Welcome to NJ's Early Bird, a morning assembly of the best national security, defense, and foreign policy coverage from around the Web.
NSA Collects Millions of Text Messages Daily in 'Untargeted' Global Sweep
(The Guardian: James Ball)
The NSA has collected almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe, using them to extract data including location, contact networks, and credit card details, according to top-secret documents.
High Court Could Weigh In on Cell-Phone Searches
(Associated Press: Mark Sherman)
The Supreme Court could say as early as Friday whether it will resolve a new clash over privacy and technology in the digital age.
White House Releases Summary of Six-Month Iran Nuclear Plan
The White House released a summary of the deal reached between six major world powers and Iran to curb its nuclear program, responding to calls from Congress and other groups for more transparency about what the agreement entails.
Iraq's Maliki Says He Has Asked for Weapons From U.S., Will Also Seek Training for Troops
(The Washington Post: Loveday Morris, Ernesto Londoño)
Still, the prime minister said he had no regrets in forcing U.S. troops to leave Iraq in 2011, despite the situation that has unfolded in Anbar since then.
Coburn to Leave Senate at Year's End
(The New York Times: Jeremy Peters)
Senator Tom Coburn, who has had repeated treatments for prostate cancer, said his decision was not about his health or prognosis.
Destruction of Most Dangerous Syrian Chemicals May Be Delayed
(Reuters: Steve Scherer)
But the final deadline of the end of June for eliminating all chemicals remains, the head of the world's chemical weapons watchdog said on Thursday.
Omnibus Spending Bill Sails Through Senate, Heads to Obama's Desk
(National Journal: Sarah Mimms)
In a 72-26 vote on Thursday, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the 12-part, $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, which will fund the government through the end of September.
Obama Wrestles With Final Details of Overhaul Plan for NSA
(The Wall Street Journal: Carol Lee, Siobhan Gorman)
President Barack Obama's address on government surveillance Friday will be a key step in his re-examination of post-Sept. 11 security practices.
Stone: NSA Metadata Program Captures Small Fraction of Calls
(Politico: Josh Gerstein)
The NSA's controversial program to collect information on phone calls to, from, and within the U.S., gathers such metadata on only a small percentage of U.S. telephone traffic, a member of President Obama's surveillance review group said Thursday.
The 4 Numbers You Need to Know for President Obama's NSA Speech
(Washington Post: Sean Sullivan, Scott Clement)
Ahead of Obama's speech, in which he will endorse some new limits on phone record collection—though nothing big and broad—and call upon Congress to help shape the future of the program, it's worth taking a look at where the American public stands.
Spying Plunges U.S.-German Ties Lower Than Iraq War: Merkel Ally
Relations between Germany and the United States are worse now than during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq a decade ago, a leading ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel said, in a sign of mounting anger in Berlin over American spying tactics.
Iran's President Slams Opponents of Nuclear Deal
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani criticized domestic opponents of the nuclear deal struck with world powers, a news agency reported Thursday, an apparent rebuke of hard-liners challenging him in the Islamic Republic.
Russia Says Iran Essential for Finding Syria Peace
(Associated Press: Vladimir Isachenkov)
Moscow strongly urged the West to invite Tehran to participate in next week's peace conference.
A Bill Stokes Debate, and Doubt, on Iran Deal
(The New York Time: Mark Landler)
A Senate bill that lays down the contours of an acceptable final nuclear agreement with Iran is condemned by the White House as a deal-killer.
Iran Top Nuke Negotiator: Deal Reversible in One Day
(Daily Beast: Josh Rogin)
In an interview with Iranian television, Iran's top nuclear negotiator says Tehran can resume enriching uranium to 20 percent levels within one day if it so desires.
Administration Accused of Keeping Text of Iran Nuclear Deal 'Secret'
The White House on Thursday released a public "summary" of the interim nuclear deal. But Fox News has learned that the actual text was delivered to Congress with major caveats.
Obama to Democrats: Put Off New Iran Sanctions
(USA Today: David Jackson)
President Obama laid out his legislative agenda for Senate Democrats at a White House meeting on Wednesday, but also asked them not to do something.
Hillary Clinton Discussed U.S. Approval of an Israeli Strike on Iran
(Time: Michael Crowley)
The then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised a bracing question: Was it possible that, instead of trying to restrain Israel, the U.S. should instead provide "a tacit green light to the Israelis to take care of the problem for us"?
Senate Sends Omnibus, Pentagon-Funding Measure to Obama's Desk
(Defense News: John Bennett)
President Barack Obama says he will sign the bill, which will give the Defense Department $572 billion in total spending, and another $85 billion in war funds.
Sanders Plans Bill to Fix Pensions Snafu
(Politico: Juana Summers)
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, is preparing to unveil a fix for the cut in military pensions included in the budget deal brokered late last year.
HASC Chair McKeon Acknowledges Tea-Party Tactics Influenced Retirement Decision
(Air Force Times: John Bennett)
The California Republican's voice cracked and tears welled in his eyes as he uttered the words defense sources predicted were coming for months: "I am not a candidate for Congress this year."
McCain, Kaine Unveil Measure to Change War Powers
The senators unveiled legislation that would repeal the 1973 War Powers Resolution, often ignored by presidents of both parties, and replace it with a new law.
Harry Reid: Robert Gates Denigrates Others to Make a Buck
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was one target of Gates in his book, while President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also came in for criticism.
Bills Open Military to Some Illegal Immigrants
(Military.com: Bryant Jordan)
Lawmakers meeting with military recruiting officials on Thursday said they support efforts to open up the armed services to men and women who were brought into the country illegally, but as children.
Boehner Eases CODEL Restrictions
(Politico: Austin Wright)
House Speaker John Boehner is easing his restrictions on the use of military aircraft for congressional delegation trips, often called CODELS.
Congress Pushes Forward on Security Clearance Reform Bill
(Government Executive: Eric Katz)
The House has approved a Senate measure to bolster oversight of the security clearance process, providing funding for inspector general auditing of the investigations.
Top Iraq Lawmaker to Visit Washington Next Week
The speaker of Iraq's parliament, Usama al-Nujaifi, will visit Washington next week to meet with senior Obama administration officials as Iraq seeks to fend off a surge in violence.
Interview With Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki: Transcript
(The Washington Post)
On Jan. 16, The Post's Loveday Morris sat down with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. An edited transcript of their interview, translated from Arabic.
Al-Qaida Asks Iraqis in Embattled City for Support
(Associated Press: Sameer Yacoub, Sinan Salaheddin)
Members of al-Qaida's branch in Iraq handed out pamphlets Thursday urging those in Fallujah to take up arms.
Palestinian Authority Official Criticizes Peace Talks Under Kerry
(Los Angeles Times: Maher Abukhater)
A senior Palestinian Authority official said Thursday that U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry has slowed peace talks by emphasizing Israeli concerns and security issues in the Jordan Valley of the West Bank.
Israel's Netanyahu Hardens Settlement Demands in Peace Talks: Report
It's a move that could complicate U.S.-backed efforts to reach an accord.
Army Chief Said to be Focused on Egypt's Problems
(Associated Press: Hamza Hendawi)
Having secured victory in a referendum on a relatively liberal constitution that he championed, insiders say Egypt's military chief is turning his attention to the country's overwhelming array of problems—from health and education to government subsidies and investment.
Syria Gives Russia Aleppo Ceasefire Plan, Wants Prisoner Swap
Washington and Moscow have been trying to negotiate some confidence-building measures and allow humanitarian aid to flow in the nearly three-year-old civil war.
Internal Syrian Opposition Group Rejects Geneva 2 Talks
Syria's centrist internal opposition group, which rejects the armed insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad, said on Thursday that it will not attend peace talks in Switzerland next week, in a setback for the negotiations.
Syria Opposition Calls for More Arms to Fight Al-Qaida
(Financial Times: Borzou Daragahi)
Syria's main exiled opposition umbrella organization called on its western and Arab backers to expand the arming of moderate elements within the rebel front fighting the Syrian regime so that they can take on both Bashar al-Assad and al-Qaida.
Syrian Government Allows Supplies in 2 Rebel Areas
(Associated Press: Bassem Mroue)
The Syrian government allowed supplies to enter two besieged areas under opposition control near the capital, a relief official said Thursday, as activists say weeks of infighting between rebel forces and an al-Qaida-linked group have killed more than 1,000 people.
How Syria Talks Were Derailed Before They Started
(CNN: Elise Labott)
When Secretary of State John Kerry first took office he talked of changing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's calculus.
Syrian Rebels Say Cease-Fire Deals Prove Deceptive
(The New York Times: Anne Barnard)
Officials from the United States and Russia have urged localized cease-fires to jump-start peace talks, but some rebels have regretted making deals with the state.
Italian Port Chosen as Transfer Point for Syrian Chemicals
(The New York Times: Rick Gladstone)
The port of Gioia Tauro, one of the busiest in Europe, was picked because of its facilities for transferring cargo ship-to-ship.
Pentagon Chief Open to Incentives to Bolster Nuclear Force
The scandals are raising questions about how to keep up morale of the force in the post-Cold War era.
DOD Expects Recruiting to Slow Down as Economy Speeds Up
(Air Force Times: Andrew Tilghman)
As the U.S. economy gets back on track—unemployment recently fell below 7 percent for the first time in five years—the Pentagon's recruiting commands are bracing for potential challenges.
U.S. Plans Center in Bahrain to Fight Drug Trade
(The Washington Post: Ernesto Londono)
As the United States shrinks its civilian presence in Afghanistan, limiting its ability to combat the country's booming drug industry, U.S. officials intend to establish an intelligence center in Bahrain to continue fighting the trade.
FY14 Omnibus Would Rescind $1.5 Billion in Prior-Year Weapons Spending
The fiscal 2014 omnibus spending bill would rescind $1.5 billion in funding previously appropriated to Pentagon modernization accounts, with nearly half slated to be pulled from Air Force development and procurement projects.
New COLA 'Fix' Creates Have, Have-Not Disabled Retirees
(Stars and Stripes: Tom Philpott)
The fix also creates a disparity in cost-of-living-adjustment protection between separate groups of disabled retirees, critics contend.
Vets Hit Retired Generals Supporting Pay Cuts
(Military.com: Bryant Jordan)
Veterans groups are taking aim at a group of retired generals and admirals who support the budget deal passed last month that cuts military retirement payments.
Kelly Ayotte Asks for Plan to Restore Vet Cemetery in the Philippines
Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire is asking for a detailed plan to restore, operate and maintain a cemetery in the Philippines where more than 8,300 American veterans are buried.
Kerry's 'Home Alone' at Foggy Bottom
(The Washington Post: Al Kamen)
After about a year in the job, he said in a letter, more than "one-third of my top leadership team, including half of my undersecretary positions, remain vacant."
Biden Seeks Deep Cut in U.S. Afghan Force
(The Wall Street Journal: Dion Nissenbaum, Julian Barnes, Carol Lee)
Vice president's renewed bid to limit presence reflects growing frustration with Karzai
2 Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan Crash Are Identified
Chief Warrant Officer Andrew L. McAdams, 27, and Sgt. Drew M. Scobie, 25, were killed in the crash, according to the DOD announcement.
DOD: Green Beret Fatally Shot in Afghanistan
The Defense Department announced today the death of Sgt. Daniel T. Lee, 28, of Crossville, Tenn.
Pakistan Ex-Chief Wants Out
(The Wall Street Journal: Annabel Symington)
Musharraf, facing criminal charges, asks to leave country.
Navy Littoral Ship Reliability in Doubt, Tester Says
(Bloomberg: Tony Capaccio)
The reliability of the Navy's first three Littoral Combat Ships "has been degraded by frequent critical system failures" in early operations, the Pentagon's chief weapons tester said.
Cheating Scandal Draws Attention to Missile Crews
(USA Today: Jim Michaels)
Manning nuclear missiles is often lonely work in remote locations.
USAF Creates Office to Guide Integration of Active, Reserve Units
(Defense News: Aaron Mehta)
Three two-star generals spent most of 2013 coming up with recommendations and plans for how the Air Force can move forward as an integrated service.
7,000 to Face Quality Force Review Board
(Air Force Times: Stephen Losey)
Roughly 7,000 enlisted airmen are eligible to face—and possibly be selected for separation by—the Air Force's first Quality Force Review Board in May, the Air Force Personnel Center said.
55th Wing Command Chief Is Relieved of Duty
(Stars and Stripes: Chris Carroll)
The 55th Wing Command Chief at Offutt Air Force, Neb., was relieved of duty Monday, but Air Force officials said privacy requirements prevented them from divulging why.
USAF Assistant Acquisition Nominee LaPlante Closer to Confirmation
(Defense News: Aaron Mehta)
If confirmed, he will become the first person confirmed to the position since Sue Payton retired in the spring of 2009.
Reserve Offers Up to $75K for Some Officers to Stay
Officers in the Navy Reserve holding the right medical skills could qualify for up to $75,000 if they agree to stay in for at least three more years.
Navy Hopes to Bring Stability to Carrier Deployments
(Virginian-Pilot: Mike Hixenbaugh)
Thousands of sailors in Hampton Roads will deploy less frequently but for longer planned stretches under a new policy the Navy plans to launch later this year.
Navy: Pilot Rescued After His Jet Crashes Off Va. Coast
A Navy fighter jet crashed Wednesday in Atlantic waters off Virginia and the lone pilot was in critical condition after he ejected and was rescued, the Navy said.
Navy Littoral Ship Reliability in Doubt, Tester Says
(Bloomberg News: Tony Capaccio)
A report documents challenges the Navy is facing in producing the vessels.
America's Emaciated Army
(Foreign Policy: Gordon Lubold)
The U.S. military is slated to shed 150,000 soldiers. Can it still go to war with so few?
New Army Under Secretary Nominee Takes Questions on End-Strength Controversy
The nominee for Army undersecretary today said there is no bitterness between the active service and the Army National Guard in the ongoing debate over plans to cut the size of the Guard and restructure the aviation branch.
Trove of Army's Art Awaits a New Museum: Four Rockwells Top a List of 16,000 Pieces
(The Washington Post: Michael Ruane)
The Rockwell painting is part of the Army's extensive collection of military art—much of it by renowned painters and illustrators—that is ready and waiting for the future National Museum of the United States Army.
UK's Cameron Denies That Army No Longer Full U.S. Partner
(Reuters: Andrew Osborn)
His blunt response underlined how sensitive his government is to charges that Britain's close ties with the United States have been undermined.
A 'Preventable' Tragedy
(The New York Times)
Damning details emerge in a Senate report on the Benghazi attacks.
Why NSA Overreach Is Bad for Business Too
(Politico: Cameron Kerry)
The international firestorm Edward Snowden's disclosures ignited has damaged America's brand and the brand of U.S. companies—and that has cost real money, with estimates of losses to ranging from $25 billion to $180 billion over three years.
Iran Sanctions Update: Have Senators Actually Read This Bill?
(The Atlantic: James Fallows)
Nearly all Senate Republicans and a significant number of Democratic allies are effectively saying: the Saudis and Israelis see things more clearly. We stand with their judgment—not that of our own government, the European mainstays, and even the Russians and Chinese.
Robert Gates and Why Defense Secretaries Are Grumpy
(Los Angeles Times: Andrew Gawthorpe)
Grumpiness, and worse, is not unusual in the office of the secretary of Defense.
National Journal's Early Bird is not produced by or officially sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Defense. It was created to serve the defense community upon U.S. DoD's announcement, on Nov 1, 2013, of its decision to discontinue the much-beloved Early Bird news report.