The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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MONDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2016
PENTAGON, INTEL CHIEFS PUSH TO OUST NSA DIRECTOR

The heads of the Pentagon and the nation’s intelligence community have reportedly urged President Obama to fire the director of the National Security Agency, Adm. Michael Rogers. Reports suggest that Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made the recommendation last month, over concerns that Rogers has not moved quickly enough to combat the Islamic State and over the NSA’s repeated loss of closely guarded secrets.
 
President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly considering Rogers, who is responsible for surveillance and the growing arsenal of cyberweapons, for a top post in his administration, including director of national intelligence overseeing all 16 intelligence agencies. The Washington Post reports that, in a move apparently unprecedented for a military officer, Rogers traveled to New York to meet with Trump last week at Trump Tower without notifying his superiors. That caused consternation at senior levels of the administration.
 
Speaking at an international summit in Peru on Sunday, President Obama called Rogers “a patriot,” but declined to comment on reports he’d been asked to fire Rogers. Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, The Hill
PENCE WON’T RULE OUT TORTURE UNDER TRUMP ADMINISTRATION
Vice President-elect Mike Pence told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that President-elect Trump would not rule out the possibility of reinstating waterboarding as an interrogation technique during his administration. Sen. John McCain told a security conference on Saturday that the U.S. will not resume the practice of torturing prisoners for information, because it would violate U.S. and international law. After watching a clip of McCain’s comments, Pence said: “Well, I have great respect for Senator McCain. What I can tell you is that going forward... is that a President Donald Trump is going to focus on confronting and defeating radical Islamic terrorism as a threat to this country. We’re going to have a president again who will never say what we’ll never do.” Washington Post, New York Magazine
 
TRUMP’S CIA PICK RILES CIVIL LIBERTIES COMMUNITY
President-elect Donald Trump’s surprise decision Friday to nominate Rep. Mike Pompeo to run the CIA has alarmed privacy advocates. Pompeo, a retired Army officer and West Point and Harvard Law School graduate, has defended the CIA’s use of interrogation techniques that are widely condemned as torture; supported the U.S. government’s sweeping collection of Americans’ communications data; and said he wants to scrap the nuclear deal with Iran. That said, his nomination was cheered by congressional colleagues in both parties, as well as former CIA and NSA chief Michael Hayden, who has been highly critical of Trump’s lack of knowledge on national security matters. Reuters, Politico, Washington Post
Related:
Reuters: Mattis Favored for Trump Pentagon Chief
 
GUANTANAMO JUDGES ORDER PRISON’S MEDICAL OFFICER TO TESTIFY
The judges in both of Guantanamo’s death-penalty cases have ordered staff responsible for medical care at the prison’s clandestine Camp 7 prison to testify during December war court hearings. The first testimony should come the week of Dec. 5 in the 9/11 case. Judge James Pohl has ordered that the medical staff who are responsible for an assessment that said that captive Mustafa al Hawsawi, 48, should have no problems attending hearings must appear and testify about their account. Hawsawi received rectal reconstruction surgery in October and his attorneys say he is in excruciating pain. They link his rectal damage to his treatment in CIA custody. Miami Herald
 
ISIS sentencing: A 21-year-old Illinois man has been sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for trying to leave the U.S. to join ISIS in Syria. With time served since his arrest at a Chicago airport in 2014, Mohammed Hamzah Khan will be released late next year, with an additional 20 years of monitoring. His attorneys say he intends to enroll in college after his release. Associated Press
 
Rahimi pleads not guilty: Accused Chelsea bomber Ahmad Khan Rahimi pleaded not guilty last week to federal charges stemming from the September NYC attack that injured 30 people. New York Times
 
Iran nuclear deal: The Obama administration is considering new measures in its final months in office to strengthen the landmark nuclear agreement with Iran, including granting more licenses for American businesses and lifting additional U.S. sanctions. Wall Street Journal
 

OBAMA OFFERS BLEAK ASSESSMENT OF SITUATION IN SYRIA
On his last overseas trip while in office, President Obama said Sunday that chaos in Syria could persist for “quite some time” and that Russian and Iranian support for President Bashar al-Assad’s air campaign had emboldened the Syrian leader’s crackdown on rebels. “I am not optimistic about the short-term prospects in Syria,” Obama told reporters Sunday. Obama also spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin for several minutes on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima, Peru. Reuters, Washington Post
 
On Sunday, the Syrian government refused a U.N. proposal to grant autonomy to the rebel-held eastern districts of Aleppo to restore calm to the war-torn city. Wall Street Journal
 
Afghanistan: A suicide bomber killed at least 27 people at a Shia Muslim mosque in Kabul early Monday. BBC News, Reuters
 
Nigeria: Despite claims by the government that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated,” the militant group continues to clash with government forces and inflict substantial losses. Guardian
 

United Kingdom: Under a controversial anti-terrorism program, the National Health Service is referring hundreds of its patients and staff to the police over fears they could be vulnerable to radicalization. Independent
 
United Kingdom: The Financial Times offers a primer on the Investigatory Powers Bill, also known as the Snoopers’ Charter, which passed into law last week and will give the government wide-ranging surveillance powers, including the ability to intercept and hack into millions of ordinary citizens’ communications. Financial Times
TOP OP-EDS
An un-American registry: “If the president-elect’s camp is trying to scare the bejeezus out of America’s 3.3 million Muslims, it’s doing a fine job,” said the Washington Post in an editorial. “A registry for Muslims, even if masquerading as one for people from ‘risky’ countries, is no less odious than Newt Gingrich’s proposal this summer, after the terrorist attack in the French city of Nice, to submit all Muslims in the United States to a ‘test’ and deport those who believe in sharia law.”
 
ISIS -- less territory more dangerous: “With the liberation of Mosul likely in weeks or months, even ISIS seems to agree it will soon lose most or all of its territory in Iraq, and possibly Syria,” says Mehmet Nesip Ogun in the National Interest. “Unfortunately, this may just be the beginning—not the end—of the global threat posed by ISIS. How do we know this? The answer is readily available in the group’s publications.”
 
Will Trump bring back torture? “As Trump considers whether to bring back waterboarding and other forms of torture, he would do well to remember the lessons learned from the last time a Republican administration resorted to such techniques, and the ultimate repudiation of those methods by many within the government itself, including by senior Republicans,” writes Alex Whiting in JustSecurity.org.
EDITOR'S PICK
 
SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Renewed Debate Over Torture and National Security




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