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NSA's Secret Role in U.S. Assassination Program, Senate Takes Steps to Undo Military Pension Cuts NSA's Secret Role in U.S. Assassination Program, Senate Takes Steps to...

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NSA's Secret Role in U.S. Assassination Program, Senate Takes Steps to Undo Military Pension Cuts

By Sara Sorcher (@SaraSorcherNJ) and Jordain Carney (@jordainc)

Welcome to NJ's Early Bird, a morning assembly of the best national security, defense, and foreign policy coverage from around the Web.

 

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The NSA's Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program
(The Intercept: Jeremy Scahill, Glenn Greenwald)
The NSA is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes.

Frustrated by Karzai, U.S. Shifts Exit Plans
(The Wall Street Journal: Adam Entous, Julian Barnes)
The U.S. military has revised plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan to allow the White House to wait until President Hamid Karzai leaves office before completing a security pact and settling on a post-2014 U.S. troop presence.

 

Veterans Pensions Bill Advances Into Political War Zone
(National Journal: Stacy Kaper)
Caving to overwhelming pressure from veterans' lobbying, the Senate took steps Monday toward unwinding a controversial cut in veterans pensions that has made lawmakers from both political parties vulnerable to attacks.

GOP Weighs Undoing Vets Pension Cuts as Debt Price
(Associated Press: Andrew Taylor)
House Republican leaders were considering a plan Monday to reverse a recently passed cut to military pensions as the price for increasing the government's borrowing cap.

Pentagon 'Not Concerned' by Iranian Naval Plans in Atlantic
(Reuters)
The Pentagon said it was unconcerned by an Iranian announcement that it would send naval vessels toward U.S. maritime borders.

Email Shows Effort to Shield Bin Laden Photos
(Associated Press: Stephen Braun)
A newly-released email shows that 11 days after the killing of terror leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, the U.S. military's top special operations officer ordered subordinates to destroy any photographs of the al-Qaida founder's corpse or turn them over to the CIA.

 

SYRIA

Russia Says Draft U.N. Resolution on Syria Aid 'One-Sided'
(Reuters: Gabriela Baczynska)
Lavrov said those behind the draft were seeking to mount pressure on Russia and China by discussing their proposal with the media.

Pirate Radio Gives Voice to Syrian Opposition
(The New York Times: Ben Hubbard)
Over a dozen opposition radio stations broadcast into Syria, and some activists try to keep their signals, and themselves, alive by running operations from places like Turkey.

Watchdog: Syria Ships Third Batch of Chemical Arms
(Associated Press)
A watchdog agency says Syria has shipped third batch of chemical-weapons material out of its territory.

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Cape Ray to Hold in Spain Until Syria Turns Over Chemical-Weapons Stockpile
(Stars and Stripes: Jon Harper)
The MV Cape Ray will be held up indefinitely in Rota, Spain, while the international community waits for the Syrian regime to hand over the remainder of its stockpile.

Attacks on Convoys in Syria Overshadow Peace Talks
(The Wall Street Journal: Stacy Meichtry, Sam Dagher)
Government and rebel representatives refused to meet face-to-face.

Russia Seeks Meeting With U.S., U.N., Syrian Delegations in Geneva
(Reuters: Steve Gutterman)
Russia has proposed that Russian, American, and U.N. officials meet the Syrian government and opposition delegations at peace talks in Geneva.

Syria Mediator Brahimi to Meet U.S. and Russian Ministers on Friday: U.N.
(Reuters)
The statement was issued after Brahimi met separately with the Syrian government and opposition at the start of a second round of Geneva peace talks.

Brahimi to Meet Syria Sides Separately, Demands Peace Commitmentt
(Reuters)
Brahimi increased pressure on the two sides to show willingness in a peace process sponsored by Moscow and Washington that made no progress in the first round.

Second Round of Syria Peace Talks Get Off to Rocky Start
(CBS News/Associated Press)
A second round of peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition bogged down quickly Monday in recriminations about who was responsible for escalating violence.

INTELLIGENCE

Welcome to Glenn Greenwald Inc.?
(The Daily Beast: Lloyd Grove)
The controversial columnist is the public face of a billionaire-backed new-media play. And that could mean problems for a venture with ambitions way beyond the Snowden-verse.

Here's What's Keeping National Security Officials Up at Night
(National Journal: Sara Sorcher, Joey Carolino)
National Intelligence Director James Clapper comes to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday to discuss the world's top security threats.

Google, Facebook, and Other Tech Giants Join Mass NSA Protest
(National Journal: Dustin Volz)
The protest aims to echo 2012's "Day the Internet Went Dark."

Obama Appointee Praises Snowden for Putting 'Spotlight' on Privacy
(National Journal: Brendan Sasso)
FTC chairwoman says many were unaware how they could be tracked online.

How Bulk Surveillance Turned an Oregon Lawyer Into a Terror Suspect
(The Verge: Russell Brandom)
What does bulk surveillance look like in action?

IRAN

Iran Vows Nuke Program 'Forever', Slams Military Option Talk
(Reuters: Mehrdad Balali)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hit out on Tuesday at Western assertions that a military solution to a nuclear dispute with Tehran remained an option.

Netanyahu to Talk Curbs on Iran With Obama in Washington in March
(Reuters: Jeffrey Heller)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would meet President Obama in Washington next month to further the goal of denying Tehran an atomic bomb capability.

U.N.: Still a Way to Go in Iran Nuke Probe
(Associated Press)
U.N. inspectors looking into allegations Iran worked on nuclear arms cautioned Monday that their long-stalled probe still had a long way to go to determine whether such suspicions are valid.

Report: Iran Successfully Test-Fires Two Missiles
(Associated Press)
Iran has successfully test-fired two missiles, including a long-range ballistic weapon, the official IRNA news agency reported on Monday.

Iranian Warships Heading to USA to Show Reach
(USA Today: Oren Dorell)
Iranian vessels sail for U.S. coast to protest U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf.

DOD: No Signs of Iranian Warships in Atlantic
(Politico: Philip Ewing)
The Pentagon said Iran would be within its rights to send warships into the Atlantic, though such a deployment doesn't seem imminent.

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

Hezb-I-Islami Group Claims Kabul Attack
(The Wall Street Journal: Nathan Hodge, Habib Khan Totakhil)
Afghan militant group Hezb-e-Islami launched a car-bomb suicide attack in Kabul, killing two contractors for the U.S.-led coalition and wounding several Afghan civilians.

Afghan Forces Struggle to Hold Land, Defense Agency Says
(Bloomberg: Tony Capaccio)
Afghanistan's security forces are struggling to improve their combat capability as the U.S. withdraws intelligence, reconnaissance and bomb-detection technologies, according to the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

Bomb Kills Two American Contractors in Kabul
(Reuters: Jessica Donati, Mirwais Harooni, Hamid Shalizi, Missy Ryan)
A car bomb in the Afghan capital killed two United States contractors for the international security force.

U.S. Consulate Employee Killed in Pakistan, Police Say
(Associated Press)
Pakistani police say gunmen have shot and killed a local employee of the U.S. Consulate in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

ASIA/PACIFIC

U.S. Reaches Out to Indian Opposition Leader It Once Rebuked
(The New York Times: Ellen Barry)
The American Embassy requested a meeting with Narendra Modi, signaling an attempt to establish ties with a candidate who is likely to become prime minister.

U.S. Ambassador to Meet India's Modi, Ending Isolation
(Reuters: Frank Jack Daniel)
U.S. ambassador to India Nancy Powell is to meet the politician who could become India's next prime minister.

Allied Relations Complicate U.S. Pacific Rebalance
(Defense News: Aaron Mehta)
As the United States sharpens its focus on the Asia-Pacific, it is becoming increasingly reliant on regional partners.

Abe, Aquino Views on China Unhelpful, U.S. General Says
(Bloomberg News: Sanat Vallikappen, Rosalind Mathieson)
The recent comments by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Philippine President Benigno Aquino, two U.S. allies, have escalated tensions.

White House 'Disappointed' Invitation Withdrawn for North Korea Visit
(Reuters: Arshad Mohammed, Doina Chiacu, Roberta Rampton)
The White House said it was "deeply disappointed" by North Korea's decision to rescind an invitation to U.S. envoy Robert King to visit Pyongyang.

CONGRESS

Both Chambers Work to Repeal Pension Cuts
(The Hill: Jeremy Herb, Kristina Wong)
Both the House and the Senate are trying to move legislation this week that would repeal the $6 billion military pension cut included in the December budget deal.

Senator Demands Pentagon Turn Over Info on Sexual-Assault Cases
(CBS News: Stephanie Condon)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is calling on the Pentagon to hand over detailed information about sexual-assault cases at major U.S. military bases.

Rep. Warns Obama's Iran Policy Could Lead to 'Shadow of Nuclear Terrorism'
(Fox News)
A member of the House Armed Services Committee slammed President Obama's handling of Iran, saying his policies could lead to an era of nuclear terrorism.

Senate Moves to Prevent Return of Jewish Archive to Iraq
(Los Angeles Times: Lalita Clozel)
Some lawmakers are trying to prevent the return to Baghdad of a cache of Iraqi Jewish community records, which were seized by the U.S. military during the Iraq war and occupation.

Republicans on House Panel: Military Is Not to Blame for Benghazi Attack
(The Washington Post: Karen DeYoung)
Their report blames the White House and the State Department for ignoring threats in the area.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Email Shows Effort to Shield Bin Laden Photos
(Associated Press: Stephen Braun)
A newly-released email shows that 11 days after the killing of terror leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, the U.S. military's top special operations officer ordered subordinates to destroy any photographs of the al-Qaida founder's corpse or turn them over to the CIA.

Pentagon Evaluates Tracking Family Suicides
(Military.com: Richard Sisk)
After years of urging from support groups, the Defense Department has taken the first steps toward setting up a system to track suicides among military family members.

MILITARY OPERATIONS

Video Shows U.S. Abduction of Accused al-Qaida Terrorist on Trial for Embassy Bombings
(The Washington Post: Adam Goldman)
The video, from a closed-circuit camera in the neighborhood, provides a rare glimpse of a U.S. covert operation.

MIDDLE EAST

Iraqi Militants Accidentally Bomb 21 of Their Own
(Associated Press: Sameer Yacoub)
The fatal error by the al-Qaida breakaway group that dominates the Sunni insurgency in Iraq happened on the same day that the speaker of the Iraqi parliament escaped unhurt from a roadside-bomb attack.

WHITE HOUSE

Al-Qaida's Ejection of Group Spurs Legal Debate in U.S.
(The Washington Post: Karen DeYoung, Greg Miller)
The Obama administration is exploring whether a law on U.S. attacks reaches to a group no longer tied to al-Qaida.

Obama, Hollande Call for More Countries to Share Leadership Burden
(The Wall Street Journal: Inti Landauro)
French President François Hollande and President Obama called for more countries to share "the burden and price of leadership."

This Very Telling Map Shows Which U.S. Ambassadors Were Campaign Bundlers
(The Washington Post: Max Fisher)
Every president rewards some major campaign contributors by appointing them as ambassadors, but it's not a practice that's considered very beneficial for U.S. foreign policy.

Obama Far Outpaces Predecessors in Appointing Donors to Foreign Posts
(Fox News)
Obama has taken the art of naming donors and other politically connected chums as ambassadors to a new level.

Obama Makes Name Change to Placate Security Staff
(USA Today: David Jackson)
It's official—it's no longer "the National Security Staff." It's the "National Security Council Staff."

VETERANS

First Lady Praises Construction Hiring of Vets
(Associated Press: Darlene Superville)
Michelle Obama says a construction-industry pledge to hire 100,000 veterans by 2019 isn't only the right and patriotic thing to do, it's also a smart thing for business.

Construction Industry Pledges to Hire 100,000 Veterans
(The Washington Post: Josh Hicks)
First lady Michelle Obama and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez on Monday will announce a pledge from construction companies to hire 100,000 veterans over the next five years.

Progress Stalls on Cutting VA Claims Backlog
(Navy Times: Leo Shane III)
Veterans Affairs Department officials expected to see significant progress in the effort to reduce their disability claims backlog again this month. Instead, it's still stuck where it was last fall.

HOMELAND SECURITY

Boston Bombing Suspect Wants Trial Next Year
(Associated Press)
Prosecutors say the trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzkokhar Tsarnaev is expected to last three months.

INDUSTRY

Boeing Will Pursue F-16 Upgrades, Executive Says
(Defense News: Andrew Chuter)
Boeing is ready to throw its hat in the ring and compete for upcoming Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter upgrades.

All Eyes on F-35
(Defense News: Wendell Minnick)
Threats from China shape conflicting priorities throughout Asia-Pacific.

SOCOM Pleased With First Flight of AC-130J 'Ghostrider'
(Inside Defense)
U.S. Special Operations Command and the Air Force's 96th Test Wing completed the first flight of the specially modified AC-130J next-generation gunship on Jan. 31.

ONR Team Working on Technologies for Future Ultra Heavy-Lift Amphibious Connector
(Seapower Magazine: Richard Burgess)
The Navy's Office of Naval Research, together with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab and an unidentified international partner, is working to develop technology for a possible future landing craft.

Contractor Behind on USAF Satellite Navigation
(Defense News: Aaron Mehta)
The Air Force expects the contractors to miss its deadline for a critical part of the GPS 3 satellite, but remains confident it will not delay the overall constellation.

AIR FORCE

Gen. Hawk Carlisle, Commander, U.S. Pacific Air Forces
(Defense News)
Gen. Herbert Carlisle, commander of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, discusses the Pacific and how U.S. interests are developing in the region.

NAVY

Teammate to Speak in Navy Sex-Assault Case
(Associated Press)
A former U.S. Naval Academy football player is scheduled to speak publically for the first time in a case in which a teammate is accused of sexual assault.

MARINE CORPS

Enrollment Falls as Corps Restricts Tuition Plan
(Stars and Stripes: Matthew Burke)
The number of Marines receiving tuition assistance has decreased drastically this fiscal year, signaling that new eligibility restrictions could have far-reaching impact on the popular subsidized college course program.

Marine Crisis Response Unit Commander Outlines International Security Challenges
(Seapower Magazine: Otto Kreisher)
The Marine Corps unit hastily formed to provide a rapid response to crises in Africa has dealt with a range of missions that characterize what many are terming "the new normal" of international security challenges.

NATIONAL GUARD

NGAUS Head Knocks Senior Pentagon Leaders on Army Budget Battle
(Breaking Defense: Sydney Freedberg Jr.)
As the regular Army heads into what will likely be a bitter battle over fiscal 2015 funding with the Army National Guard, the service's leadership is showing some style and unaccustomed savvy.

TECH

DARPA Wants to Help You Search the Web Better
(NextGov: Bob Brewin)
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has kicked off a project to fine-tune Web searches by topical domain rather than general subjects.

AFRICA

3-Star AFRICOM Commander Details Future Missions on the Continent
(Marine Corps Times: Gina Harkins)
The Marine Corps' partnership with African military forces is likely to expand as those nations look to the U.S. for the training and expertise.

EUROPE

Yanukovych's Friends on the Hill
(The Daily Beast: Oleg Skynkarenko)
As Kiev burns, associates of the Ukrainian president have paid large sums of money to two prominent American lobbying firms.

AMERICAS

Majority of Americans Favor Ties With Cuba, Poll Finds
(The New York Times: Rick Gladstone)
In Florida, an even higher number approve of normalizing relations with Havana, according to the survey's results, described as an unprecedented reflection of shifting American attitudes.

PEOPLE

Top Pentagon Official Goes to CAP
(The Daily Beast: Josh Rogin)
Vikram Singh, a top Pentagon official dealing with Asia, is leaving government service to head up national security at a progressive think tank linked to the Obama administration.

ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY

Army Auditors' Shock and Awe
(The New York Times)
Lawmakers must demand the fullest accounting of a recruiting program that paid cash bounties for drawing thousands of enlistees into service.

The French Connection
(Foreign Policy: James Stavridis, Leo Michel)
Why it's time to build a new special relationship between Washington and Paris.

From 'Least Diplomatic Diplomat,' Salty Peek at Trans-Atlantic Strains
(The New York Times: Mark Landler)
A more accurate snapshot of the complicated state of the trans-Atlantic relationship came last week in the leaked audio recording of a senior American diplomat using a profanity to express her frustration about what she viewed as the European Union's dithering over violent street protests in Ukraine.

Is the U.S. Powerless to Stop the Spread of al-Qaida?
(McClatchy: James Rosen)
The United States may lack the money, the policy knowhow, and the political will to respond aggressively to the al-Qaida resurgence.

French President's Willingness to Use Force as U.S. Ally Defies Doubters
(Bloomberg News: Gregory Viscusi)
Hollande arrived in Washington on Monday as the U.S. ally most willing to use force.

Good Relationships Aren't Always Good
(National Interest: Paul Pillar)
Realists always keep in mind, however, that what matters is not the singing of kumbaya but getting desirable behavior out of others.

Washington Spends Less on Weapons Than You Think
(Forbes: Loren Thompson)
The point isn't that Washington is spending too much or too little on weapons. The point is that it is spending far less than many citizens imagine.

The Weakest Link: How China Seeks to Destabilize the US-ROK-Japan Triangle
(The Diplomat: Jin Kai)
China believes it can drive a wedge in the U.S. alliance structure by expanding its ties with South Korea.

Is the PLA Going Rogue?
(National Interest: Minxin Pei)
One of the worries many people have about a potential military confrontation between China and its neighbors in East Asia is whether Beijing's civilian leadership has a firm grip on the military.

NSA Spying Undermines Separation of Powers
(USA Today: Glenn Harlan Reynolds)
The program makes it easy for the president to spy on and blackmail his enemies.

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