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WH Sees Longer Wait for Afghan Agreement, Snowden Swiped NSA Coworker's Password, Syria Talks Falter

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.

 

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White House Sees Longer Wait for Afghan Agreement
(Associated Press: Julie Pace)
The White House is dropping its insistence that Afghanistan sign a crucial security pact within weeks, suggesting it could be willing to wait to see whether Afghan President Hamid Karzai's successor might be easier to work with in deciding how many international troops remain.

Snowden Swiped Password From NSA Coworker
(NBC News: Michael Isikoff)
A civilian NSA employee recently resigned after being stripped of his security clearance for allowing former agency contractor Edward Snowden to use his personal log-in credentials to access classified information.

 

Jordan's King In California To Meet With Obama
(The Palm Springs Desert Sun)
King Abdullah II of Jordan landed Thursday at Palm Springs International Airport. He's expected to discuss Syria and Middle East peace with President Obama.

Kerry Pushes China on North Korea Nukes, Says Xi Meeting 'Constructive'
(The Washington Post: Simon Denyer, William Wan)
Kerry faces uphill battle in convincing China to put more pressure on its long-time ally.

Russian Support of Assad Upends Peace Talks
(The Wall Street Journal: Stacy Meichtry)
Russia upended talks on Syria's civil war Thursday by explicitly rejecting a proposal to begin discussing the possible removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power during any political transition.

INTELLIGENCE

NSA Ousts Civilian Employee Tied to Snowden Leaks
(The New York Times: David Sanger)
The National Security Agency has told Congress that it has forced out a civilian employee after a lengthy investigation.

 

NSA Memo Says Snowden Tricked Colleague to Get Password
(Time: Denver Nicks)
The internal agency memo says a civilian employee has resigned after being reprimanded for giving Snowden access to his password.

German Official Doubtful on Binding No-Spy Deal
(Associated Press)
The German government's new coordinator for transatlantic relations says he doubts talks aimed at securing a "no-spy" agreement with the U.S. will produce a deal that's legally binding.

Spy Agencies Send Congress Faulty Contractor Data: GAO
(Bloomberg News: Tony Capaccio)
Civilian U.S. intelligence agencies have provided unreliable and incomplete reports to Congress since 2011 on the use of private contractors who perform core functions, according to a congressional audit.

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Rand Paul Accused of Plagiarizing NSA-Obama Lawsuit
(Huffington Post: Chris Gentilviso)
After being ensnared by a series of plagiarism accusations last year, Sen. Rand Paul is facing a new claim over his lawsuit against President Obama and the NSA.

Unemployed Ken Cuccinelli Finds a Job With Rand Paul Suing Obama
(The Daily Beast: Michelle Cottle)
The senator has chosen a new, inferior lawyer to fight the Surveillance State. But this lawsuit was never about the law anyway.

SYRIA

U.N. Ends Aid Mission for Rebel Zone in Syria's Homs
(The Wall Street Journal: Sam Dagher)
U.S. says it's essential to press regime to release more than 200 men.

U.N.: U.S., Russia to Try to 'Unblock' Syria Stalemate
(Associated Press)
The mediator for the U.N.-brokered Syrian peace talks says Russia and the United States have promised to try break the deadlock.

Russia Presents Draft Plan to U.N. on Aid to Syria
(The New York Times: Anne Barnard)
Russia presented its own version to the United Nations Security Council, one that includes calls to condemn "terrorism" in the conflict.

Cease-Fire in Central Syrian City Extended
(Associated Press: Barbara Surk)
The governor of the central Syrian province of Homs says a cease-fire has been extended for three days as of Thursday.

Syria Strikes Kill 400 So Far This Month in Aleppo
(Associated Press: Barbara Surk)
Government shelling and airstrikes with makeshift barrel bombs have killed about 400 people in Syria's largest city so far this month.

IRAN

Iran's Black Gold
(Foreign Policy: Keith Johnson, Jamila Trindle)
A spike in Iran's oil exports raises fears Tehran will be less likely to cut a permanent nuclear deal.

Hello, Iran! U.S. Navy's Fearsome New War Boat Arrives in the Persian Gulf
(War is Boring: Joe Trevithick)
The Navy's new—and so far only—gun-armed, robot-hauling war boat arrived in Bahrain on Feb. 8.

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

Afghanistan Will Sign U.S. Security Pact, Says Germany
(Reuters: Andreas Rinke)
Germany's foreign minister said that he had received assurances from Afghan President Hamid Karzai that his country would sign a security deal with the United States.

Karzai: U.S. Must Respect Afghan Sovereignty in Prisoner Release
(Associated Press)
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the United States must stop "harassing" his country's judicial authority.

Afghanistan Defies U.S. in Freeing 65 'Dangerous' Prisoners
(Bloomberg: Eltaf Najafizada and Andrew MacAskill)
Afghanistan released 65 men accused of killing civilians and soldiers, ignoring American pleas to keep them locked up in the latest sign of worsening ties between the nations after 13 years of war.

Q&A About the Afghanistan Prisoner Release
(The Washington Post: Ernesto Londoño)
On Thursday, Afghanistan freed 65 suspected Taliban militants from prison over vehement objections from the United States.

NATO Slams Afghan Prisoner Release
(The Hill: Julian Pecquet)
NATO on Thursday joined the U.S. in criticizing Afghanistan's decision to release prisoners accused of attacks on coalition forces.

Amos: Delays in Afghanistan Agreement Could Force Marines to Abandon Equipment
(Marine Corps Times: Hope Hodge Seck)
Gen. Jim Amos said he knows he can get his Marines out by the 2014 deadline, regardless of delays, but has concerns about the valuable gear that remains in country.

USAID Cancels Contract for Good News From Afghanistan
(USA Today: Tom Vanden Brook)
The federal agency canceled a contract proposal Thursday that would have paid photographers for "positive images" of its work.

Senator Presses Dunford on Afghanistan Audits
(USA Today: Tom Vanden Brook)
The top commander in Afghanistan is being asked to explain why his staff attempted to diminish the findings of the government watchdog overseeing billions in construction projects there.

ASIA/PACIFIC

Seoul Eases U.S. Worries Over Telecom Plan
(The Wall Street Journal: Adam Entous)
U.S. had been concerned Huawei equipment could be used for spying.

Kerry Pushes China on North Korea Nukes, Says Xi Meeting 'Constructive'
(The Washington Post: Simon Denyer, William Wan)
Kerry faces uphill battle in convincing China to put more pressure on its long-time ally.

China Pushes Back on North Korea, South China Sea as Kerry Visits
(Reuters: Sui-Lee Wee)
Speaking in Seoul before leaving for Beijing, Kerry said on China should be doing more to help nudge Pyongyang.

Kerry, in South Korea, Rejects Request to Delay Joint Military Exercise
(The New York Times: Michael Gordon, Choe Sang-Hun)
The secretary of State rebuffed North Korea's demand that the U.S. and South Korea briefly delay a joint military exercise this month.

Kerry to Seek China's Help on North Korea
(The Wall Street Journal: Adam Entous)
The secretary of State will ask Chinese leaders to curb Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

U.S., South Korea Warn North Korea Against Aggression
(Associated Press: Matthew Lee)
Kerry and his South Korean counterpart warned North Korea on Thursday.

North Korea Accelerates Excavation at Nuclear Test Site, U.S. Research Institute Says
(Associated Press)
North Korea has accelerated excavation at a site used for underground nuclear test explosions, though a test doesn't appear imminent.

U.S. Admiral Assures Philippines of Help in Disputed Sea
(Reuters: Manuel Mogato)
The United States will come to the aid of the Philippines in the event of conflict with China over disputed waters in the South China Sea, the commander of the U.S. Navy said.

U.S. Ambassador Meets India's Opposition Leader
(Associated Press: Katy Daigle)
The U.S. ambassador met with India's top Hindu nationalist politician for the first time since he was refused a U.S. visa for failing to stop months of deadly religious rioting.

CONGRESS

McKeon: Obama MIA on Afghanistan
(Politico: Juana Summers)
Missing in action: President Obama on Afghanistan, according to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon.

Reid Wants to Move Forward on Veterans' Bill Post-Recess
(National Journal: Jordain Carney)
But the legislation faces some pushback from Senate Republicans.

Military COLA Bill OK'd by Congress Doesn't Go Far Enough for Some
(The Washington Post: Josh Hicks)
But the reversal still remains inadequate according to veterans groups and lawmakers who wanted to fully eliminate the policy.

MIDDLE EAST

Jordan Wary of Israel-Palestinian Peace Plan
(The Washington Post: William Booth)
When it comes to Secretary of State John Kerry's bid to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jordanians say no one outside the negotiation room has more at stake than they do.

U.S. Seeks Answers Over Arrest of Embassy Employee in Egypt
(CNN: Elise Labott)
Authorities have detained an Egyptian employee of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, State Department officials and Egyptian media reports said, a move likely to further strain already tense relations.

Vladimir Putin Preempts Presidency Bid by Egypt's Military Chief
(Associated Press)
Russian leader backs Abdel Fatah al-Sisi before candidacy announced as Moscow rattles U.S. Middle East alliances.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama Aides Consult Saudis Ahead of Riyadh Visit
(Reuters: Steve Holland)
The president's advisers consulted a top Saudi Arabia official ahead of Obama's visit to Riyadh in late March.

TERRORISM

In Terrorism Case, New Path to Testimony From 9/11 Suspect
(The New York Times: Benjamin Weiser)
Government and defense lawyers have agreed to allow written questions to be submitted to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described architect of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

SPECIAL OPERATIONS

Lumpkin Warns of Risks to Special Ops Even if Budget Ax Spares Them
(Inside Defense)
Projected funding reductions across the military and the federal government are expected to degrade the readiness of special operations forces.

INDUSTRY

BAE Looks to Take On Lockheed in Jet Upgrade Market
(Defense News: Andrew Chuter)
BAE Systems is looking to extend its activities in the market for modifying other nations' aircraft.

Curbs Shut U.S. Drone Makers Out of Export Markets
(Associated Press: Kelvin Chan)
Military brass shopping at Asia's biggest defense expo this week have drones high on their to-buy list.

Can Fire Scout Drone Help Save LCS?
(Breaking Defense: Sydney Freedberg Jr.)
The first of the larger Fire Scouts started flying last fall.

AIR FORCE

For New Air Force Secretary, a Baptism by Fire
(The New York Times: Helene Cooper)
Deborah Lee James, hit with a scandal weeks after starting her new job, has been praised by some Pentagon officials for seizing an opportunity to practice greater openness.

32 Sex Assaults Reported at AFB in 4-Year Period
(Dayton Daily News: Barrie Barber)
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base reported 32 alleged sexual assaults involving adult victims from 2010 to 2013, according to the 88th Air Base Wing Office of Staff Judge Advocate.

ARMY

Army Probes Death of Alaska-based Soldier
(Army Times)
The Army is investigating the death of an Alaska-based soldier from Illinois.

NAVY

Navy Moves Carrier Amid Talks on Iran
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
The U.S. Navy has reduced its carrier presence in the Persian Gulf as the Obama administration seeks to complete a nuclear deal with Iran.

Midshipman Says Rape Victim Wasn't Too Drunk
(UPI)
A Naval Academy midshipman says a classmate who alleges she was raped at a party while drunk didn't seem too intoxicated to know what she was doing.

MARINE CORPS

Marines Don't Plan to Cut Wounded Warrior Program
(Military.com: Richard Sisk)
The Marine Corps has plans to maintain its existing Wounded Warrior care while the Army trims its own more expansive system and cuts staff after nearly 13 years of war.

NATIONAL GUARD

AUSA Boss Takes Stand on Congress's Push to Protect Guard
(Military Times: Michelle Tan)
The Association of the United States Army is pushing back against legislation that would create a commission to determine the future makeup of the Army.

Recruiting Scandal Hits Minnesota National Guard
(Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Three cases of potential fraud involving Minnesota National Guard "recruiting assistants" are under investigation as part of a wide-ranging scandal that has rocked the National Guard hierarchy nationwide.

TECH

Google's Robot Army Will Live in This Military Hangar
(Quartz: Tim Fernholz)
Planetary Ventures, a Google shell company, will lease an airport—and an enormous hangar—from the United States space agency NASA.

AFRICA

Kenya Government Accuses U.S. as Tear Gas Breaks Up Rally
(Associated Press: Tom Odula, Jason Straziuso)
A press statement from the National Security Advisory Committee asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to summon the U.S. government aid arm, USAID.

AMERICAS

Cuba Hopes EU Talks Will Lead to U.S. Gesture: Commissioner
(Reuters: Daniel Trotta)
Cuba hopes the opening of negotiations on a new political agreement with the European Union could lead to similar talks with the United States.

COAST GUARD

Coast Guard: What Happened to Missing Boater?
(Orlando Sentinel: Desiree Stennett)
After a man went missing last year only to resurface about a month later uninjured and with no explanation, the Coast Guard still has little insight into his "mysterious" disappearance.

EUROPE

Russia Warns West Against Interference in Ukraine
(Reuters: Gabriela Baczynsk)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the West against interfering in Ukraine's crisis, saying that citizens of the ex-Soviet state should be allowed to resolve matters themselves.

5 Things to Know About Chilly U.S.-Russian Relations
(Associated Press: Deb Riechmann)
Here are five of the issues where U.S.-Russian relations have run off course.

Poll: Thumbs Down on Vladimir Putin, Russia
(Politico: Tal Kopan)
With all eyes on Sochi for the Winter Olympics, Americans hold the lowest view of Russia and its president that they've had in two decades, according to a new poll.

PEOPLE

Medal of Honor Recipient Dakota Meyer Pondering a Political Future
(Lexington-Herald Leader: Jack Brammer)
"I'm seriously thinking about that but have no definite plans at the moment," Meyer said.

ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY

More Engagement With India
(The New York Times)
Meeting with Narendra Modi, the controversial politician who could become the country's next prime minister, was a pragmatic step.

Stop the NSA While We Still Can
(CNN: Sen. Rand Paul, Matt Kibbe, Ken Cuccinelli)
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated."

Why Afghanistan's President Karzai Would Release 65 Dangerous Terrorists
(U.S. News: Paul Shinkman)
Political maneuvering, military rules dominate decision blasted by coalition forces.

No News Is Good News From Afghanistan
(USA Today: Tom Vanden Brook)
Bad news out of Afghanistan? One school of thought at the Pentagon goes this way: Start winning. Good news will follow. It's often said half in jest. But only half.

North Korea's Theater of the Absurd and the New No. 2's
(War on the Rocks: Robert Collins)
What drives these purges? What do they mean? What do they say about the stability of the regime and how it functions?

U.S. Needs a Cyber Plan
(Defense News: Tim Sample)
Our need for national security to exceed technical advances, our interdependence on the Internet, and the economic boon of big data cannot be unwound.

Can Kerry's Israeli-Palestinian Peace Efforts Succeed?
(Huffington Post: Alan Elsner)
For years of U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East, it has become a cliché to state that the United States cannot want peace more than the Israelis and Palestinians themselves.

Progress in Geneva Is Slow, but It's Still Syria's Best Chance of Peace
(The Guardian: Douglas Alexander)
The international community has failed abjectly so far. Military intervention, though, would not have stopped the war.

The Future of War: Less Is More
(War on the Rocks: Michael Cohen)
If you want to examine and draw conclusions about the future of war, the best place to begin that process is by acknowledging the present of war.

Not Many of Us Actually Fought on the Day We Fight Back
(The Verge: Adi Robertson)
Protest turnout was never going to match SOPA's peak.

Why It's Time to Deepen U.S.-India Ties
(Roll Call: Ron Somers)
With a congressionally mandated U.S. International Trade Commission hearing scheduled this week, this is the right time to take stock of U.S.-India relations.

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Keeps me informed about national leadership concerns."

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AJ, US Army Officer

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