OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: White House to brief House, Senate on NSA program

Last Thursday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the leaks will cause "long-lasting and irreversible harm" to ongoing efforts to safeguard the United States from outside threats. 

"The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans," Clapper said in a statement after initial reports of the NSA programs went public. 

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Weeks before the Verizon phone-sweeping program began, Clapper testified before Congress that the NSA does not conduct intelligence on American citizens.

Appearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in March, Clapper denied allegations by panel members that the agency conducted electronic surveillance of Americans on U.S. soil.

"Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" committee member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Clapper during the March 12 hearing.

In response, Clapper replied quickly: "No, sir."

Senate panel opens up markup: The Senate Armed Services Committee took the rare step of opening up its full-committee markup of the defense authorization bill for two hours to consider sexual assault legislation.

The panel begins its markup of the $600 billion Pentagon policy bill on Tuesday, with three of its five subcommittee markups also open to the public.

That includes the Personnel subcommittee run by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who is pushing the most ambitious military sexual assault proposal in the Senate.

Gillibrand’s bill would remove the decision to prosecute major criminal cases from the chain of command, a move that is opposed by the military brass.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has not specifically said he opposes Gillibrand’s bill, but he said Monday that he supports keeping the power to send a case to a court martial within the chain of command, the heart of Gillibrand’s bill.

The House Armed Services panel passed its authorization bill last week without changing the chain of command structure. The panel removed commanders’ ability to overturn guilty verdicts, a change the Senate is also expected to make.

Taliban attack airport in Kabul: Afghan security forces repelled a coordinated Taliban attack against the main airport in Kabul early Monday, ending with the deaths of seven insurgents. 

Waves of Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers assaulted the airport, looking to breach the military side of the facility that serves as headquarters to International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command, according to recent reports.

At no time was the ISAF side of the airport breached, and no American or NATO troops were killed in the ensuing gun battle, a command official said. 

The Kabul airport attack was the most brazen strike by the Taliban inside Kabul since the beginning of this year's fighting season in the country. 

In May, insurgents detonated a car bomb outside the International Organization for Migration, an international group affiliated with the United Nations, in downtown Kabul.

U.S. and coalition commanders warned attacks like Monday's airport assault would be the hallmark of this year's fighting season, likely the last one for U.S. forces before they withdraw in 2014. 

Roughly 66,000 American troops remain in Afghanistan, with half of those forces scheduled to withdraw from the country this spring. 

Hagel, Dempsey back to Capitol Hill: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey are headed back to Capitol Hill for two more congressional hearings this week.

The pair will appear before the Senate Appropriations Defense Committee on Tuesday and the Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday.

There will be plenty of them to talk about, from the NSA leaks to Syria to the why the 2014 Pentagon budget isn’t under the sequester caps.

Military sexual assault will also be a prominent topic.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) is a supporter of Gillibrand’s bill, and she sent an advisory Monday saying she would be questioning the Pentagon specifically on sexual assault.


In Case You Missed It: 

— Al Qaeda merger in Syria called off 

— White House petition seeks pardon for Snowden

— Obama close to decision on arming Syrian rebels 

— Retired Gen. John Allen joins Brookings 

— Sen Feinstein: NSA leaks amount to treason


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