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Obama Tries to Soothe Silicon Valley on Spying, Defense Bill on Tap, Deadly Copter Crash Kills 6 Obama Tries to Soothe Silicon Valley on Spying, Defense Bill on Tap, D...

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Obama Tries to Soothe Silicon Valley on Spying, Defense Bill on Tap, Deadly Copter Crash Kills 6

By Sara Sorcher (@SaraSorcherNJ), Jordain Carney (@jordainc), and Stacy Kaper (@KaperSLK)

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 earlybird@nationaljournal.com

 

Obama Tries to Ease Silicon Valley's Concerns Over Spying
(The Wall Street Journal: Jared Favole)
The president met with tech executives to discuss NSA operations.

Senate Leaders Under Gun to Deliver Votes on Defense Bill
(National Journal: Stacy Kaper)
Senate Armed Services Committee leaders are under pressure to win support on a crucial vote—expected Wednesday—that would clear the way to passing the National Defense Authorization Act before year's end.

Six U.S. Soldiers Killed in Copter Crash in Afghanistan
(The New York Times: Azam Ahmed, Thom Shanker)
The six Americans died when their helicopter crashed in a remote southern area, the single largest loss of life for foreign troops in nearly six months.

 

India Snubs U.S. Delegation, Withdraws Security Over Diplomat's Arrest
(Los Angeles Times: Mark Magnier)
India reacted Tuesday to the arrest of one of its diplomats in New York last week by snubbing a U.S. congressional delegation, removing security from outside the U.S. Embassy and threatening to treat U.S. diplomats the same way it says its envoys were treated by America.

Senator's Questions About CIA Program May Hold Up Nomination
(CNN: Evan Perez)
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, is threatening to block the nomination of President Obama's choice for CIA general counsel unless the agency provides an internal report that he says bolsters findings made by a congressional investigation of the interrogation program.

Bipartisan Budget Agreement Nears Final Passage
(Associated Press: Andrew Taylor)
The Senate is on track to clear the bill Wednesday for President Barack Obama's signature after a 67-33 vote Tuesday in which it easily hurdled a filibuster threshold.

INTELLIGENCE

Senators Demand Interrogation Report They Say CIA Withheld
(The New York Times: Mark Mazzetti)
The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the CIA for an internal study done by the agency that lawmakers believe is broadly critical of the CIA detention and interrogation program, but was withheld from congressional oversight committees.

 

Feinstein: Let Supreme Court Decide If NSA Surveillance Is Constitutional
(National Journal: Sara Sorcher, Dustin Volz)
A federal judge's ruling that the National Security Agency's surveillance programs are likely unconstitutional sent shock waves through Congress.

Anti-NSA-Surveillance Senators Cheer Federal Ruling While Harry Reid Waits It Out
(Huffington Post: Matt Sledge, Michael McAuliff)
The Nevada Democrat struck a reticent tone on Monday's ruling, saying that "we need a good public debate."

CIA Nominee Snubs Senate on Legal Memos
(Politico: Josh Gerstein)
Obama's nominee to be general counsel of the CIA indicated at her confirmation hearing Tuesday that she opposes giving members of Congress access to Justice Department legal memoranda that govern the agency's activities.

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Brazil Says It Is Not Considering Asylum for Snowden
(Reuters)
The Brazilian government has received no official request from Snowden since he arrived in Moscow in June, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

WHITE HOUSE

As Tech Industry Leaders Meet With Obama, NSA Ruling Looms Large
(The Guardian: Dominic Rushe, Paul Lewis)
The top leaders from the world's biggest technology companies pressed their case for reform of the National Security Agency's controversial surveillance operations.

Tech Leaders Urge Obama to Move on NSA Overhaul
(USA Today: Aamer Madhani)
The push came during a private meeting with Obama at the White House.

SYRIA

Chemical Watchdog Approves Syria Plan Despite Delays
(Agence France-Presse)
The hectic pace of the U.N.-backed bid to rid Syria of its entire chemical-weapons stockpile by mid-2014 has slowed recently but the meeting decided not yet to change any deadlines despite security and technical issues in the war-ravaged country.

Syria May Violate Accord by Blocking S. Korean Weapons Inspector
(Bloomberg: Sangwon Yoon)
Syrian government efforts to block a South Korean chemical-weapons inspector raise questions about whether it's trying to conceal evidence of covert military cooperation with North Korea.

Aid Challenge in Syria Mounts for U.N. Official
(The New York Times: Rick Gladstone, Somini Sengupta)
The top U.N. official responsible for easing the Syrian conflict's humanitarian crisis has won only limited rights for aid groups to work in Syria, where hundreds of thousands of civilians in areas under insurgent control are unable to receive food, medicine, and other supplies.

West Signals to Syrian Opposition Assad May Stay
(Reuters: Khaled Yacoub Oweis)
Western nations have indicated to the Syrian opposition that peace talks next month may not lead to the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.

As Foreign Funds Run Dry, Syrian Fighters Defect to Anti-Western Militias
(Christian Science Monitor: Jane Arraf)
As West curtails aid to Syrian rebels, fighters from the Free Syrian Army are defecting to al-Qaida-linked militants ahead of planned peace talks in January.

The New Power on the Ground in Syria
(BuzzFeed: Mike Giglio)
Islamist commanders like Zahran Alloush now dominate the Syrian rebellion. Will they work with Washington?

CONGRESS

Senators Don't See Big Obstacles on Defense Bill Vote
(The Hill: Jeremy Herb)
Leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee don't see any significant obstacles that would prevent 60 votes on the defense authorization bill.

Levin Wants NDAA Vote Sooner Next Year
(Defense News: John Bennett)
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin says he will push Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring the annual Pentagon policy to the floor sooner rather than late in the year.

Cuts to Military Retirement Increases Likely to Become Law, but Critics Vow to Keep Fighting
(Stars and Stripes: Leo Shane III)
Senate Democrats have publicly acknowledged the veterans groups' concerns, but insist that providing some "sanity" to the congressional budget process is their top priority.

Shaheen Announces Bill to Restore Military Retirement Benefits
(Roll Call: Meredith Shiner)
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., announced Tuesday that she will be introducing legislation to roll back provisions in the pending budget deal that would cut military retirement benefits by reducing cost-of-living adjustments.

The Senate Has Torture on Its Agenda When It Interviews CIA's Legal Counsel Nominee
(The Daily Beast: Daniel Klaidman)
Caroline Krass's Senate confirmation hearing for the job of CIA general counsel is really a proxy battle for the Senate's fight with the agency over torture.

Sen. Coburn Slams $30 Billion in Wasteful Spending
(USA Today: Catalina Camia)
Would you spend nearly $300 million on a blimp? More than $300,000 to study angry wives? Or $5 million for crystal stemware?

The Race for HASC Chairman Has Begun
(Real Clear Defense: Dustin Walker)
Why Mac Thornberry is the early favorite to lead the House Armed Services Committee in 2015.

This Congressman Kept the U.S. and China From Exploring Space Together
(Foreign Policy: Zach Rosenberg)
You could credibly argue no one person has done more in the last two decades to hold back the global space program than Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia.

IRAN

Iran Nuclear Deal Talks Expected to Resume This Week
(The Wall Street Journal: Laurence Norman)
Talks on implementing last month's interim nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers are set to resume this week, two European diplomats said Tuesday.

Kirk Optimistic on Iran Sanctions, Says Bill Is 'Coming'
(National Journal: Stacy Kaper)
Sen. Mark Kirk, the lead Republican working on a bipartisan Iran sanctions bill, told reporters he's optimistic the measure will come out soon and that members involved can push it forward.

Reid on Iran Sanctions: Wait and See
(The Hill: Jeremy Herb)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declined Tuesday to commit to a vote on a tougher Iran sanctions bill in January when the Senate returns from its Christmas recess.

Iranian Linked to Setad Wanted by U.S. for Attempted Arms Smuggling
(Reuters: Steve Stecklow)
An Iranian businessman linked to a sprawling conglomerate controlled by Iran's supreme leader is wanted by the United States.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Pentagon Less Dependent on China Rare Earths, Report Says
(Bloomberg: Tony Capaccio, Larry Liebert)
China's virtual monopoly on rare earth elements used in high-technology applications has been loosened, reducing the risk that supplies to U.S. defense contractors could be disrupted, according to the Pentagon's latest assessment of the nation's industrial base.

BAH Rates Up 5 Percent in 2014; Program Changes on Horizon
(Navy Times: Andrew Tilghman)
Big changes to Basic Allowance for Housing rates are under consideration for down the road inside the Pentagon, but for now many troops can rest easy knowing that they will receive the standard uptick for next year.

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

NATO Says Would Have to Plan for Afghan Pullout by Spring
(Reuters: Sabine Siebold)
NATO would have to start planning for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan by early next spring if President Hamid Karzai refuses to sign a security pact allowing foreign troops to stay on, the alliance's top military commander said on Tuesday.

Afghan Security Deal to Be OK'd 'In Timely Manner'
(Associated Press: Cara Anna)
The United States wants the Bilateral Security Agreement to be signed by the end of this year.

3rd Special Forces Soldier Settles Army Fraud Case
(Associated Press)
The case started in Utah when one of the men was questioned about withdrawing large amounts of cash.

A Top Iraqi Official's Advice to Karzai? Take America's Deal
(The New York Times: Iazam Ahmed)
Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, counseled President Hamid Karzai to get over his differences with the Americans.

INDIA

Arrest of Indian Diplomat in New York Sparks U.S.-India Tensions
(The Washington Post: Annie Gowen)
The Indian government, furious about the rough treatment of a female diplomat arrested in New York last week, moved Tuesday to sharply rein in privileges of U.S. diplomats working in India, escalating a rare dispute between two normally friendly nations.

India Freezes Duty-Free Alcohol in Row with U.S. Over Diplomat's Arrest
(Reuters: Shyamantha Asokan)
India announced retaliatory measures against the United States on Wednesday.

ASIA/PACIFIC

U.S. Upgrading in Asia, but 'Pivot' Questioned
(USA Today: Kirk Spitzer)
As Japan embarks on a sweeping new security strategy to counter a rising China, the United States has been quietly modernizing some of its own forces in the region.

Rodman to Return to North Korea Amid Political Upheaval
(The New York Times: Rick Gladstone, Choe Sang-Hun)
Basketball star Dennis Rodman arrived in Beijing on Tuesday and plans to travel to North Korea on Thursday with a documentary film crew.

U.S. Targets Burmese Entities Involved in Buying Arms North Korea
(The Hill: Rebecca Shabad)
The Treasury Department on Tuesday banned Americans from doing business with three Burmese companies and one individual accused of participating in arms sales with North Korea.

DETAINEES

Guantanamo Judge Ejects Defendant at 9/11 Hearing
(Associated Press)
Ramzi Binalshibh, one of five Guantanamo prisoners facing a war crimes tribunal for their alleged roles in the terrorist attack, was escorted out of the court by guards.

AFRICA

U.S. to Evacuate South Sudan Embassy, Issues Travel Warning
(The Hill: Rebecca Shabad)
The State Department announced Tuesday it is suspending normal operations at the U.S. Embassy in South Sudan.

HOMELAND SECURITY

DHS Acting IG Takes Another Department Job
(Associated Press: Alicia Caldwell)
The acting Homeland Security inspector general has left his post and taken another job in the agency, the department said Tuesday.

Terror Tool? Security Concerns Raised Over Visa Program for Foreign Investors
(Fox News: Joseph Weber)
A federal program that allows foreign investors to obtain a U.S. visa by investing large sums in U.S. commercial projects is raising security concerns, particularly over whether the program can be "infiltrated" by potential terrorists.

INDUSTRY

Firms to Boost Forecasts With Budget Deal
(DOD Buzz: Brendan McGarry)
Lockheed Martin, the world's largest defense contractor, and others will probably boost sales forecasts if Congress passes a budget deal that undoes some federal spending cuts.

Lockheed F-35 Bad Deal as One Jet for All, Report Finds
(Bloomberg News: Tony Capaccio)
Lockheed Martin's F-35 jet fighter is likely to end up costing more than it would to build separate planes for each service, a Rand Corp. study has found.

Lockheed Boasts F-35 Will Cost Less Than 'Any 4th Gen Fighter'
(Breaking Defense: Colin Clark)
No one should believe that the battle between Boeing and Lockheed for the right to build Navy fighters is over.

AIR FORCE

Air Force Seeks Jets Beyond C-17 and Even JSF
(Military.com: Kris Osborn)
Well before the Joint Strike Fighter has flown one combat mission, the Air Force is already talking about the next generation of fighter aircraft that will succeed it.

New USAF Training Head: T-X Requirements Under Review
(Defense News: Aaron Mehta)
The new head of Air Force Air Education and Training Command acknowledged last week that funds for a replacement trainer won't be coming in the near future.

Air Force's Screwed-Up Satellite Causing Headaches All Around
(War is Boring: Maggie Ybara)
One of the Air Force's most secretive spy satellites isn't working as designed. And that could heighten tension between the Air Force—which is growing tired of the office that developed the partially broken spacecraft—and the program's supporters in Congress.

Air Force Announces Rollbacks to Speed Separations
(Air Force Times: Stephen Losey)
The Air Force is releasing a list of more than 90 enlisted airmen who will be separated by the end of May—as much as a year early—through date-of-separation rollbacks.

MARINE CORPS

Guam Not Ready for 5,000 More Marines: GAO
(Breaking Defense: Sydney Freedberg)
Guam is America's unsinkable aircraft carrier in the South Pacific, the fulcrum of the fabled Pacific "pivot." It's also kind of a mess.  

Active-Duty Marines to Lead Training Mission in Central America
(Marine Corps Times: Gina Harkins)
Twenty Marines will deploy to Central America as the region's new security cooperation team, the first active-duty team to work for an extended amount of time in the area.

NAVY

Tightening Security After Navy Yard Tragedy Becomes a Balancing Act
(Government Executive: Charles Clark)
Next steps ought to involve improved training of guards and heightened monitoring of agency compliance with recommended risk-mitigation procedures.

FY 2014 Defense Authorization Bill Would Limit Navy UCLASS Plans
(Inside Defense)
The bill would dial back Navy plans for fielding early-development Unmanned Carrier-Launched Surveillance and Strike system aircraft from as many as 24 to six.

Navy Plans New Entry at D.C. Building Where 12 Died
(Associated Press: David Dishneau)
The Navy Yard building in Washington where a gunman killed 12 people will get a new visitor's entrance and a renovated interior.

1st 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.

ARMY

Army Wants New High-Tech Gear for Tunnel Warfare
(Foreign Policy: Dan Lamothe)
Foreign militaries and insurgents are using tunnels and other underground networks more and more to hide and gain a tactical advantage -- and that increases the likelihood that U.S. forces will face them below ground in the future.

Army to Separate Up to 2,000 Captains, Majors
(Army Times: Michelle Tan)
Almost 19,000 captains and majors will be screened by separation and early retirement boards this spring as part of the ongoing drawdown of the active-duty Army.

Man Accused of Taking Army IDs to Stay in Custody
(Associated Press: Amy Forliti)
Prosecutors say Keith Michael Novak, who's charged with fraud in connection with identity theft, is a self-described commander of a militia.

COAST GUARD

Coast Guard to Get Old Marine Corps Drones
(Defense News: Michael Peck)
The Coast Guard will get 20 surplus Wasp III small unmanned aerial systems from the Marine Corps.

VETERANS

Death Rate Unusually High for Young Veterans
(Los Angeles Times: Alan Zarembo)
Veterans are far more likely to die of suicide and in accidents—a trend largely unstudied until recently.

EUROPE

NATO Commander Concerned About Russian Missiles
(Associated Press)
NATO's supreme commander says reports that Russia may have deployed missiles near the alliance's eastern borders show the need for better communications with the country.

Military Trial in the U.S. Eyed for Russian Detainee
(The Washington Post: Adam Goldman, Karen DeYoung)
The Obama administration is faced with what to do with several dozen non-Afghans it has held in custody, including the Russian

ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY

It's Not About Snowden—It's About Madison
(Foreign Policy: David Rothkopf)
The jig is up for anyone who argues that the Constitution doesn't cover metadata.

Judge Gets It Wrong on NSA
(USA Today: Michael Chertoff)
A constitutional decision banning the program would threaten our security.

Saudi Arabia Will Go It Alone
(The New York Times: Mohammed Bin Nawaf Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud)
Many of the West's policies on both Iran and Syria put at risk the stability and security of the Middle East. This is a dangerous gamble.

Helms Should Be Considered for Next JCS Opening
(Air Force Times: Lawrence Korb)
Even though women make up 16 percent of the armed forces, no woman has ever been appointed to the JCS.

Hillary Clinton's Afghanistan Problem
(The National Interest: Robert Golan-Vilella)
There is one major subject that gets short shrift in all of these assessments of Clinton: Afghanistan.

Iranian Bombs and Black Swans
(The Daily Beast: Christopher Dickey)
Many improbable catastrophes might wreck the all-important Iran negotiations.

Vietnam, the U.S., and China: A Love Triangle?
(The Diplomat: Shannon Tiezzi)
As part of the rebalance to Asia, the U.S. continues to woo Vietnam while China looks on.

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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