OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Obama defends Israeli airstrikes in Syria

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on Wednesday introduced legislation that would provide arms to rebel groups, as well as $250 million in transition assistance.

Menendez’s bill follows another Democratic bill last month from Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, that would also provide arms to opposition groups.

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“I think there's a broad consensus of support now for, at a minimum, a safe zone within Syria, where an international coalition led by the United States sets up a safe zone within Syria,” Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) said on MSNBC Monday.

Some lawmakers have backed the president’s cautious approach and warned against arming the rebels for fear that the weapons will fall into the wrong hands.

“I’m one who is skeptical there is a quick and easy way where we can identify the so-called good rebels from the bad rebels,” Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), whose recess trip included a stop at a refugee camp in Turkey, told The Hill. 

“It looks like we’re moving toward arming the good rebels, but that’s I think a lot easier said than done.”

Mixed signals: The growing controversy over the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, took another damaging turn for the Obama administration on Monday. 

Gregory Hicks, the former top U.S. diplomat in Benghazi, told congressional investigators that U.S. special operations forces were ordered to stand down in response to last September's terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate there. 

His testimony contradicts previous testimony by Obama administration officials who said all the security assets inside the country were deployed that night. 

Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the deadly assault, which White House officials initially claimed was the result of an anti-American protest gone wrong. 

Congressional Republicans have badgered the Obama administration for more details since White House officials admitted the Benghazi strike was a planned, coordinated assault by Islamic militants in the country. 

Libyan military officials had agreed to transport American special forces units into Benghazi shortly after news of Stevens's death reached Tripoli, according to excerpts from Hicks's testimony released by House Republicans. 

However, just as U.S. troops were about to depart for Benghazi, officials from Special Operations Command-Africa ordered the units to stand down. 

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday defended the administration's own investigation into the attack, saying an independent State Department commission conducted a "critical" and thorough account last year.

"There was an accountability review board led by two men of unimpeachable expertise and credibility that oversaw a process that was rigorous and unsparing," Carney said.

In his testimony, Hicks said the administration could have saved the lives of its diplomats if it had dispatched just one aircraft from nearby Souda Bay, about an hour away.

Chinese spy game: Chinese military and intelligence officials are ramping up efforts to secure sensitive U.S. military technologies to bolster their own arsenal of next-generation weapons, according to a new Pentagon report. 

There have been a "number of cases of either export control violations or potential espionage" related to the theft of sensitive U.S. military technologies by Beijing, according to the report. 

China's "network of government-affiliated companies and research institutes often enables [China] to access sensitive and dual-use technologies ... under the guise of civilian research and development," the Pentagon report states. 

Traditional espionage efforts by Chinese military and intelligence officials have allowed the country to "obtain key national security technologies, controlled equipment, and other materials not readily obtainable," the Pentagon review adds. 

David Helvey, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, declined to go into specifics regarding the claims made in the Defense report on China. 

"I would say that what we've talked about in the report is about as far as I'd like ... to say on those particular cases," Helvey told reporters on Monday. 

Air Force Lt. Gen Charles Davis, the top military adviser on Air Force acquisition, told Congress in April there was "no doubt" a large amount of sensitive information from the next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter had made it into the Chinese version of the jet, known as the J20. 

F-35 chief Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan told Manchin that any classified or unclassified details on the JSF likely came from the industry side of the program. 

"I think over the last few years we have implemented some fairly robust procedures to keep F-35 data within the confines of the Department. I'm a little less confident about industry partners, to be quite honest with you," Bogdan said.

Levin schedules hearing on military authorization: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has scheduled a hearing next week to look at the decade-old law that authorizes the U.S. war on terror.

Levin has invited eight witnesses to discuss the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, a law that was passed in the days following the Sept. 11 attacks of 2001.

The authorization establishes military detention for al Qaeda members and associated forces, and includes the detainees held at Guantánamo Bay.

The debate over the detention law was reignited last month when the Obama administration opted to prosecute Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in federal court, rather than declare him an “enemy combatant.”

There have also been questions raised over how long the law should remain in effect, particularly with the war in Afghanistan winding to a close.

Levin told The Hill last month that he was considering holding hearings to examine the broader law in the wake of the Boston debate.

“There’s a lot of questions, which are floating around that need to be at least addressed and thought about,” he said. 


In Case You Missed It: 

— USAF head of sexual assault prevention charged with sexual battery

— Menendez bill calls for arming Syrian rebels

— Syria tops Kerry's agenda in first DOD visit

— North Korea ratchets back war rhetoric against US


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