The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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MONDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2016
TRUMP FUELS RIFT WITH CIA OVER RUSSIAN HACKING

President-elect Donald Trump escalated a fight with the U.S. intelligence community on Sunday by denouncing its findings of Russian meddling in the U.S. election, saying in a TV interview that the CIA’s assessment was “ridiculous.” Trump sought to link the CIA’s conclusion that Russia ordered hacks to boost Trump’s chances of winning the White House to Democrats’ embarrassment over losing the election. “I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse,” Mr. Trump said in the interview, on “Fox News Sunday.” “I don’t believe it.”
 
Trump’s statements set up an extraordinary rupture with the national security establishment just weeks before his inauguration. After Trump’s televised interview and his team’s statement on Friday that the CIA could not be trusted because it was the same organization that thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, members of the U.S. intelligence community began to push back. “It’s concerning that intelligence on Russian actions related to the U.S. election is being dismissed out of hand as false or politically partisan,” an anonymous U.S. intelligence official said in a written statement, according to the Wall Street Journal. “The inclination to ignore such intelligence and impugn the integrity of U.S. intelligence officials is contrary to all that is sacred to national security professionals who work day and night to protect this country.”
 
Lawmakers of both political parties vowed Sunday to investigate the extent of Russia’s meddling. “Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R., Ariz.) and the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, said in a statement. “This cannot become a partisan issue. The stakes are too high for our country.” Wall Street Journal, Washington Post
 
In the same televised interview on Fox News Sunday, Trump indicated that he would not take a daily presidential briefing, as his predecessors have, leaving the daily briefing instead to Vice President-elect Mike Pence. “You know, I’m, like, a smart person,” Trump said. “I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years.” Trump also said that he would not necessarily be bound by the “One China” policy, unless the U.S. could “make a deal” with Beijing, possibly over trade. New York Times, Washington Post
Related:
New York Times: CIA Judgment on Russia Built on Swell of Evidence
The Hill: U.S. Intelligence Split on Motive for Russian Election Interference
CNN: Gap on Russia Hacking Conclusions Between CIA, FBI
TALIBAN FIGHTER CONTESTS CONVICTION OVER ATTACK
A former Russian military officer convicted of leading a Taliban attack on U.S. forces in Afghanistan contested his conviction in federal court on Friday, arguing that he qualifies as a lawful combatant and is therefore exempt from criminal prosecution. Irek Hamidullin was a part of the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network when he was wounded and captured after the 2009 attack in Khost province. He was later transferred to the U.S. and sentenced to life in prison last year on charges including material support to terrorism. The extraordinary nature of the case was not lost on the judges on Friday. “There’s a lot of stake here,” remarked Judge Robert B. King of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Associated Press
 
Reporter suspended: A reporter for the Glenn Beck outlet The Blaze has been suspended after he fired shots at ISIS fighters while on assignment in Mosul, Iraq. The Hill
 
Guantanamo: The commander of the Guantanamo prison, Navy Rear Adm. Peter Clarke, said this weekend that he has not received any transfer orders as yet. The Pentagon announced last month that it was sending Navy Rear Adm. Edward Cashman to relieve Clarke. Clarke also declined to say whether he had received transfer orders for any of the 21 detainees who have been cleared for overseas release. Miami Herald
 

ISIS FIGHTERS RETAKE SYRIAN CITY OF PALMYRA
ISIS militants fought their way back into the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra on Saturday, nine months after they were driven out by Syrian government forces. The advance reverses a year of steady defeats for the group, and came three days after a big offensive launched from three directions in the surrounding desert. As many as 4,000 militants swarmed the city from various directions, according to reports, despite having suffered heavy losses from bombardments by the Syrian air force. The extremist group appeared to be taking advantage of the Syrian and Russian preoccupation with Aleppo in launching the offensive. CBS News, CNN, Washington Post
Related:
Wall Street Journal: A Banner Terrorist Weekend
 
U.S. TO SEND 200 MORE TROOPS TO SYRIA FOR ISIS FIGHT
The U.S. plans to send 200 additional troops to Syria, nearly doubling the Pentagon’s presence there, to help thousands of Kurdish and Arab fighters massing for an assault on ISIS’s stronghold of Raqqa, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Saturday at a security conference in Bahrain. New York Times
 
Pakistan: Locals in Pakistan’s Swat Valley fear that recent threats of extortion and a spate of targeted killings earlier this year mark an attempt by the Taliban to regain a foothold in the mountainous area they once ruled with an iron fist. Reuters
 

TWIN BLASTS IN ISTANBUL KILL DOZENS
Forty-four people were killed and more than 150 wounded in central Istanbul on Saturday, when a pair of bombings outside a soccer stadium exploded. Authorities said the bombs -- one of which was a car bomb and the other a suicide bomb in a nearby park -- appeared to target police officers who were guiding soccer fans out of the stadium. Of the 44 dead, 36 were police officers. An offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group claimed responsibility for the bombings. Reuters, New York Times, CNN
 
Egypt: A bomb during Sunday mass at a Coptic church in Cairo on Sunday killed at least 25 people and wounded many more, including women and children. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. NPR
 
Indonesia: Indonesian authorities said this weekend that they had foiled a plot by Islamist militants to use a female suicide bomber to attack the country’s presidential palace. Wall Street Journal
 
Netherlands: Acting on a tip, Dutch police arrested a 30-year-old terrorist suspect and seized an arsenal of weapons and paraphernalia including an ISIS flag in the port city of Rotterdam this weekend. Guardian
 
TOP OP-EDS
The torture report must be saved: “In President Obama’s final national security speech on Tuesday, he spoke about the importance of staying true to our values, of not returning to torture, and of transparency,” write former Sens. Carl Levin and Jay Rockefeller in the New York Times. “Now, in his remaining time in office, he has an opportunity to take action to advance these goals and to do something of great importance for the public’s understanding of our history. He has the ability to protect the Senate Intelligence Committee’s full 6,700-page report on torture from being lost, perhaps forever.”
 
How Trump could finally win the war on terror: “The truth is that the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and other jihadists do not hate us just because of our freedom,” writes Eli Lake in BloombergView.com. “Their objective is not to provoke an overreaction where America ceases to be a democracy. It's much more straightforward. These groups want to force the non-Muslim world -- what they call the Dar al-Harb, or the house of war -- to submit to Islamic rule. Jihadists seek conquest.”
 
Sorry, Mad Dog. Waterboarding works. “On the subject of questioning terrorists, I have some practical experience,” writes James Mitchell in the Wall Street Journal. “In 2002, I was contracted by the Central Intelligence Agency to help put together what became its enhanced-interrogation program. I spent much of the following six years at “black sites” around the world, trying to extract lifesaving information from some of the worst people on the planet….I would ask Gen. Mattis this: Imagine being captured by America’s enemies. Would you give up important secrets that could get fellow Americans captured or killed in exchange for a Michelob and a pack of Marlboros?”
 
I’m a former CIA officer and a Democrat. Here’s what Obama doesn’t get about terrorism: “Obama’s greatest blind spot in his fight against terrorism: He has been unwilling to acknowledge that Islamic ideology plays a role in what motivates terrorists to strike,” writes Bryan Dean Wright in the Los Angeles Times.
 
Trump’s coming war against Islam: “Donald Trump is about to lead the West into the third and darkest phase of its 15-year quest to neutralize the threat of Islamic extremism,” writes Jackson Diehl in the Washington Post. “The new president will embrace the approach that both Bush and Obama explicitly ruled out as morally wrong and practically counterproductive: civilizational conflict.”
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