The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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FRIDAY, JANUARY 13, 2017
The Morning Brief will return Tuesday, January 17. Have a nice holiday weekend.
TRUMP NOMINEES BREAK WITH HIM ON RUSSIA, SECURITY ISSUES
President-elect Donald Trump’s picks for top national security posts broke with him on a number of key issues on Thursday at their respective confirmation hearings, increasing uncertainty about what policies the incoming administration would pursue and setting the officials on a potential collision course with the future president. In one striking instance, retired Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s pick to lead the Defense Department, said Russia was the principal threat to the U.S. and expressed little hope that Washington would develop a substantive partnership with Moscow. He also said that the United States should abide by the Iran nuclear deal.

Rep. Michael Pompeo, Trump’s pick to lead the CIA, assured the Senate Intelligence Committee that he would “absolutely not” use brutal interrogation tactics on terrorism suspects in contravention of the law, even if ordered to do so by Trump, who campaigned on a promise to reinstate the use of such measures. Pompeo also said that he would be willing to continue to gather intelligence on the extent and nature of election-related hacking by Russia.

Earlier in the week, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, nominated to head the Department of Homeland Security, played down the significance of Trump’s promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, saying that “a physical barrier in and of itself will not do the job.” Washington Post, NBC News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal
Related:
Los Angeles Times: Trump’s Pick for CIA Chief Says He Wouldn’t Carry Out Orders to Torture
New Yorker: Mike Pompeo and the Question of Torture
REPORT: U.S. INTEL OFFICIALS TELL ISRAELIS NOT TO SHARE INFO WITH TRUMP
Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman reports in Israel’s Yediot Ahronot that U.S. intelligence officials have told their Israeli counterparts not to share sensitive, classified intelligence with Trump’s team, because it might be leaked to Russia and onward to Iran. According to Bergman, the American intelligence officials implied that Israel should “be careful” when transferring intelligence information to the White House and the National Security Council following Trump’s inauguration – at least until it is clear that Trump does not have inappropriate connections with Russia. Haaretz

NSA GETS MORE LATITUDE TO SHARE INTERCEPTED COMMUNICATIONS
The Obama administration, in its last days, has granted permission to the NSA to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections. The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the NSA may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, and means far more officials will be sorting through raw intelligence data. New York Times, Wired

JUSTICE DEPT. IG TO INVESTIGATE PRE-ELECTION COMEY LETTER
The inspector general of the Justice Department will launch an investigation of Director James Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s email server and the bureau’s actions in the run-up to the election, it was announced Thursday. The inspector general’s office said it was initiating the investigation in response to complaints from members of Congress and the public about actions by the FBI and the Justice Department during the campaign that could be seen as politically motivated. Washington Post, New York Times

Comey told Trump about unverified dossier: U.S. intelligence officials say that it was FBI Director James Comey who told Trump about the existence of unverified allegations about his Russia ties after last Friday’s intelligence briefing at Trump Tower. NBC News
Related:
Washington Post: The British Spy Behind the Trump Dossier Helped the FBI Bust FIFA

Guantanamo: The Economist takes a look at the prison at Guantanamo on the eve of Trump’s inauguration and writes that it “remains a stain on America’s reputation.” The Economist


SYRIA SAYS ISRAELI STRIKES HIT NEAR AIRPORT WEST OF DAMASCUS
Syria accused Israel on Thursday of firing rockets that hit near a major military airport west of Damascus, triggering a fire, and warned Israel of repercussions. Los Angeles Times


RUSSIA CALLS U.S. TROOP BUILDUP IN POLAND A ‘THREAT’
Russia has criticized U.S. troop deployments in Europe, saying that the deployment of thousands of US soldiers as part of continuous troop rotations to Eastern Europe is “a threat” to Russian security. CNN, BBC News
TOP OP-EDS
Why did Obama dawdle on Russia hacking? “I’d suggest four questions to clear the haze of allegation and recrimination that surrounds President-elect Donald Trump and our intelligence agencies a week before his inauguration,” writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post. One is why Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, “phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions?”

The looming national security threat that everyone keeps ignoring: “Cellphone networks, first-responder radio systems, computer and financial networks, even electrical grids — all depend on GPS,” writes Dana Goward in the Washington Post. Yet “GPS signals are weak and easy to disrupt. Illegal jamming devices are readily available on the Internet and are used by criminals, terrorists, even delivery drivers who don’t want to be tracked by their employers, to name just a few.”

The Iranian connection in the age of Trump: “We may be missing the point by speculating on what Trump will do to the Iran deal,” writes Rajan Menon in TomDispatch.com. “The real question is what he’ll do to Iran -- and just how disastrous the consequences of that may be.”
EDITOR'S PICK
 
SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Trump Administration and the Prospects for Libya




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