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Obama to Push Spying Reforms, Kerry Says Iran Could Take Part in Peace Talks on Syria

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

Thanks for reading 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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Obama Plans Intelligence Surveillance Reforms, Aides Say
(McClatchy: Christi Parsons)
The reforms could put a public advocate in the secret court that approves surveillance practices and remove a controversial telephone records database from direct government control.

John Kerry Opens Door to Iran's Participation in Syrian Peace Talks
(The New York Times: Michael Gordon)
The secretary of State's suggestion Sunday was the first time a senior American official had indicated that Iran might have a role.


Kerry Optimistic on Mideast Peace Talks
(The Wall Street Journal: Joshua Mitnick)
Kerry said three days of intensive talks yielded progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and flew to Saudi Arabia and Jordan to consult with leaders there on the negotiations.

Ruling Against NSA Collection of Phone Data is Appealed
(The Washington Post: Sari Horwitz)
Justice Department appeals decision of federal judge who said the program was almost certainly unconstitutional.

Compensation Commission Gets Lengthy Extension
(Military Times: Andrew Tilghman)
The commission that could trigger historic changes to military pay and benefits system was granted an extension and will not conclude its work until February 2015.

Cyber Tops Terrorism as Biggest National Security Threat
(National Journal: Jordain Carney)
The poll echoes growing concerns from Defense leaders and members of Congress.



The Next Fight Over Military Sexual Assault Is Already Here
(National Journal: Stacy Kaper)
When the Senate reconvenes this month, members will immediately dive into a legislative struggle over how the armed services deals with accusations of sexual assault within their own ranks.

On Military Pensions, No Agreement
(The Hill: Jeremy Herb)
Many lawmakers have signed on for at least one of the bills that would repeal the cut.

One in Three Lawmakers Wants to Repeal Cuts to Military Pensions
(The Hill: Jeremy Herb)
There is wide support for repeal, but partisan differences are deep on how to pay for it.

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Senior Republicans Doubt Reid Will Allow Vote on Any NSA-Intel Reform Bill
(Defense News: John Bennett)
The Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence committees say changes are needed.

Defense Spending Bill Will Win Acceptance, Moran Says
(Bloomberg News: Tony Capaccio)
The military spending bill Congress passes for the current fiscal year will be legislation "people can live with," Rep. James Moran, D-Va., said.

GOP Hawks Skeptical About Mideast Peace Push
(The Washington Post: Anne Gearan, William Booth)
Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham share Israeli leader's doubts about terms of agreement brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry.


Kerry Sets Deadline for Peace Blueprint to Spur Decisions
(Bloomberg News: Terry Atlas, Calev Ben-David)
The secretary of State declined to dislcose the date.

Israeli Hardliners Object to Kerry Pressure
(Associated Press: Josef Federman)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hardline coalition partners on Sunday stepped up pressure, threatening to topple the government if he caves in to American pressure to accept a key demand.

Saudi King Backs Israeli-Palestinian Push, Kerry Says
(Reuters: Arshad Mohammed)
The U.S. diplomat made the comment after some two hours and 40 minutes of talks with the Arab monarch.

Kerry Says U.S. to Support Iraq's Fight Against Militants
(Associated Press: Deb Riechmann)
But the United States won't send in troops.


2014 Defense Forecast: Many Decisions, More Uncertainty
(Defense News)
For the first time in nearly three years, the U.S. Defense Department has some near-term budget certainty, but 2014 and beyond is still murky.

Pentagon Cuts Down on Danger Pay
( Richard Sisk)
The Defense Department announced plans Friday to cut off imminent danger pay of $7.50 daily up to to $225 per month for servicemembers in nations and areas no longer considered to pose a grave risk.

From Petraeus Scandal, an Apostle for Privacy
(The New York Times: Jennifer Steinhauer)
Jill Kelley, 38, was the social spindle of an Air Force base in Tampa, Fla., until the government released her name in connection with a scandal involving Gen. David H. Petraeus.

DoD Official Concerned U.S. Losing Technological Edge
(Defense News: Marcus Weisgerber)
As the Pentagon is preparing to downsize, concern is mounting that DoD and the defense industry will not be able to develop technology for weapons that could help the win future wars.

DoD Catching Up on Mobile Devices
(Defense News: Joe Gould)
Apple, Android will join Blackberry among department-issued systems.


Appeals Court Rules Surveillance Opinion Can Remain Secret
(The Washington Post: Sari Horwitz)
D.C. Circuit rejects effort to make public a memo that allowed the FBI to informally gather phone call records.

NSA Won't Say If It Is "Spying" on Congress
(CNN: Conor Finnegan)
Congress is just like everyone else. That's the message the National Security Agency has for Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Rand Paul Sues the NSA, Raises Super PAC Money
(Roll Call: Niels Lesniewski)
Sen. Rand Paul announced Friday night his intent to lead a class-action lawsuit seeking to stop some controversial National Security Agency programs.

Senators Differ Sharply on Penalty for Edward Snowden
(The New York Times: Brian Knowlton)
Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he did not believe that Snowden deserved the death penalty or life in prison for exposing national secrets, but Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he should stand trial and face the consequences.

Moves to Curb Spying Help Drive the Clemency Argument for Snowden
(The New York TImes: Peter Baker)
The whistleblower-versus-traitor argument has taken on a new dimension with recent moves to curtail the programs that Snowden revealed.

Napolitano Opposes Clemency for Snowden
(USA Today: David Jackson)
Add former Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano to the list of those who oppose clemency for Edward Snowden.


Cantor to Seek New Iran Nuclear Resolution
(The Hill: Julian Pecquet)
"Iran remains perhaps the most significant national security threat," said the House Majority leader.


Security Official Moves to White House
(The New York Times: Michael Schmidt)
Rand Beers, a counterterrorism official at the Homeland Security Department, will leave the agency to work as a senior adviser to President Obama.

Rice's Walk on the Mild Side
(Politico: Jonathan Allen)
Obama has entrusted her with a responsibility that requires the kind of deft diplomatic touch that many folks say Rice hasn't always demonstrated a mastery of in the past.


Weather, Time Key Challenges in First Chemical Destruction at Sea Off Syria
(CNN: Gabe LaMonica)
The Cape Ray, equipped with chemical weapons disposal systems, should be deployed in about two weeks.

U.S. Ship To Destroy Syrian Chem Weapons Will Conduct Sea Trials
(Defense News: Paul McLeary)
The American Merchant Marine ship MV Cape Ray will conduct its first sea trials this week of a decontamination system.

Fallout From Syria Conflict Takes Rising Toll on Mideast
(The Wall Street Journal: Ellen Knickmeyer, Jay Solomon)
Spiraling violence and advances by al Qaeda-linked fighters in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are underscoring the cost of Syria's civil war as it increasingly spills over the country's borders.


Distrust Hinders U.S.-Iraq Fight Against Resurgent al-Qaida Militants
(Los Angeles Times: Paul Richter, David Cloud)
The militants are seeking control of two of Iraq's major cities, while also playing an increasingly large role in Syria's conflict.

Yemen Refuses to Extradite Politician Sought by U.S.
(Associated Press)
Yemen's president has refused to extradite the head of an ultraconservative political party who the United States has accused of financing al-Qaida.

U.S. Embassy Issues Warning to Americans in Lebanon
(Associated Press)
The United States Embassy in Beirut is urging Americans in Lebanon to avoid hotels, Western-style shopping malls, grocery stores and social events where U.S. citizens congregate.

Al-Qaida Commander in Lebanon Dies
(The Hill: Russell Berman)
Majid al-Majid was a Saudi citizen.

Israel: Interceptor Missile Passes Test
(The New York Times: Isabel Kershner)
The missile defense agencies of Israel and the United States carried out a second test of the advanced Arrow 3 antiballistic missile system on Friday.


Afghanistan Says 88 Prisoners to Be Freed, Despite U.S. Concern
(Reuters: Hamid Shalizi)
The United States only recently transferred the prison to Afghan control after it had become a serious source of tension with the Afghan government.

Insurgents Hit Afghan Base, Kill NATO Soldier
(Los Angeles Times: Hashmat Baktash)
Five insurgents launched the early-morning assault on a joint Afghan-NATO base in Ghani Khel.

Pakistani Official Complicates NATO's Afghan War Plans
(The Washington Post: Tim Craig)
Imran Khan, an Oxford-educated millionaire, leads an effort to shut down supply routes to Afghanistan.


U.S. Is Facing Hard Choices in South Sudan
(The New York Times: Mark Landler)
The United States is frantically brokering peace talks between the warring factions while trying to fortify a United Nations peacekeeping force.

More U.S. Embassy Staff to Leave South Sudan
(The Washington Post: Sudarsan Raghavan)
The drawdown underscores U.S. concerns about the deteriorating security situation.

Civil War Brews in South Sudan
(The Daily Beast: Josh Rogin)
The Obama administration is scrambling to stop South Sudan's slide into chaos, but nothing seems to be working.


Envoy Confident Gitmo Will Be Closed
(The Hill: Jeremy Herb)
The man in charge of closing the prison says he has no doubt it will shutter.


Trouble for the Twin-Engine Giants?
(Defense News: Andrew Chuter, Aaron Mehta, Pierre Tran)
When Brazil selected Saab's Gripen fighter last month for the F-X2, it underscored just how little remaining market space remains for the highly capable, but highly priced, dual-engine fighters from Boeing, Eurofighter and Dassault.


$400M for Army's Stryker Comes With Strings Attached
(Tacoma News Tribune: Adam Ashton)
Some lawmakers want to know more about a stockpile of unneeded replacement parts that built up at an Auburn warehouse during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Majority of U.S. MRAPs To Be Scrapped or Stored
(Defense News: Paul McLeary)
The Army estimates it will need to spend $1.7 billion in supplemental wartime dollars over the next several years to modernize and retain 8,585 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles.

Rapid Fall for Army General Accused of Sex Crimes
(Associated Press: Michael Biesecker)
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair has pleaded not guilty to eight criminal charges including forcible sodomy, indecent acts, violating orders and conduct unbecoming an officer.


Air Force to Hire Contractors for Cyber Training
(Defense News: Nicole Blake Johnson)
A Florida facility needs nearly three dozen subject matter experts, course developers and training systems administrators.

Independent Report Recommends Lower-Cost C-130 Avionics Upgrade
(Inside Defense)
As Congress continues to reject the Air Force's attempts to cancel an expensive C-130 avionics upgrade, an independent analysis released this fall found that the service has viable options for replacing the costly upgrade.


Marines' Post-Benghazi Forces Rescue Embassy Personnel — and Show Up the Army
(Foreign Policy: Dan Lamothe)
Marines escorted U.S. State Department personnel aboard a plane Friday, evacuating much of the embassy in Juba, South Sudan.


U.S. Coast Guard Sending Help for Ships Trapped in Antarctic Ice
(Los Angeles Times: Richard Serrano)
The U.S. Coast Guard was dispatching a special ice-breaking cutter to help free two ships lodged in the Antarctic, officials announced Saturday.


The Costs of U.S. Retreat
(The Wall Street Journal)
Al-Qaida revives in Iraq and Syria's contagion spreads to Lebanon.

The Ticking Middle East Clock
(The New York Times)
Kerry presses Israelis and Palestinians to stick to the peace negotiations timetable he set forth in July.

Tiny Military Pension Cut Is a Good Move
(The Washington Post)
The cut is an exceedingly modest one on a pension plan that is already far more generous than private-sector equivalents.

Defend Military Pension Cuts
(USA Today)
System is not only extremely generous, it is also counterproductive.

An Unholy Alliance Is Forcing Veterans To Pay For 12 Years Of War
(Business Insider: Tony Carr, John Public)
Congress, you can either have an honorable military, or one that accepts broken promises.

Brazil Is Abuzz About Snowden
(The New York Times: Joe Nocera)
On a visit to Rio de Janeiro, asylum was the question of the hour. Could South America be his next stop after Russia?

How Partisan Bickering Sabotaged America's Middle East Policy
(The Atlantic: David Rohde)
Fights in Washington have taken priority over stabilizing the region and securing the United States.

Why the Central African Republic Crisis Is a Security Problem for the U.S.
(Defense One: Madeleine Albright)
There are no guarantees that the international community can prevent the crisis in CAR from worsening

How Edward Snowden Turned Unwitting Journalists Into Activists
(National Journal: Michael Hirsh)
The latest installment from the "Snowden files" made me wonder if what we're experiencing and reading right now is still journalism.

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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Don't Miss Today's Top Stories

Keeps me informed about national leadership concerns."

Senior Military Officer

The best!"

Mark, Compensation Analyst

Timely and informative."

Dave, HR specialist

I can browse over breakfast or while on the metro."

AJ, US Army Officer

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