OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Obama defends NSA programs

In a new CNN poll released Monday, half of voters said they do not believe the president to be trustworthy, the first time a majority has held that opinion. The president lost 10 points among independents and 17 points among those under 30, suggesting widespread unease about the NSA programs.

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In the Charlie Rose interview, Obama talked about having a “national conversation” on the data programs and justified the surveillance for having broken up terror plots. He cited the NSA's role in disrupting a planned attack on the New York City subway system.

"The one thing people should understand about all these programs though is, they have disrupted plots, not just here in the United States, but overseas as well," Obama said.

Obama declined to comment on Edward Snowden, the contractor who leaked classified NSA documents to reporters that detailed the programs.

Snowden defends himself and blasts critics: Snowden, of course, gave his own interview on Monday, answering questions during a live Q&A hosted by The Guardian’s website.

The former CIA employee and NSA contractor said that being called a traitor by Dick Cheney "is the highest honor you can give an American." He also said that he was not communicating with the Chinese or providing them with classified documents.

"Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn't I have flown directly into Beijing?" Snowden wrote. "I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now.”

Since revealing himself in Hong Kong as the source of the NSA leak two weeks ago, Snowden’s whereabouts have been unknown — White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said Sunday he didn’t know where Snowden was, for instance.

But there’s been a whole host of stories written about Snowden and the life he gave up in order to disclose the NSA’s phone and Internet surveillance programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post.

Some have criticized him and columnists and pundits have accused him of being a narcissist, not a hero.

The 29-year-old leaker on Monday criticized the coverage that’s focused on him rather than the issues he exposed.

“Unfortunately, the mainstream media now seems far more interested in what I said when I was 17 or what my girlfriend looks like rather than, say, the largest program of suspicionless surveillance in human history,” he said.

Snowden also defended his decision to flee to Hong Kong, saying that the U.S. government had “predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home.”

NSA's Alexander heads to Capitol Hill, again: For the second time in as many weeks, National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander will head to Capitol Hill, to defend the agency's domestic intelligence programs leaked by Snowden earlier this month. 

During his last appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Alexander told lawmakers the domestic NSA programs had prevented nearly a dozen planned terrorist strikes against the United States and its allies across the globe. 

On Tuesday, the four-star general is expected provide details on those thwarted attacks to members of the House Intelligence Committee during a rare open hearing by the panel. 

NSA officials have been busy declassifying details of those attacks, and the role NSA played in preventing those strikes, into a publicly releasable report. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), head of the Senate Intelligence panel, told reporters last Friday that Alexander assured lawmakers the unclassified report would be completed by Monday. 

House Intelligence panel chief Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said last Friday that Snowden's illegal leaks have endangered U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism efforts worldwide. 

Potential U.S. adversaries have already begun to adjust their tactics in response to the details disclosed by Snowden about NSA's surveillance efforts, according to Rogers. 

That said, the U.S. intelligence community is still investigating more than 300 cases of illegally leaked information, going back to November 2011. 

Government investigators are reviewing 375 cases of "unauthorized disclosures" by members of the various intelligence agencies, according to a top secret report by the Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community. 

The investigations predate Snowden's disclosures of the NSA's domestic intelligence programs. 

DOD to open SEALs, Army Rangers to women: For the first time, female sailors and soldiers will be allowed to join the Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and other specialized combat units within the U.S. military. 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel could officially announce plans to expand access to those units as soon as Tuesday, according to recent news reports. 

Hagel's pending announcement builds on former Pentagon chief Leon Panetta's decision in January to end the military's long-standing ban on women in combat. The timelines set by the Department of Defense to open Ranger and SEAL units up to female soldiers and sailors are still being reviewed by senior military leaders. 

Navy officials will open up the service's Riverine Forces to eligible female candidates, beginning next month, the Pentagon plan states.  

Next up will be the Army, whose leaders plan to open up the service's Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga., to female candidates beginning in 2015. 

A year later, according to the Pentagon's plans, women sailors will be able to participate in the Navy's Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training program at the Naval Special Warfare Training Center in Coronado, Calif. 

While allowing female soldiers and sailors the opportunity to join Ranger or SEAL teams is a major milestone for the Pentagon, female soldiers have already begun to play a key role in U.S. special operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere. 

All-women units, known as Female Engagement Teams, already work alongside American regular and special forces units to train and equip U.S.-backed local militias in Afghanistan. Female soldiers and officers have also risen through the intelligence and personnel fields within Special Operations Command and the command's service components. 


In Case You Missed It: 

— Lawsuit reveals 'indefinite detainees' at GITMO 

— Corker blocks Afghan aid over CIA 'ghost money' program

— NSA leaker Snowden denies Chinese ties 

— Intel community investigating hundreds of illegal leaks


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