Survivors Honored
(The Washington Post: Thomas Gibbons-Neff)
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus presented awards that included the Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Medal with Valor, the Navy Distinguished Civilian Medal, and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.

MARINE CORPS

Marine Judge Who Called Defendants 'Scumbags' Did Not Show Bias, Court Finds
(Marine Corps Times: Hope Hodge Seck)
A military appeals court tossed out a Marine recruiter's sexual-assault conviction and 9-month sentence this month after finding that a military judge peppered a witness with leading questions.

AIR FORCE

Generals Breaking the Rules: Does Rank Garner Privilege or Increased Scrutiny?
(Air Force Times: Kristin Davis)
The offenses span the spectrum.

INDUSTRY

Fire Damages F-35 on Eglin Runway
(Air Force Times: Brian Everstine)
The Air Force expects to buy 1,763 F-35As, with initial operating capability expected by late 2016.

Lockheed F-35 Upgrades Cost $920 Million Less, U.S. Says
(Bloomberg: Tony Capaccio)
The projected cost to upgrade F-35 jets built by Lockheed Martin has declined by about $920 million, or 36 percent, in less than two years.

Raytheon to Resume Production of Warhead After Successful Test
(Reuters: Andrea Shalal)
"There are no other hurdles that we're aware of, so we expect that we will go into production shortly," said Wes Kremer, vice president of air and missile defense systems.

INTELLIGENCE

CIA Report Now on to White House
(Politico: Burgess Everett)
The Central Intelligence Agency has finished redacting sensitive information from a 500-page summary of the 6,800-page interrogation report.

Spy Satellite Agency Wants to Tap Video Game Technology
(USA Today: Ray Locker)
The NRO wants to tap into the video game industry's "innovative algorithms" and "enhanced visualization techniques."

Greenwald: New NSA Disclosure 'Imminent'
(Politico: Dylan Byers)
Glenn Greenwald is set to disclose new documents revealing which kinds of citizens are targeted by National Security Agency surveillance.

CYBER

Planned Cyber Center Includes USNA's First Classified Facility
(Marine Corps Times: Jeff Schogol)
If Congress approves the $120 million needed to build the center as part of the fiscal 2015 appropriations bill, construction is expected to take about two years starting in late 2016.

VETERANS

VA Deaths Covered Up to Make Statistics Look Better, Whistle-Blower Says
(CNN: Scott Bronstein, Drew Griffin, Nelli Black)
Records of dead veterans were changed or physically altered, some even in recent weeks, to hide how many people died while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA hospital.

VA Challenged on Handling of Whistleblower Charges
(Associated Press: Kevin Freking)
Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson agrees with the federal official responsible for investigating complaints from government whistleblowers that the VA hasn't taken those complaints seriously.

Army Vet to Receive Medal of Honor for Action in Infamous Afghan Battle
(The Washington Post: Dan Lamothe)
Sgt. Ryan J. Pitts was wounded in a battle that became one of the most controversial of the entire war.

DETAINEES

Iraqi Wants Civilian Attorney at Guantanamo War Court to Navigate Afghanistan, Iraq
(The Miami Herald: Carol Rosenberg)
An Iraqi prisoner at Guantanamo wants a civilian lawyer to help him gather evidence in war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan as an act of pragmatism, the captive's U.S. Army lawyer said.

AFRICA

White House Condemns Egypt's Sentencing of Journalists
(McClatchy: Anita Kumar)
Baher Mohammed, Mohammed Fahmy, and Peter Greste were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison.

What's Stopping the U.S. From Rescuing Kidnapped Nigerian Girls? It's Complicated
(Stars and Stripes: Nancy Montgomery)
Washington has been reluctant to organize a rescue for political, practical, logistical and organizational reasons.

AMERICAS

Mexico Embassy Compound's Swelling $764 Million Price Tag Worries House Panel
(Roll Call: Tim Starks)
A House committee is insisting on additional congressional oversight of embassy land purchases and construction contracts as a result.

ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY

A Thin Rationale for Drone Killings
(The New York Times)
The memo that justified the killing of an American citizen provides little confidence that the lethal action was taken with care.

The U.S. Military's Mayors
(Time: Mark Thompson)
When the U.S. military helps foreign leaders, their nations seem to shrink.

Whoops, He Did It Again: Obama's ISIS Lesson for Afghanistan
(War on the Rocks: Ryan Evans)
Washington has descended into a familiar battle: the blame game.

Don't Repeat Iraq Mistake in Afghanistan
(Stars and Stripes: Joseph Lieberman, Vance Serchuk)
There is an urgent need to reassess the White House's recently announced plans for Afghanistan.

Corruption Is a National Security Problem: Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan
(Breaking Defense: Rachel Kleinfeld)
The story about Iraq's downfall has largely been painted in ethnic terms. But this is a half-truth.

China and America: Dancing Around the Containment Question
(The National Interest: Joseph Bosco)
The cumulative effect of multiple elements over the past eight years undermines America's not-containing-China assurances.

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Keeps me informed about national leadership concerns."

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