The CNN Washington Bureau’s morning speed read of the top stories making news from around the country and the world. Click on the headlines for more.
CNN Security Clearance: Five things we learned from John Brennan's confirmation hearing
John Brennan came well-prepared Thursday and held his own during questioning at his Senate confirmation hearing to become the 21st director of the Central Intelligence Agency. It was in stark contrast to what was considered by many as an ill-prepared, lethargic performance by defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel at his confirmation hearing last week. Here are five things we learned from the hearing:
CNN: Levin to press forward with committee vote on Hagel, despite GOP opposition
Democratic Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin is making clear he is fed up with Republicans dragging their feet on Chuck Hagel's nomination for Defense Secretary, and now says he will schedule a vote soon, even over Republican opposition. "We can't not vote because there is dissatisfaction on the part of people because that could be endless," said Levin, D-Michigan. "We're going to schedule a vote as soon as we're ready to have a vote."
CNN: Senate panel gets classified drone document from Obama
The Senate Intelligence Committee received a classified document on Thursday that seeks to justify the administration's policy of targeting Americans overseas via drone attacks, a congressional aide told CNN.
CNN: Sources: Bipartisan senators making progress on gun background check legislation
A group of four senators working behind the scenes on a bipartisan bill to expand background checks on gun sales is making significant progress, according to sources in both parties familiar with their work. CNN is told the legislation they are working on would effectively require background checks on private gun purchases made with non-licensed gun dealers, according to sources in both parties. That would include closing the so-called gun show loophole.
CNN: Manhunt continues for ex-cop wanted in 3 deaths
Police continued the massive manhunt for Christopher Dorner early Friday in a California mountain town despite the bitter cold, the lack of tips and the chilling fact that the angry, ex-cop may also be looking for them. Dorner, authorities said, is bent on vengeance against LAPD officers he claims ruined his life by forcing him out of his dream job. Authorities believe he followed through on his threats early Thursday by shooting a Riverside, California, police officer and two others.
CNN: Monster blizzard set to slam Northeast
Stores across the Northeast were packed with shoppers as people prepared for what could be a historic blizzard set to arrive on Friday. In Reading, Massachusetts, residents were preparing for several feet of snow that could leave them stuck in their homes for days.
CNN: Panetta, Dempsey defend U.S. response to Benghazi attack
A testy exchange erupted on Thursday between Sen. John McCain and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey during the latter's testimony about September's deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
CNN: New hearings in Chandra Levy case add to mystery
It's a story that mesmerized the nation and one that many observers thought ended more than two years ago. The case of Chandra Levy, a 24-year-old Washington intern whose body was found in a Washington park in 2002, is back in court, but the actions of a D.C. Superior Court judge have given it a mysterious air.
CNN: Tunisia gripped by political uncertainty after killing
The wail of sirens and the firing of tear gas canisters echoed through the streets of the Tunisian capital, Tunis, for a second day Thursday, as the political turmoil triggered by the assassination of an opposition leader continued to spur unrest. Chokri Belaid was shot dead outside his home Wednesday morning, throwing the country into confusion and prompting angry protests.
CNN: Supreme leader: U.S. pressuring Iran on talks
The Iranian supreme leader Thursday accused the United States of "holding a gun" to Tehran's head to pressure it to hold direct talks. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Iranian media that the United States is seeking talks while making threats.
CNN: Myanmar says it will set up panel to look into political prisoner releases
The Myanmar government, which has freed hundreds of detainees in recent years, is setting up a committee to look into releasing political prisoners after long refusing to admit they were being held in the Southeast Asian country's jails.
CNN: ICC orders Libya to hand over Gadhafi's former spy chief
The International Criminal Court has called on Libya to immediately hand over former Gadhafi intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi for trial. The late Moammar Gadhafi, his son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi and his spy chief were all indicted by the ICC for war crimes during the civil war that led to the fall of the Gadhafi regime in 2011. Moammar Gadhafi was killed when he was captured after the war ended.
CNNMoney: Washington D.C. jobs: Ground zero for budget cuts
Washington, D.C., is ground zero for federal jobs. Which means, residents better prepare for layoffs and furloughs. Come March 1, if Congress fails to act, the so-called "sequestration" would slash $85 billion from federal budgets through Sept. 30, part of some $1.2 trillion dollars in cuts expected over the next decade.
CNN: Boeing can conduct Dreamliner test flights
After three weeks on the ground, Boeing's 787 Dreamliner soon will return to the skies - but only so engineers can test the plane's troubled electrical and battery systems, the Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday.
CNNMoney: IRS nabs identity thieves in nationwide crackdown
In its ongoing effort to prevent refund fraud, the IRS launched a nationwide crackdown on identity thieves last month. The "massive national sweep" nabbed 389 identity theft suspects in 32 states, and resulted in 734 enforcement actions - including 109 arrests and 189 indictments, the IRS announced Thursday.
In case you missed it…
Former Staff Sgt., Clint Romesha, will receive the medal of honor for leading troops in battle. CNN’s Jake Tapper reports.