The Soufan Group Morning Brief


President-elect Donald Trump has offered the post of national security adviser to Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, potentially putting a retired intelligence officer who believes Islamist militancy poses an existential threat in one of the most powerful roles in shaping military and foreign policy, according to reports. Flynn is a retired three-star general and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency who established a close relationship with Trump while campaigning at his side this year. His behavior and a string of controversial statements about Islam, among other topics, have alarmed many of his former colleagues. Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times
Flynn, for instance, “stunned former colleagues when he traveled to Moscow last year to appear alongside Russian President Vladi­mir Putin at a lavish gala for the Kremlin-run propaganda channel RT, a trip Flynn admitted he was paid to make and defended by saying he saw no distinction between RT and U.S. news channels such as CNN,” reports the Washington Post.
CNN: Flynn’s Son and Chief of Staff Pushed Conspiracy Theories, Obscene Memes Online
Politico: How Michael Flynn Became America’s Angriest General
Attorney General: Trump has reportedly offered the job of attorney general to Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, according to reports early Tuesday. The pick is likely to be controversial. Nominated for a federal judgeship in 1986, Sessions was dogged by racist comments he was accused of making while serving as U.S. attorney in Alabama. New York Times, CBS, Bloomberg
Abe meeting: On Thursday night, Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been concerned by Trump’s negative campaign statements about Japan and his position against free trade. They reportedly spoke during a ­90-minute meeting in Trump’s New York apartment, which was attended by Flynn, Trump’s oldest daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner.
Bolton: John Bolton, rumored to be a top candidate for secretary of state in the Trump administration, told Breitbart radio Thursday that the U.S. should push for regime change in Iran, calling it the “only long-term solution.” Politico
Transition: The State Department and the Pentagon said late Thursday that they had finally been in touch with Trump’s transition team. New York Times, Reuters
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the House Select Committee on Intelligence Thursday that he had submitted his letter of resignation on Wednesday night, a development many of those who work with Clapper say was expected. “I submitted my letter of resignation last night, which felt pretty good,” Clapper, 75, told lawmakers. “I have 64 days left and I would have a hard time with my wife for anything past that.” Clapper, the country’s 4th’s DNI, took the helm in 2010, after previously serving 30 years in military intelligence positions and leading the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. The Hill, NPR, Politico
Wired: America’s Top Spy Talks Snowden Leaks and Our Ominous Future
New Guantanamo commander: The Navy announced Thursday it is sending a career Naval officer from the Pentagon’s Joint Staff to serve as the 17th commander of the prison operations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Rear Adm. Edward Cashman, 51, is due to assume command of the downsizing detention center early next year, replacing Rear Adm. Peter Clarke. Miami Herald
Middle East Eye: Trump May Have Trouble Keeping Gitmo Open
Trump protests: A Republican state lawmaker in Washington state has proposed a bill that would allow authorities to charge anti-Trump protesters with committing “economic terrorism.” The Hill

A top leader of Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, most widely known as the Nusra Front, Abdallah Muhammad al-Muhaysini, said in an interview with the New York Times that he  could not be more surprised to learn that the U.S. Treasury Department had designated him as a terrorist and ordered his funds frozen. The Times suggests that his willingness to be interviewed is most likely a reflection of how the Nusra Front is trying to buy itself some flexibility by publicly rebranding — even if no one in counterterrorism circles believes it is truly changing. New York Times
Syria: Inspectors charged with determining who is behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria will have another year to do their work after the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to give them a one-year extension of their mandate this week. Associated Press
Nigeria: Suicide bombers attacked a checkpoint and a bus station in Nigeria's northeastern city of Maiduguri on Friday, killing themselves and at least two police officers. It was the fifth attack in three weeks on the city that is the birthplace of Boko Haram. Associated Press

Abu Sayyaf surge in the Philippines: Abu Sayyaf, once written off as a terror threat, is gaining strength in the southern Philippines by chasing down high-value victims at sea and ransoming them off for millions of dollars. Wall Street Journal
Iran: In remarks this week, Iranian leaders did not appear concerned about the incoming Trump administration, and said Trump’s election would not have an effect on their policies. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran was “not worried” about a Trump presidency because it would be no different from previous U.S. administrations. Los Angeles Times
United Kingdom: The House of Lords has passed the Investigatory Powers Bill, a controversial proposal that puts huge spying powers in the hands of the government, putting the bill on its way to becoming law within weeks. The bill forces internet companies to keep records on their users for up to a year, and allows the government to force companies to hack into or break things they’ve sold so that users can be spied on. Independent, Engadget

Russian contacts with Trump team: A top Russian official said Thursday that Moscow has already initiated contacts with representatives of Trump’s team to discuss Syria. Voice of America
Trump will inherit the legacy of the torture years: “With Donald Trump’s inauguration looming, a justified terror that law-breaking policies could return, and that new, aggressive violations of civil liberties could be brought to life, now stalks the republic,” writes Karen Greenberg in The Atlantic. “With Trump’s cavalier dismissal of civil liberties—through statements like ‘torture works,’ among other things—he alludes to an even broader application of the policies that tarnished the Bush administration. While we don’t yet know whether Trump will fulfill his promises, we do know what happened the last time a president chose to sidestep the rule of law.”
The looming battle for Trump’s foreign policy: The general outlines of Trump’s foreign policy vision suggest that we should prepare for a sharp break from the past,” writes A. Trevor Thrall in the National Interest. “Trump’s success, however, will depend on whether he wins the tug-of-war with his foreign policy advisers. Most are likely to be wedded to the very strategies Trump attacked during his campaign. The reason is simple: there are simply no senior foreign policy hands – on either the Republican or Democratic bench – who support Trump’s mélange of unorthodox positions on international issues.”
Trump’s Syria strategy would be a disaster: “In remarks last week, Trump laid out for the first time since his election victory his determination to ramp up the fight against the Islamic State and to cease support to those fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime,” writes Charles Lister in Foreign Policy. “The main effect of the policies he describes would be to eliminate the moderate opposition to the Assad regime and to empower extremism.”
These cold war lions could teach Trump a thing or two: “Before President-elect Donald Trump brings in the bulldozers to “drain the swamp” in Washington, I hope he will consider the career achievements of two people who embody the nation’s tradition of bipartisan foreign policy leadership, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft,” writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post. “What these two shared was a vision of an outward-leaning United States that led a global network of security alliances and trading partnerships.”

New York Times/Facebook Live: Karen Greenberg on ISIS-related Arrests in the U.S.
New York Times: U.S. Torture: Reporting on a Legacy of Ruined Lives
Slate: Can Jared Kushner Really Get Top-Secret Intel?
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Turkey’s Domestic Security Concerns

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