Welcome to NJ's Early Bird, a morning assembly of the best national security, defense, and foreign policy coverage from around the Web.
Obama Warns Companies Against Trying to Evade Iran Sanctions
(The New York Times: Mark Landler)
With the French president looking on, President Obama vowed on Tuesday to come down on companies that evade sanctions against Iran "like a ton of bricks."
U.S. Spy Chief Calls Syria 'Apocalyptic Disaster'
The top U.S. intelligence chief said the war in Syria had created an "apocalyptic disaster" and said he was convinced that documents alleging torture and murder in the conflict were authentic.
Intelligence Leaders: Al-Qaida Is Not on Path to Defeat
(National Journal: Sara Sorcher)
"It is morphing and franchising itself, not only here but in other areas of the world," James Clapper said.
No Clear Path for Military Pensions Fix
(Politico: Austin Wright, Burgess Everett, Juana Summers)
Senate Democrats are frowning on Republican proposals to pay for a plan to restore cuts to military pensions, casting doubt on the any quick prospect for a deal.
Obama Toasts Solo French President At State Dinner
(Associated Press: Darlene Superville, Nancy Benac)
It was the talk of the town that no one seemed to want to talk about.
Russia Says Will Veto Syria Aid Resolution in Current Form
(Reuters: Steve Gutterman)
Russia said on Wednesday it would veto a U.N. resolution on humanitarian aid access in Syria in its current form.
Fate of Syrian Evacuees in Doubt
(The Wall Street Journal: Sam Dagher)
Hundreds of evacuees from the besieged city of Homs were detained by the Syrian regime as soon as they were rescued.
Obama Says U.S. No Closer to Military Action in Syria Crisis
(Bloomberg: Phil Mattingly and Margaret Talev)
President Obama said the U.S. isn't moving closer to taking military action in Syria even with the stalemate in the fighting and concerns about missed deadlines on chemical-weapons destruction.
Obama: 'Enormous Frustration' Over 'Crumbling' State of Syria
(The Washington Post: David Nakamura, William Branigin)
Obama maintained that international pressure on Syria to account for and relinquish its stockpile of chemical weapons has begun to make progress.
Official: Core Al-Qaida May Now View Syria as Primary Battlefield
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
Al-Qaida core's break with one affiliate in Syria and its backing of another there may show that the group now views Syria as the primary battleground in the region.
Syria, Al-Qaida: U.S. Officials Offer Grim Assessment
(CNN: Jamie Crawford)
A security vacuum over vast areas of Syria could allow extremists to access weapons of mass destruction.
U.S., Russian Diplomats May Meet Syria Delegates
A Syrian opposition figure says delegates to the peace talks in Geneva may hold bilateral meetings with U.S. and Russian officials on Friday.
Syria's Government Says No Agenda Agreed for Geneva Talks
(Reuters: Mariam Karouny)
Syria's government delegation said no agenda had been agreed for peace talks in Geneva.
New Round of Syria Talks Off to a Slow Start
(The New York Times: Nick Cumming-Bruce)
The United Nations mediator for Syria brought opposition and government representatives together for their first face-to-face meeting in the current round of peace talks.
The Day the Internet Didn't Fight Back
(The New York Times: Nicole Perlroth)
A call for protests against N.S.A. surveillance was largely ignored by big Internet companies.
Spy Chief Says Snowden Took Advantage of 'Perfect Storm' of Security Lapses
(The New York Times: David Sanger, Eric Schmitt)
James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, said the technology was not yet fully in place to prevent another insider from stealing top-secret data, as Edward Snowden did.
Another U.S. Citizen a Potential Drone Target
(CNN: Tom Cohen, Tom Watkins)
U.S. counterterrorism officials are closely watching an al-Qaida fighter in Pakistan who could become the next American to be targeted for killing by a drone strike, CNN has learned.
Obama: The U.S. Has No True 'No-Spy' Agreements
(CBS News: Rebecca Kaplan)
President Obama said the U.S. doesn't have a "no-spy" agreement with any country, though it works to protect the privacy rights of both Americans and people around the world as it conducts foreign surveillance.
One Time the NSA Helped the CIA Drone a Guy
(War Is Boring: David Axe)
One time we know of, that is.
Hollande Says Trust Restored With U.S. Over Spying Revelations
(Reuters: Jim Loney)
French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday that trust had been restored between the United States and France after allegations that a U.S. intelligence agency spied on foreign leaders and citizens
EU Pushes to Globalize Internet Governance
(The Wall Street Journal: Frances Robinson, Sam Schechner)
The European Union's executive body is raising pressure to reduce U.S. influence on the plumbing of the Internet.
Technology Firms Urge Changes to U.S. Spying
(Associated Press: Stephen Braun)
Top executives from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, AOL, LinkedIn, and Twitter published a joint statement and sent a letter Tuesday.
Maryland Lawmakers Look to Cut Off NSA's Water, Power
(The Hill: Julian Hattem)
A bill in Maryland's state legislature would cut off state services like water and power at the National Security Agency's headquarters.
Iran's Rouhani Calls for 'Constructive' Nuke Talks
(Associated Press: Nasser Karimi)
The call comes as Iran marked the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution with massive rallies that featured a new American target for their traditional "death to" slogans.
Russia Says U.S. Measures Hinder Progress on Iran Nuclear Issue
(Reuters: Thomas Grove)
Russia said Tuesday new U.S. measures targeting businesses for evading sanctions against Iran would hinder progress on ending the standoff over Iranian nuclear activity.
U.S. to Keep Eye Out for Iranian Ships Heading This Way
(USA Today: Oren Dorell)
For the first time, Iran is dispatching two ships across the Atlantic—in response to the U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf.
Security Fears Threaten Us Future In Afghanistan
(Associated Press: Lara Jakes)
American diplomats and aid workers are facing a drawdown of their own as security threats and dwindling resources limit their 12-year push to develop the mostly primitive nation.
U.S. Condemns Afghan Decision to Go Ahead With Detainee Release
(Reuters: Hamid Shalizi, Missy Ryan)
The detainees have become one more issue fueling tension in U.S.-Afghan ties.
Obama Intel Chief: Karzai Won't Sign Afghan Troop Agreement
(National Journal: Sara Sorcher)
The administration is looking to Karzai's successor to finish the pact.
Afghanistan 'As Good as It's Going to Get': Marine Commandant
(Breaking Defense: Sydney Freedberg, Jr.)
"My sense is, it's about"—and here Gen. James Amos paused—"it's about as good as it's going to get."
Waste and Fraud in Afghanistan: A Greatest-Hits Collection
(National Journal: Jordain Carney)
The government watchdog has 318 ongoing cases, according to its latest quarterly report.
U.S., EU, Blast Afghan Law on Domestic Violence
(The Wall Street Journal: Margherita Stancati)
Afghanistan's Western partners are protesting against new legislation they say would effectively make it impossible to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence.
Levin: DOD Unlikely to Breach Spending Caps in 2015 Request
(Defense News: John Bennett)
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin said Tuesday he doubts the Pentagon's 2015 budget request will breach spending caps set by Congress.
Senate Republicans in a Box on Veterans Benefit
(National Journal: Stacy Kaper)
Senate Democrats are determined to get a bill reversing $6 billion in controversial cuts to veterans benefits through the chamber this week without offsetting the cost.
Military COLA Bill Passes House Easily
(Roll Call: Matt Fuller)
The House easily passed a bill restoring military pensions that were cut last year, but not before momentary drama over whether Democrats would back the measure.
Paul Ryan Votes 'No' on Military COLA Bill
(Roll Call: Matt Fuller)
One influential Republican didn't go along: Paul D. Ryan, the man who brokered the deal enacting the cuts in the first place.
Reid Says He'll Allow a Vote on Ayotte's Amendment
(The Hill: Ramsey Cox)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would allow a vote on a GOP amendment to a bill that would repeal a $6 billion cut to military pensions.
Congress Questions Plan to Pay for 11-Carrier Navy
(DoD Buzz: Kris Osborn)
Plans to permanently retire the USS George Washington and bring the Navy's carrier-fleet total down to 10 are still being debated in ongoing budget deliberations despite reports the White House has scrapped any plans to reduce the carrier total.
Issa, Cummings Feud Over Investigation Into Navy Yard Security Clearances
(Roll Call: Hannah Hess)
Republicans and Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee clashed on lessons to be learned from the tragedy.
Rand Paul Will Sue Obama Over the NSA
(National Journal: Matt Berman, Dustin Volz)
Sen. Rand Paul will join a lawsuit against President Obama, National Intelligence Director James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, and NSA Director Keith Alexander.
Pentagon Nominee Was Top Advocate for Littoral Combat Ship Program
(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Rick Barrett)
The U.S. Navy's littoral combat ship program may soon have a powerful ally in Washington with the nomination of Robert Work as deputy Defense secretary.
Pentagon Struggles to Find Solution to Soaring Health Costs
(Roll Call: Megan Scully)
Since 2006, Pentagon officials have offered several modest proposals to raise health care fees for some of the 9.6 million beneficiaries of the military's Tricare health care system.
McRaven Wants to Restore Special Operators to Amphibious, Expeditionary Ops
(Seapower Magazine: Otto Kreisher)
As U.S. Special Operations forces draw down in Afghanistan, they "absolutely" will restore their close relations with deployed Navy-Marine Corps amphibious and expeditionary units.
Special Ops Chief McRaven Expects 'Iron Man' Suit by 2018
(Stars and Stripes: Jon Harper)
Adm. William McRaven, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, expects special operators to be wearing Tactical Assault Light Operator Suits by 2018.
Terrorism Lawyer's Access to Secret Papers Fought by U.S.
(Bloomberg: Andrew Harris)
Federal prosecutors will fight a judge's decision to let a defense lawyer see secret foreign intelligence papers that may have led to evidence against his client.
Official: U.S. Will Step Up Training for Iraq Forces
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
The United States is planning to step up training for Iraq forces as it battles a resurgent al-Qaida in the country, a U.S. official said Tuesday at a congressional hearing.
Three Years After Mubarak, Reports of Abuses in Egypt
(Associated Press: Maggie Michael)
Human-rights groups denounced what they say are new cases of torture, and warned against a silencing of dissent.
Abbas Aide Calls Kerry Peace Formula a Recipe for Failure
(Reuters: Noah Browning)
A top Palestinian official said Tuesday a framework agreement being crafted by Secretary of State John Kerry to buttress troubled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks may be doomed to fail.
Palestinian Official Says 'Armed Resistance' an Option if Peace Talks Fail
(Time: Karl Vick)
Jibril Rajoub, a senior official in the Palestinian Authority, says there may be an outbreak of violence should the current rounds of peace talks with Israel fail.
U.S. Reaches Out to India's Modi
(The Wall Street Journal: Niharika Mandhana, Raymond Zhong)
The American ambassador in India wants to meet opposition prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi—marking a shift by the U.S., which has until now kept its distance from the Hindu nationalist politician.
U.S. Envoy Visits Okinawa Amid Long-Running Row Over Military Bases
(The Guardian: Justin McCurry)
Caroline Kennedy arrives on Japanese island at heart of battle with far-reaching consequences for Asia-Pacific security.
Hillary Clinton Faces New Barrage From the Right Over Benghazi
(Reuters: Mark Hosenball)
The criticism of Clinton over the deadly attacks appears to be a preview of what the former secretary of State can expect should she pursue a presidential bid in 2016.
Appeals Court Clears Way for Guantanamo Challenges
(The New York Times: Charlie Savage)
The ruling was a defeat for the Obama administration and may open the door to new lawsuits by the remaining 155 Guantanamo inmates.
VA Secretary's Disciplinary Powers Would Get Boost Under Miller Bill
(The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Adam Smeltz)
Top executives at the nation's 152 Veterans Affairs Department medical centers and regional directors could draw faster penalties for major leadership failures under a House bill expected to be introduced on Tuesday.
Unanimous House Approval in for In-State Tuition for Vets
(Air Force Times: George Altman)
Lawmakers can't agree on much anymore, but they're unanimous on at least one thing: Veterans shouldn't be stuck with out-of-state tuition costs at public universities.
Top Executive at Security-Check Firm Resigns
(The Wall Street Journal: Dion Nissenbaum)
A top executive at the company that performed the most recent background check of former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden resigned.
SOCOM Selects New Combatant Craft for SEALS
(Seapower Magazine: Richard Burgess)
The U.S. Special Operations Command has selected Oregon Iron Works in Clakamas, Ore., to build the new combatant craft for the Naval Special Warfare community.
Army Finalizes Plan to Move Rapid Equipping Force Under TRADOC
The Army has outlined a plan for transferring its Rapid Equipping Force to the service's Training and Doctrine Command.
Seeking Nuclear Cures, Air Force Retraces Old Path
(Associated Press: Robert Burns)
In launching a new search for cures to what ails its nuclear missile corps, the Air Force is considering proposals it tried five years ago.
Air Force Struggles to Develop Acquisition Talent
(Defense News: Nicole Blake Johnson)
Building out capabilities to manage large information technology projects has been a sore spot for the Air Force.
DepSecDef Visits, Criticizes Littoral Combat Ship; Fox Replacement Is LCS Backer
(Breaking Defense: Sydney Freedberg Jr.)
It's a delicate time for the Navy's controversial Littoral Combat Ship, largely because of acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox.
Fox Warns Navy to Be Ready for Pacific 'Pivot'
(Politico: Philip Ewing)
Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox warned the Navy to ensure its fleet is fully ready for the Obama administration's "pivot" to the Pacific.
Former Defendant's Deposition Raises More Doubts in Navy Sexual Assault Case
(The Washington Post: Annys Shin)
A former Navy football player who was charged last year in a high-profile sexual-assault case at the U.S. Naval Academy appeared in court Tuesday.
As Navy Helicopter Went Down, Survivor Took Stock
(The Virginian-Pilot: Dianna Cahn)
It took just seconds from the time the crew noticed a problem to the moment the helicopter hit the water.
U.S. Embassy in Uganda Warns of Terror Threat, Says Attackers Possibly Ready to Hit Targets
The U.S. Embassy in Uganda is warning of a specific terrorist threat in the country's capital, Kampala.
Leaders: Marines, Army, SOF Boost African Missions
(Air Force Times: Paul McLeary)
Part of the reason for that activity is the continuing fallout from the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
In Ukraine Standoff, Echoes of U.S.-Russia Cold War Tensions
(Reuters: Warren Strobel, Matt Spetalnick)
The United States and Russia are locked in a Cold War-style test of wills over the strategically located country of 45 million.
U.S. Spy Chief: Russia 'Certainly' a Suspect in Diplomat Comment Flap
(Reuters: Patricia Zengerle)
American intelligence agencies "certainly" consider Russia a possible suspect behind the release of a telephone-call recording that surfaced last week.
First of Four U.S. Destroyers Arrive to Rota
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
The USS Donald Cook arrived in Rota, Spain, the first of four destroyers that will be based there to provide European allies with missile defense.
Obama's Liberal Imperialism
(National Interest: David Rieff)
When Obama campaigned on the slogan, "Change You Can Believe In," he did not mean to mount a substantial challenge to what has been the fundamental assumption of American foreign policy since the end of the Second World War.
How to Justify Any Policy, No Matter How Bad It Might Be
(Foreign Policy: Stephen Walt)
A handy 10-step guide to defending yourself, your country, or your boss.
Al-Qaida Splinter Faction Shows How Not to Be a Terrorist
(Time: Aryn Baker)
Twenty-one terrorist recruits are killed in an explosives demonstration near Baghdad. But it's not likely to make a dent in the powerful group's capabilities.
'No More Benghazis:' Marines Leverage MV-22B Osprey for Rapid Crisis Response
(Forbes: Loren Thompson)
The Marines have argued for decades that tilt-rotors had the potential to revolutionize missions like airborne assault and crisis response, and now that contention is coming true.
In Peace Talks, Syria's Assad Plays for Time
(Associated Press: Zeina Karam)
Syrian President Bashar Assad has agreed to destroy a significant part of his arsenal and to join negotiations whose stated aim is to remove him from his post.
Navy's Aegis Missile Defense Is Ready for Prime Time
(Defense One: Scott Truver)
While a key element of the United States ballistic missile defense strategy—ground-based interceptors—might not be ready for "prime time," clearly that's not the case for the Navy's Aegis weapon system.
The Song Doesn't Remain the Same
(The New York Times: Neil Gussman)
In January the U.S. military and I celebrated our 42nd anniversary. Sort of. I am one of those modern soldiers with commitment issues.
Delusions Drive (More) U.S. Aid to Afghanistan
(The Huffington Post: Peter Van Buren)
The Obama administration unveiled Monday yet another aid package for Afghanistan.
(The Nation: Stephen Cohen)
How the American media misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine.
The Nuclear Treaty Russia Won't Stop Violating
(The Wall Street Journal: Keith Payne, Mark Schneider)
Why has Washington looked the other way as Moscow revived Cold War weaponry?
Five Surveillance Myths Stalling NSA Reform, Debunked
(The Guardian: Michelle Richardson)
The Day We Fight Back deserves truth amidst the administration's half-truths and trolling.
Bipartisan Cowardice on Pension Cuts
(The Washington Post: Ruth Marcus)
Both parties caved to interest groups, proving that brave lawmakers are rare.
Israel's Big Question
(The New York Times: Thomas Friedman)
As Secretary of State John Kerry readies his framework for peace, there is some soul-searching to do.