The Note's Must-Reads for Thursday September 12, 2013

The Note's Must-Reads are a round-up of today's political headlines and stories from ABC News and the top U.S. newspapers. Posted Monday through Friday right here at

Compiled by ABC News' Carrie Halperin, Jayce Henderson, Amanda VanAllen and Will Cantine

WHITE HOUSE ON SYRIA ABC News' Nicki Rossoll: " White House: Obama 'Never Considered Cancelling' Syria Address" President Obama took to television last night to plead his case on Syria to the nation. But the speech the president delivered last night was, by all accounts, far different than the one he originally intended to give. Instead of solely pressing his case for military action, President Obama asked Congress to postpone its vote on authorizing the use of force against Syria's Assad regime and asked for more time to pursue a diplomatic solution. LINK

The Boston Globe's Matt Viser and Noah Bierman: " Obama argues for attack but says he will pursue deal" President Obama on Tuesday night outlined to a deeply skeptical American public why he believes the United States may need to launch military strikes against Syria, even as he expressed hope that he could find a diplomatic solution to eliminating the regime's chemical stockpile. After originally planning to use the speech to urge Congress to approve a resolution authorizing the use of force - a measure that increasingly seemed unlikely to pass - Obama instead seized upon a potentially fragile offer from Russia that Syria's chemical weapons be put under international control. LINK

The Washington Times' Guy Taylor: " U.S. can't prove Bashar Assad approved chemical attacks in Syria" U.S. intelligence has yet to uncover evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad directly ordered the chemical attacks last month on civilians in a suburb of Damascus, though the consensus inside U.S. agencies and Congress is that members of Mr. Assad's inner circle likely gave the command, officials tell The Washington Times. The gap in the intelligence has raised debate in some corners of the wider intelligence community about whether Mr. Assad has full control of his war-weary Army and their arsenal of chemical missiles, which most likely would be treasured by terrorist groups known to be operating in Syria, said officials, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing intelligence matters. LINK

SYRIA ABC News' Russell Goldman: " Disarming Syria Will Be Long, Difficult, Experts Say" Finding and securing Syria's chemical weapons stockpile amid a bloody civil war will be a daunting and lengthy task that will make bringing some of the world's most contentious regimes to the negotiating table look easy, experts say. Thousands of tons of deadly weapons are spread throughout Syria, hidden in underground bunkers, secured in clandestine government facilities and constantly being moved, according an unclassified CIA report. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki today called the effort to find and destroy Syria's chemical weapons "challenging." LINK

The Wall Street Journal: " Syrian Rebels Hurt by Delay" With a U.S. attack on Syria on hold, Western-backed rebels said they feared they had lost their best chance of promptly ousting President Bashar al-Assad and sidelining Islamist extremists. Rebels in Syria, already frustrated with delays in promised U.S. military aid, said on Wednesday that they gave up on the prospect of decisive foreign help after President Barack Obama asked Congress to delay a vote on striking Syria. LINK

The Hill's Julian Pecquet: " Syria: Diplomatic disaster or triumph?" A full-fledged debate emerged Wednesday over whether Syria has turned into a diplomatic disaster or triumph for President Obama. The White House portrayed a Russian proposal to have Syria turn over its chemical weapons as a master stroke made possible only by Obama's military threats. LINK

Shear and Michael R. Gordon: " U.S. And Russia Far Apart On Eve Of Talks Over Syria" Secretary of State John Kerry headed late Wednesday to Geneva with a team of arms control experts for intensive talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, to try to reach an agreement on how to secure and ultimately destroy Syria's chemical weapons. Mr. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, was taking his own arms control experts to the negotiations, holding out the possibility that there would be depth and detail to the talks. But sharp divisions remained between the two powers less than 24 hours after President Obama said he would hold off on an American military strike on Syria and gave a qualified endorsement to a Russian proposal for international monitors to take over the country's chemical arsenal. LINK

The Washington Post's David Nakamura: " Obama's Tough Task: Getting Americans To Care About Chemical Weapons Use In Syria" As President Obama has made the case for U.S. military intervention in Syria, his most starkly emotional appeal has focused on images of dead and wounded kids. He pointed to such imagery in his address to the nation Tuesday night, describing "a father clutching his dead children, imploring them to get up and walk" after an alleged sarin gas attack that killed more than 1,400 people, including hundreds of children.

N.S.A The Washington Post's Carol D. Leonning: " Judge Asked U.S. In 2009 To Prove Collection Of Phone Records Was Justified To Stop Terrorists" A federal judge overseeing U.S. surveillance programs raised doubts in the spring of 2009 about whether the massive, secret collection of Americans' daily phone calls was all that important to protecting the country from terrorists. Newly declassified records show that four years before the American public would learn that the National Security Agency had created a vast database of all its phone calls, a conservative jurist with detailed knowledge of the program was far from convinced that it led to the identification of terrorist plots. LINK

I MMIGRATION REFORM USA Today's Alan Gomez: " Congress' border efforts are bunk, say border sheriffs" It's monsoon season in southern Arizona, so Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels has to drive slowly along the hilly, rocky, muddy terrain that covers the 83-mile border his county shares with Mexico. He scans the horizon to see whether any immigrants or drug smugglers are approaching the 4-foot-high border fence. Glancing at the lights of a city in Mexico, he turns and says, "Seen any Border Patrol agents?" LINK

Bloomberg's Roxana Tiron: " Facebook's Zuckerberg to Meet With Top House Republicans" Facebook Inc. (FB) founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has been pushing for a revision of U.S. immigration law, plans to meet with the top four Republicans in the House next week in Washington. The meeting, scheduled for Sept. 19, will include House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, Whip Kevin McCarthy and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the head of the Republican conference, according to two leadership aides who weren't authorized to speak publicly. LINK

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