OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: White House defends drone strikes

The Human Rights Watch report said two of the six Yemen strikes were “in clear violation of international humanitarian law — the laws of war — because they struck only civilians or used indiscriminate weapons.”

“The other four cases may have violated the laws of war because the individual attacked was not a lawful military target or the attack caused disproportionate civilian harm, determinations that require further investigation,” the report said.

Carney pointed back to President Obama’s May counterterrorism speech, in which he outlined the legal rationale for the drone program while saying it would be scaled back.

“Before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set,” Obama said in the speech at National Defense University.

Carney declined to talk about specific operations but said the White House would be “reviewing these reports carefully.” 

Lockheed posts higher profits despite sequester: Lockheed Martin’s bottom line has not been sequestered.

The largest U.S. defense firm reported Tuesday that its profits increased by 16 percent in the third quarter despite Pentagon budget cuts from sequestration.

Lockheed posted a third-quarter profit of $842 million, up from $727 million last year.

While the defense firm’s bottom line is solid, its sales are still down 4 percent compared to last year, at $11.3 billion.

The contractor, like other large defense firms, has weathered the sequester storm by slimming down in anticipation of smaller Pentagon budgets. Last week 600 workers were laid off, for instance.

Investors are clearly happy: Lockheed’s stock price has grown 47 percent since March 1, the day sequester took effect, closing at $130.05 on Tuesday.

Hagel says Afghan postwar plans on track: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that negotiations between the United States and Afghanistan over a post-war agreement are “on track.”

“We’re not behind schedule on this,” Hagel told reporters Tuesday.

Hagel is in Brussels this week attending a NATO meeting of defense ministers, including a meeting with his Afghan counterpart.

Questions still remain over whether Washington and Kabul can reach an agreement on a plan to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 in a training role.

A similar agreement was not reached in Iraq ahead of the U.S. withdrawal there in 2011.

While negotiations are focused on the end of 2014, U.S. military officials still have their eye on this coming winter, when insurgents are expected to take on an unusually aggressive campaign in Afghanistan, The New York Times reports.

“We’re not in the ‘non-fighting season’ now,” said senior a U.S. military officer told the Times. “We are actually transitioning to a winter campaign.”

Lawmakers taking military flight to Young funeral: Lawmakers are hitching a ride with the military at Andrews Air Force Base to attend the funeral of Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.).

Speaker John Boehner (R-Fla.) arranged for the military flight to allow members of Congress to attend Young’s funeral on Thursday, according to his spokesman.

The House is out of session in order for members to pay their respects to the 22-term congressman, who died Friday.

In February, Boehner suspended the use of military aircraft for CODELs due to sequestration, but that was waived for the funeral. 

In Case You Missed It:

— Kerry: US, Saudi Arabia remain ‘close

— Carney: Drone strikes precise, lawful

— Bills would rename VA hospital after Young

— Top Gitmo lawyer backs al-Libi civilian trial

— Groups: Drones kill more civilians that US admits

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