Welcome to 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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U.S. Rebuffs Ukraine Military-Aid Request
(The Wall Street Journal: Adam Entous)
U.S. worried about inflaming Russia tensions, U.S. officials say.
Russian Troops Engage in War Games Near Ukraine
(Associated Press: Mike Eckel, Vladimir Isachenkov)
Russia conducted new military maneuvers near its border with Ukraine on Thursday, and President Vladimir Putin said the world shouldn't blame his country for what he called Ukraine's "internal crisis."
White House Refuses to Hand Over Top-Secret Documents to Senate Committee
(The Guardian: Dan Roberts, Spencer Ackerman, Paul Lewis)
Jay Carney confirms sensitive Bush-era material is being withheld from Senate investigation into CIA torture and rendition.
Senate Confirms Caroline Krass as CIA General Counsel
(The Washington Post: Greg Miller)
The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm Caroline Krass as CIA general counsel, a job she will assume at a time of extreme tension between the agency and Congress.
CIA Feared Senate Probe Would Expose Key Sources
(The Washington Post: Adam Goldman, Greg Miller)
After the CIA provided a massive cache of documents in 2009 to Senate staffers investigating the agency's detention and interrogation program, the agency realized it might have a problem.
Chances for Prosecution Unclear in CIA-Senate Spat
(Associated Press: Eric Tucker, Mark Sherman)
Legal experts say prosecutors will likely be hesitant to wade into a separation-of-powers dispute between two branches of government.
Key NSA Defender Wants to End Bulk Data Collection
(National Journal: Brendan Sasso)
Dutch Ruppersberger has a plan to overhaul the controversial spying program.
Ruppersberger: 'Very Close' on Phone Data Bill With Rogers
(Politico: Darren Samuelsohn)
Negotiations on some key details remain fluid, but ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger said that he's "very close" to a deal.
CIA's Brennan Faces Uphill Fight in Taking On Sen. Dianne Feinstein
(The Hill: Alexander Bolton)
Feinstein, who is highly regarded on Capitol Hill, is spending a lot of political capital to go after the CIA for allegedly spying on her committee staff.
Did the CIA Chief Just Dare Obama to Fire Him?
(The Daily Beast: Eli Lake)
Under a sudden avalanche of criticism, CIA Director John Brennan said President Obama can "ask me to go." Will he?
Senate Poised for Break Without Ukraine Aid Plan Action
(Bloomberg: Kathleen Hunter)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vowed to block House Republicans from using a Ukraine aid package to delay IRS rules governing political activity by some nonprofit groups.
John Boehner: IMF Reform Has 'Nothing to Do' With Ukraine Crisis
(The Huffington Post: Sabrina Siddiqui)
The House speaker told reporters that the IMF boost, which was requested by the Obama administration, was irrelevant to the current crisis in Ukraine.
Congress to Pentagon: Hand Over the War Budget
(National Journal: Jordain Carney)
Defense officials want to wait until a decision on post-2014 involvement in Afghanistan is made.
Rep. Visclosky: 'Impossible' To Move Pentagon Spending Bill With Only OCO 'Placeholder'
(Defense News: John Bennett)
A key House member warned Thursday the Obama administration's withholding of a war-funding request could hinder passage of the chamber's 2015 military spending bill.
Obama, Navy Lying to Congress on Carriers: Seapower Chair Rep. Forbes
(Breaking Defense: Sydney Freedberg Jr.)
Forbes believes the Obama administration is imposing needlessly painful choices on the Pentagon without being honest about it.
Why Gillibrand Bill Faces Midterm Danger
(The Hill: Jeremy Herb)
This year's midterm elections and Senate retirements could cost Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand as many as 11 senators who have backed her bill to take sexual-assault cases outside the military chain of command.
Kerry in London to Meet With Russian Minister on Crimea
(The New York Times: Michael Gordon)
As Moscow orders more military exercises on Ukraine's border, Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov to try to de-escalate the confrontation.
West Readying Sanctions After Crimea Vote
(Associated Press: Lara Jakes, Cassandra Vinograd)
The West is readying to impose harsh sanctions on Russia for what U.S. officials described as Moscow's insistence in undermining the new upstart government in Kiev.
Russia Agrees to Talks on Monitoring Mission for Ukraine
(The Wall Street Journal: Nicole Lundeen)
Russia has agreed to open negotiations on a possible monitoring mission in Ukraine backed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
U.S.-Russian Cybersecurity Talks Face Uncertainty Amid Ukrainian Crisis
(Inside Cybersecurity: Christopher Castelli)
The turmoil in Ukraine has cast a shadow of uncertainty over the next chapter of U.S.-Russian cybersecurity talk.
Kerry: U.S., E.U. Will React if Crimea Annexed
(Associated Press: Matthew Lee)
Secretary of State John Kerry is warning Russia that it will face an immediate, "very serious series" of steps from the United States and Europe if it annexes Ukraine's strategic Crimea region.
Kerry Downplays Possibility of Wider Russian Military Action
(The Hill: Erik Wasson)
At this time Russia does not have the troops in place to "take over all of Ukraine" but the United States is closely monitoring military activities, Kerry said.
If Crimea Says 'Da!,' What's Next?
(USA Today: Luigi Serenelli)
Leaders of the United States and Europe have denounced repeatedly the referendum as illegal and warned it may spur civil war.
Russia Said to Ready for Iran-Style Sanctions in Worst Case
(Bloomberg: Evgenia Pismennaya, Ilya Arkhipov)
Russian government officials and businessmen are bracing for sanctions resembling those applied to Iran after what they see as the inevitable annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.
12 Aviano F-16s Deploying to Poland Amid Ukraine Crisis
(Stars and Stripes)
The Polish Defense Ministry announced the deployment Monday, but U.S. officials remained vague on which Air Force unit the contingent would come from.
Russian Engine on Rocket Needs U.S. Review, Hagel Says
(Bloomberg: Tony Capaccio)
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today told a House defense panel that Russia's actions in Ukraine will lead the Pentagon to reassess the use of Russian-made engines on Atlas V rockets.
Hagel to Meet With Brass Friday on Sex-Assault Review
(USA Today: Tom Vanden Brook)
The meeting follows reports about troops dismissed from "positions of trust."
Pentagon Boosting Its Push for Underwater Drones
(USA Today: Ray Locker)
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is stepping up its research on several programs.
Transgender Troop Ban Faces Scrutiny
(Associated Press: Lisa Leff)
An independent commission led by a former U.S. surgeon general has concluded there "is no compelling medical reason" for the U.S. armed forces to prohibit transgender Americans from serving.
Commander: U.S. Needs 102 Days for Full Afghan Drawdown
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said if he is forced to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by December 2014, he would need at least 102 days before then to do it in an orderly fashion.
Afghan Candidate Abdullah Abdullah Vows to Sign U.S. Pact in a Month if He Wins
Abdullah Abdullah criticized Karzai for refusing to sign the deal, which would pave the way for international forces to keep a residual force in Afghanistan after withdrawing combat troops by the end of 2014.
Shinseki: Advance Funding Won't Solve VA Problems
(Military.com: Bryant Jordan)
Eric Shinseki told a Senate panel that advance funding for all VA operations would not solve all the department problems in the event of another government shutdown.
Citing Progress, VA Cuts Brain-Injury Funds
(Politico: Juana Summers)
Traumatic brain injury has gained growing attention in recent years, considered by the American Legion one of "the signature wounds of today's wars."
Are Veterans Getting the Money They Deserve in Latest Budget?
(National Journal: Stacy Kaper)
Lawmakers are skeptical that the growing needs of veterans can be met with the amount requested.
What Happens After Sexting and Luxury Travel at VA? Paid Leave
(NextGov: Bob Brewin)
The unidentified VA ratings service representative downloaded software onto his agency laptop to sext friends and misused $31,000 in travel funds.
Air Force Nuke Crew Failings Worse Than Reported
(Associated Press: Robert Burns)
Failings exposed last spring at a U.S. nuclear missile base, reflecting what one officer called "rot" in the ranks, were worse than originally reported, according to Air Force documents.
Inside the Fiery Crash of Jolly 12
(Foreign Policy: Dan Lamothe)
When an elite Air Force helicopter rescue crew plummeted into a Japanese forest, it didn't just kill an airman and spark an inferno—it stirred up a diplomatic hornet's nest for the U.S.
Air Force Releases Report on Deadly Tanker Crash in Kyrgyzstan
(Associated Press: Nicholas Geranios)
USAF Delays LRSO Again, This Time by Three Years
(Flight Global: Jon Hemmerdinger)
The Air Force has once again delayed development of its long-range standoff weapon, announcing it will push back a contract award by three years until fiscal 2018.
Navy Researching a Google Glass of Its Own
(Fox News: Allison Barrie)
The Office of Naval Research is creating a special display that will superimpose computer-generated information onto a sailor's view of the real world.
Why the Navy Wants More Growlers
(USNI News: Dave Majumdar)
The Navy is eyeing expanding its fleet of electronic attack aircraft to better fit into the service's next generation plan for fighting a high-end air war.
Navy Still Has Tuition Assistance Money Available
(Stars and Stripes: Matthew Burke)
While other services' tuition programs are turning troops away, the Navy has more tuition assistance cash than it can use.
Navy Will Study Sea Dragon Engine Problems
(The Virginian-Pilot: Mike Hixenbaugh)
The Navy this week asked Sikorsky Aircraft to study ways to reduce the risk of engine fires in its MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters.
Army to Cut Combat Brigades
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
The Army may need to cut its number of brigade combat teams nearly in half.
U.S. Army Plans to Cut 3 of 13 Aviation Brigades by 2019
(Defense News: Paul McLeary)
He added that under the plan, the Army's Reserve component will be able maintain its 12 aviation brigades but they "will be restructured and optimized for assault, lift and medavac missions."
Army Chief Won't Back Down on End-Strength Numbers as Sequestration Threatens
Gen. Raymond Odierno continued to dig in his heels Thursday on his position that the service will be unable to execute the Pentagon's Defense Strategic Guidance if it shrinks to a sequestration-level end strength of 420,000.
U.S. Northern Command Chief Supports Army Aviation Restructure
The Army's plan to restructure its aviation assets—hotly contested by Army National Guard advocates—will work to Northern Command's advantage.
U.S. Marines Get Ready for the Next Benghazi
(War Is Boring: Joe Trevithick)
More quick-reaction troops and planes position in Spain.
Philippines Offers U.S. Forces Access to Military Bases
The Philippines has agreed to allow the United States access to its military bases under a new security deal being negotiated by the two allies.
Stolen F-35 Secrets Now Showing Up in China's Stealth Fighter
(Washington Free Beacon: Bill Gertz)
A cyberespionage operation by China seven years ago produced sensitive technology and aircraft secrets that were incorporated into the latest version of China's new J-20 stealth fighter jet.
Rockets Strike Israel, Jeopardizing Truce Talk
(Associated Press: Ibrahim Barzak)
The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad said Thursday it had agreed to halt a wave of rocket fire on Israel, signaling an end to the heaviest fighting between the sides since 2012, though soon after the announcement seven rockets fired from Gaza exploded inside Israel.
U.S. Has Made Clear Iran 'Not Open for Business,' Kerry Tells Senators
(Reuters: Doina Chiacu)
The relaxation in penalties has triggered a race among Western firms to explore lucrative business opportunities.
Poll: Most Americans Don't Believe Hillary Clinton on Benghazi Security
(The Washington Post: Aaron Blake)
Fifty-one percent of voters say they don't believe Clinton when she says that she never saw requests for additional security before the attacks on the U.S. mission.
Mediator Brahimi Says Syria Election Now Won't Aid Peace Talks
(Reuters: Louis Charbonneau)
If Syria goes ahead with an election that would likely secure a new term for President Bashar al-Assad, the opposition will probably not be interested in pursuing further peace talks with the government, peace mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said.
U.S. Troops Unloaded 'Over a Hundred Bullets' Into Osama Bin Laden's Dead Body, Sources Claim
(The Huffington Post: Nick Wing)
A new report claims to shed light on the issue of why photos of slain al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden's body were never released to the public.
Bin Laden Kin Knew of 'Something Big' Pre-9/11
(The Hill: Rebecca Shabad)
Osama bin Laden's son-in-law said he heard about a major act being organized before the Sept. 11 attacks, according to an FBI agent.
U.S. Official: 'Thousands' of Deaths in South Sudan After January Cease-Fire Agreement
The comments Thursday in Ethiopia by Donald Booth highlight that the January truce has not been effective.
Should Canada Buy America's A-10 Attack Jets?
(War Is Boring: Michael Peck)
The U.S. Air Force wants to get rid of its legendary A-10 Warthog tank-killers. Should Canada buy them?
SouthCom's Kelly: Short of Drug-Fighting Assets
(Politico: Philip Ewing)
The head of U.S. Southern Command says he's powerless to stop more than 70 percent of the illegal drugs spotted by his forces from entering the United States.
Fixing Ukraine's Economy
(The New York Times)
International aid can help, but the country's leaders still have to end wasteful subsidies and find ways to raise exports.
Putin Acts, the West Walks
(The Wall Street Journal)
Russia tightens its grip on Crimea while Obama and Merkel do little.
Stop Sending Aid to Dictators
(Time: William Easterly)
Traditional foreign aid often props up tyrants more than it helps the poor. It's time for a new model.
Joint Strike Fighter: No Longer Just 'Too Big to Kill'
(Real Clear Defense: Christopher Griffin, Phillip Lohaus)
Starting to deliver, the F-35 still faces budget uncertainty.
Combating Sexual Assaults in the Military
(The Hill: Rep. Mike Coffman)
We must end the scourge of sexual assaults in our military.
If Feinstein and the CIA Kiss and Make Up, Will America Up and Forget Torture?
(The Guardian: Amy Goodman)
Like all D.C. infighting, this will blow over. But we've already lost sight of the lives that have been ruined by interrogation.
Feinstein Is Right: The CIA's Out of Control.
(Politico: Tim Weiner)
When the CIA case-officers a senator, it runs the risk of undergoing torture American-style.
Why It's So Hard for Obama to Be Tough on Russia
(The Atlantic: Norman Ornstein)
The president needs Putin as his ally to accomplish his most ambitious second-term goals.
Crimea's Contested Future
(The New Yorker: Natalia Antelava)
This weekend, the people of Crimea will vote in a hastily arranged referendum that both the government in Kiev and the international community have deemed illegitimate.
Obama Needs to Use This U.N. Meeting to Back Privacy as a Human Right
(Defense One: Steven Watt)
To start regaining its human-rights leadership role, the United States should recognize, without equivocation, that privacy is a human right.