OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Military commander to testify on Benghazi

GOP lawmakers have been frustrated at the difficulty of tracking down the Marine colonel. They argue he has a unique perspective, given their concerns that the military wasn’t prepared to quickly respond to the last year’s terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic annex in Benghazi that left four dead, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

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“Col. Bristol has experience that could be valuable in deepening our understanding of the events of that day,” a committee source told The Hill. “Of particular interest to the committee is what our posture was in the weeks and months that proceeded the attack.”

A spokeswoman for Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who has also been seeking Bristol’s testimony, did not respond to a request for comment. 

Judgment day for Manning: Former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning will learn his fate on Tuesday when a military judge will determine whether the 25-year-old will spend the rest of his life in a military prison for leaking classified information.

Military prosecutors and Manning's defense team delivered closing arguments last Thursday, with the two sides portraying the ex-Army Private as either a traitor or a hero for free speech.

Army Judge Col. Denise Lind, who is presiding over the case at Fort Meade, Md., is expected to issue her verdict on Tuesday.

Manning is facing 22 federal charges of treason and espionage after handing thousands of classified Pentagon and State Department documents to the website WikiLeaks in 2010.

The case has become a touchstone for civil rights activists, who claim Manning is being unfairly persecuted by the Obama administration for disclosing the information.

Since being taken into military custody three years ago, Manning has admitted to providing the classified information to WikiLeaks in an attempt to spark public debate on U.S. actions in Iraq and around the world.

But by publicly leaking that information to Wikileaks, the Pentagon argues he willfully provided sensitive and classified data to known terror groups, like al Qaeda and the Taliban.

“This is a case about a soldier who systematically harvested hundreds of thousands of classified documents and dumped them onto the Internet, into the hands of the enemy," Army prosecutor Capt. Joe Morrow said during his opening statement.

Senate Appropriations subpanel marks up Defense bill: The last of the four annual Defense bills will begin working its way through the markup process on Tuesday, with the Senate Defense Appropriations subcommittee.

The Senate’s Defense spending bill will then be marked up before the full Appropriations Committee on Thursday, before Congress breaks for its month-long August recess.

The Senate’s Pentagon spending bill, which typically is the last of the four Defense bills to move, then faces an uncertain future amid a budget fight between House Republicans and Senate Democrats.

The House passed its Defense Appropriations bill last week, after some dramatics over an amendment curbing the NSA’s surveillance activities. The House bill is expected to be funded at roughly the same topline as the Senate’s bill.

But the two chambers have a major dispute over the overall discretionary topline budget, as the House cut other agencies’ budgets in order to keep Defense spending at current levels while getting under the sequestration cap.

The Senate also has yet to bring the Defense authorization bill to the floor, though it could be considered as early as September.

FISA court reforms past due, lawmaker says: One House lawmaker says it is time for the White House to change the way it appoints judges to the federal court that monitors intelligence programs.

“There is a lot of momentum behind reforms to the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court that would provide for different methods of appointing the judges to the court," House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Monday.

The approach would have the White House nominate FISA court judges and have those nominees be subject to the Senate confirmation process, Schiff said in an interview with MSNBC.

Last week’s close House vote to curb the NSA’s surveillance activities has given privacy advocates in Congress new momentum to try to curtail the agency’s power.

The FISA legislation established the court as the final legal authority for U.S. intelligence agencies to conduct operations on American soil.

All 11 federal judges who sit on the FISA court were appointed by Chief Justice John Roberts and were named to the court without any measure of congressional oversight.

That said, Schiff's proposal would allow Congress more insight into the nominees' views on privacy and civil liberties rights under the Fourth Amendment versus national security priorities.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is reportedly floating a process in which the chief justice for each federal appeals court picks a judge to sit on the FISA court.


In Case You Missed It:

— Pentagon clears Playboy for sale on bases

— Insurgents hit US air base in Afghanistan

— Hagel presses for Egyptian political solution

— House bucks Obama with Iran sanctions vote

— CREW to DOJ: Investigate Clapper


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