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Obama Panel Recommends Limits on NSA Spying, Senate Passes Budget Deal, Defense Bill Debate Closed Obama Panel Recommends Limits on NSA Spying, Senate Passes Budget Deal...

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Obama Panel Recommends Limits on NSA Spying, Senate Passes Budget Deal, Defense Bill Debate Closed

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. Get this by forward? Click here to sign up directly. To contact us, send email to


Obama Panel Recommends New Limits on NSA Spying
(The New York Times: David Sanger, Charlie Savage)
Taken together, the recommendations would remove from the agency's hands the authority to conduct many of its operations without review by the president, Congress, or the courts.

Senate OKs Sequester-Relief Budget Plan
(Defense News: John Bennett)
The Senate on Wednesday approved a controversial bipartisan budget plan that erases over $30 billion in across-the-board spending cuts in fiscal 2014 and 2015.

Defense Bill Clears Key Hurdle, Final Passage Expected This Week
(National Journal: Stacy Kaper)
The National Defense Authorization Act passed a key test by a 71-29 vote in the Senate on Wednesday, clearing the measure's path to passage as Congress races to finish the bill before year's end.


U.S. to Nominate Sen. Baucus as Ambassador to China
(The Wall Street Journal: Janet Hook, Adam Entous)
The nomination comes at a time of growing tension in U.S.-China relations.

U.S. Ambassador to UN Visits Central African Republic Amid Bloodshed
(The New York Times: Somini Sengupta)
Samantha Power, landed in the besieged capital of the Central African Republic on Thursday with a message: The United States is watching.


Task Force Urges Limit on NSA Snooping
(Associated Press: Julie Pace, Kimberly Dozier)
It was unclear how the changes, if enacted, would impact the scope of the vast government surveillance programs.

NSA Shouldn't Keep Phone Database, Review Board Recommends
(The Washington Post: Ellen Nakashima, Ashkan Soltani)
These are two of the more significant recommendations in a 308-page report issued by the White House Wednesday.


Putin: NSA Surveillance Needed to Fight Terrorism
(Associated Press: Vladimir Isachenkov, Nataliya Vasilyeva)
The Russian president added that the government needs to "limit the appetite" of the agency with a clear set of ground rules.

Feinstein's NSA Bill Is Officially on Life Support
(National Journal: Dustin Volz)
A federal judge, tech groups, and even the senator say we need to take a closer look at the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.


Pentagon Policy Bill Clears Final Hurdle; Final Vote This Week
(Defense News: John Bennett)
The US Senate moved one step closer Wednesday to extending — just barely — a 51-year streak of sending the president an annual Pentagon policy bill.

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Senators Are Already Eyeing Changes on Budget Deal
(National Journal: Sarah Mimms, Michael Catalini)
Lawmakers are looking to tweak a pension provision and other measures next year.

Patty Murray Backs Off Pension Cuts
(Politico: Austin Wright)
Murray is distancing herself from a cut in military pensions in the budget deal she brokered with Rep. Paul Ryan. 

McConnell Blasts Dems for Rushing Defense Bill
(The Hill: Ramsey Cox)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized Majority Leader Harry Reid for waiting to take up the defense authorization bill until the end of the year.

Baucus's Path to China Looks Clear in the Senate
(National Journal: Michael Catalini, Elahe Izadi)
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus is skipping retirement altogether and is instead on a path to China as President Obama's next ambassador.

Top Republican: Senate Leader Coddling Iran for Obama
(Agence France-Presse)
McConnell lambasted Reid for ramming through a defense spending bill with no opportunity to add amendments, a move that avoids debate on Iran sanctions while the sensitive nuclear negotiations are ongoing.


Senate Dems Defy Obama on Iran
(National Journal: Stacy Kaper)
Despite the president's pleas, key Democrats to side with GOP on sanctions bill.

Iran to Rejoin Nuclear Negotiations After Walk-Out
(CBS News)
Iran says it will resume technical talks with six world powers in Geneva today and Friday.

France Voices Doubt on Iran Nuclear Deal
(The Wall Street Journal: Stacy Meichtry, Gerard Baker)
Foreign Minister Fabius concerned Tehran won't drop ability to build a bomb.


Chemical Weapons Agency Unveils Plan for Destroying Syria's Stockpile
(The New York Times: Nick Cumming-Bruce)
The international watchdog agency overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons provided details Wednesday.

Plan to Destroy Syrian Toxins Advances, Despite Setbacks
(The Washington Post: Joby Warrick)
The organization overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons said Wednesday that it is on track to remove the most dangerous toxins from Syrian soil early in the new year.

Syria's Islamic Front Spurns Talks With U.S.: Diplomat
Islamist rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad's forces in Syria have rejected overtures from the United States to sit down and talk.

Al-Qaida Leader in Syria Speaks to Al Jazeera
(Al Jazeera)
Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, says conflict is nearing end.


Egypt's Mohamed Morsi Accused of Espionage, Plotting Islamist Takeover
(The Washington Post: Erin Cunningham)
It's the latest blow dealt by military-backed authorities to the former leader and his associates in the Muslim Brotherhood after a coup here last summer.

Kerry's Optimism Challenged by Questions on Mideast Peace
(Bloomberg News: Terry Atlas, Nicole Gaouette)
There's little evidence so far that the U.S. secretary of State is close to his goal of producing an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

Obama Issues Directive to Sell Weapons to GCC
(Defense News: Zachary Fryer-Biggs, Awad Mustafa)
The White House this week issued a presidential determination to facilitate the sale of weapons to the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Treasury Targets Qaida Financiers in Qatar, Yemen
(The Wall Street Journal: Samuel Rubenfeld)
The U.S. Treasury Department placed terrorism sanctions on two alleged financiers of al-Qaida based in Qatar and Yemen.


Pentagon Examining Criticality, Fragility of Nuclear Industrial Base
(Inside Defense)
The Pentagon is examining the nuclear-triad industrial base in a new assessment designed to suss out critical but struggling areas that need to be protected.

The Budget Deal's New Winners and Losers at DOD
(The Fiscal Times: David Francis)
The Pentagon will avoid cuts that military planners warned would be calamitous. Still, with $29 billion less, some in the department are going to feel pain and there are clear winners and losers.

New DOD Acquisition Guidelines Emphasize Cost of Programs
(Defense News: Marcus Weisgerber)
A major update of the Pentagon's acquisition bible makes cost control and cost management a higher priority during the procurement process.


Pakistan Protests May Make US Fly War Cargo Out
(Associated Press: Lolita Baldor, Rebecca Santana)
U.S. officials face the possibility of flying out equipment at an additional cost of $1 billion.

Afghan Forces Hand Over Territory to Taliban Fighters
(The Hill: Carlo Muñoz)
Afghan security forces stationed in the southern half of the country are reportedly surrendering vital checkpoints and military outposts to Taliban fighters in the area.

Why the U.S. Paid Karzai's Top Aide
(The Daily Beast: Eli Lake, Josh Rogin)
The Afghan president's top aide was on two USAID contractors' payroll, drawing more than $100,000 a year.

A Local Peace Accord Is Reached in Afghanistan. Then the Arguing Starts.
(The New York Times: Azam Ahmed, Taimoor Shah)
Details of the accord, which took place in the district of Sangin, remain murky.


Hunting for U.S. Arms Technology, China Enlists a Legion of Amateurs
(Reuters: Duff Wilson, John Shiffman)
Beijing "floods the zone with buyers" for smuggled American military gear.

After Sea Incident, China Praises Ties With U.S.
(Associated Press: Christopher Bodeen)
Military relations with the United States face a rosy outlook, China's defense ministry said Wednesday in an apparent attempt to limit damage from a recent confrontation.

U.S. Announces Further $25M Aid to Philippines After Typhoon Haiyan
(Associated Press)
Secretary of State John Kerry pledges additional help during trip to storm-ravaged Tacloban.

China May Have Test Fired Its New Land-Based Missile
(Global Security Newswire)
China last week reportedly carried out its second test-launch of a mysterious new strategic missile, which could have the ability to fire multiple warheads.

Thai Protesters March in Bid to Oust Pm, Take Aim At U.S.
(Reuters: Amy Sawitta Lefevre)
The United States has annoyed the protesters by calling for the democratic process to be respected, effectively endorsing the holding of an election.


U.S. Repatriates Two Guantanamo Prisoners to Sudan
(Reuters: Jane Sutton, Eric Johnson)
The United States has sent two detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility back to their native Sudan.

Guantanamo Prisoner Again Ejected From Hearing
(Associated Press)
A Guantanamo Bay prisoner charged in the Sept. 11 attacks was ejected from court twice Wednesday for a second straight day for refusing a judge's order to stop speaking out to complain about prison conditions.


Kerry Expresses Regret to India Over Diplomat Case
(Reuters: Arshad Mohammed)
The secretary of State called a top Indian official to express regret over the case of an Indian diplomat strip-searched after her arrest in New York last week on charges including visa fraud.

U.S. Prosecutor Defends Arrest of Indian Diplomat
(The New York Times: Benjamin Weiser, Michael Gordon)
Preet Bharara, the federal prosecutor in Manhattan, said the charges were warranted and that the diplomat had been accorded unusual courtesy.

India Says It Will Transfer Deputy Consul at Center of Crisis Over Strip-Search Arrest
(The Washington Post: Annie Gowen)
Indian officials said Wednesday they are transferring the deputy consul general who is at the center of diplomatic tension between this country and the United States.


AIA: Budget Deal Doesn't Solve Industry's Sequester Problem
(The Hill: Jeremy Herb)
The deal won't fix the defense industry's sequestration woes if it isn't followed by a larger agreement to reverse the rest of the sequester cuts, the organization's CEO Marion Blakey said.

Boeing Elevates Defense Chief, Potentially Positioning Him as Successor to McNerney
(Forbes: Loren Thompson)
Dennis Muilenburg has been promoted to corporate vice chairman, president, and chief operating officer.

Lockheed Works Toward 4th-Gen Prices for F-35
(Defense News: Aaron Mehta)
The cost of a fully equipped F-35A joint strike fighter will drop to $85 million by 2019, according to a top Lockheed official, as long as the program continues to increase quantities.


Space-Based Surveillance System Follow-On Could Be Revived In 2014
(Inside Defense)
The Air Force could revive the defunded Space-Based Surveillance System follow-on program within the next year should.

USAF: F-16 Pilot in Midair Collision Lacked Sleep
(Associated Press: Brock Vergakis)
The accident investigation report by Air Combat Command says the pilot had trouble balancing his Air National Guard and civilian careers.

Stuka and Sturmovik—The Aircraft That Inspired the A-10
(War is Boring: Michael Peck)
These legendary World War II bombers made the Warthog what it is today.

Lt. Gen. Franklin Removed From Sexual-Assault Case
(Stars and Stripes: Nancy Montgomery)
Third Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin decided against pursuing a court-martial in another case recently, prompting Air Force officials to give the case to another commander for a do-over.


First Navy Bribery Conviction May Bring Wider Probe
(Associated Press: Julie Watson)
The first conviction in a massive bribery scandal that has ensnared six U.S. Navy officials could lead to an expanded probe if a senior Navy criminal investigator who pleaded guilty cooperates with authorities as part of his plea agreement.

Navy to Christen Littoral Combat Ship Milwaukee
(Seapower Magazine)
The Navy was scheduled to christen its newest littoral combat ship, the future USS Milwaukee, on Wednesday.

NCIS Struggling With Sex-Assault Caseload
(Navy Times: Sam Fellman)
Some current and former agents say the mounting caseload is straining an agency grappling with budget woes.


New Army Convoy Live-Firing Training Course Inaugurated
(Stars and Stripes: Michael Darnell)
This nearly 5-mile-long range is dotted with training obstacles that will allow soldiers to practice detecting, identifying, and engaging targets while in convoy.


Americans Evacuated From South Sudan
(The Hill: Rebecca Shabad)
The State Department on Wednesday said two groups of Americans have been safely evacuated from South Sudan amid an outbreak of violence.

Young Tunisians Are Being Recruited to Jihad
(The New York Times: Carlotta Gall)
For now, jihadi violence in Tunisia is on a low boil, with two political assassinations and 30 members of the security forces killed this year.


How Big a Snub to Russia Is Obama's Sochi 'Boycott'?
(Christian Science Monitor: Fred Weir)
Obama is one of several world leaders to skip the Sochi Olympic ceremonies in a low-key but pointed criticism of Russia's increasing hostility to LGBT citizens.


Bolivia Accuses U.S. of Aiding in an American's Escape
(The New York Times: William Neuman)
An American facing money-laundering charges who escaped house arrest and crossed into Peru had the help of American officials, Bolivian officials say.


Don't Delay Hard Decisions
(Defense News)
Those who continue to believe that hard decisions can be postponed are wrong.

Obama Bears Some Blame for Crackdowns in Russia and China
(National Journal: Michael Hirsh)
The president values deal-making over democracy, and that's only emboldened Moscow and Beijing.

How Obama Can Save the NSA
(The Wall Street Journal: Karl Rove)
His first step is to engage. The second is to enlist leaders of both parties whom Americans trust.

Turbulence Ahead for U.S., China Ties
(The Wall Street Journal: Andrew Browne)
Under President Xi Jinping, long-standing caution has been noticeably slipping.

Snowden Still Holding a 'Road Map' for U.S. Adversaries
(The Washington Post: Walter Pincus)
We've yet to see the full impact of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's unauthorized downloading of highly classified intelligence documents.

U.S. Surveillance Case: Tech May Clash with 18th Century Right
(Reuters: David Ingram, Joan Biskupic)
A judge's bid this week raises a question that the U.S. Supreme Court has confronted before: at what point should modern technology force judges to revisit legal precedents?

India Says It Wants to Be a Great Power. It Didn't Act Like One This Week.
(The Washington Post: Max Fisher)
The Indian government has responded to a diplomatic spat with an escalating and strangely petty series of reprisals.

Wandering 'Weevils'
(The National Interest: Paul Saunders)
The fact that Walter Russell Mead might be half-right in his analysis may not spare the United States even the smallest fraction of the costs.

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.

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Keeps me informed about national leadership concerns."

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AJ, US Army Officer

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