The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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TUESDAY, JANUARY 24, 2017
POMPEO CONFIRMED AS CIA CHIEF

Michael Pompeo, 53, was confirmed by the Senate as the next CIA director on Monday night by a vote of 66-32. He was later sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence. The confirmation came despite critics’ concerns that he has offered conflicting statements about whether he would expand government surveillance of Americans and bring back harsh interrogation techniques banned by President Obama. Washington Post, USA Today, Foreign Policy
Related:
CBS News: Sources Say Trump’s CIA Visit Made Relations with Intel Community Worse
PENTAGON DENIES RUSSIAN CLAIM OF JOINT U.S.-RUSSIA STRIKES
The Pentagon on Monday flatly denied a claim from the Russian Defense Ministry that it had received U.S. intelligence information in conducting airstrikes with unidentified members of the U.S.-led coalition. “The Department of Defense is not coordinating airstrikes with the Russian military in Syria,” said spokesman Eric Pahon, who added that he was not aware of any coalition member aiding Russia in this instance.

The White House, however, signaled it was open in principle to joint military strikes with Russia in Syria. The press secretary, Sean Spicer, said Trump would “work with any country that shares our interest in defeating ISIS,” saying the inclination applied to “Russia or anyone else.” Guardian, Daily Beast, Wall Street Journal

Guantanamo: The 9/11 trial judge decided Sunday to go forward with the case’s first pretrial hearing of the year despite the absence of one of the detainee’s defense attorneys, who had to be absent because of a fractured arm. Cheryl Bormann is so-called learned counsel for alleged Sept. 11 plot deputy Walid bin Attash, though bin Attash has tried for more than year to fire Bormann and co-counsel Michael Schwartz. The judge has refused his requests. Miami Herald

Flynn calls: The Washington Post reports that the FBI has reviewed intercepts of communications between the Russian ambassador to the U.S. and Michael Flynn — national security adviser to then-President-elect Trump — but has not found any evidence of wrongdoing or illicit ties to the Russian government. The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that counterintelligence agencies had investigated the calls. Washington Post
Related:
JustSecurity: White House Spokesman Changes the Story on Flynn’s Calls to Russian Ambassador

ISIS sentence: Daniel Seth Franey, a 34-year-old Washington state man who pleaded guilty to a gun charge and who prosecutors say expressed a desire to attack the police or U.S. military personnel out of allegiance to ISIS, has been sentenced to six years in prison. Associated Press
Related:
Los Angeles Times: Was This Former U.S. Soldier an Aspiring Terrorist, or Was He Set Up By the FBI?


U.S. BOMBINGS IN LIBYA CONNECTED TO BERLIN TRUCK ATTACK
The U.S. decision to strike alleged terrorist camps near the Libyan city of Sirte last week, killing some 80 suspected militants, came from intelligence indicating the possible presence of terrorists linked to the Berlin truck attack, according to reports. On Dec. 19, the Tunisian extremist Anis Amri drove a truck into a Christmas market in the German capital, killing 12. Police shot him dead four days later near Milan. In a news conference on Jan. 19, outgoing Defense Secretary Ash Carter said, “Importantly, these strikes were directed against some of ISIL’s external plotters, who were actively planning operations against our allies in Europe ... and may also have been connected with some attacks that have already occurred in Europe.” CNN, New York Daily News

ACRIMONY MARS FIRST DAY OF SYRIAN PEACE TALKS
Russian-backed peace talks aimed at ending the Syrian war brought rebels and the Syrian government face to face for the first time Monday, but discussions ended abruptly after the Syrian delegations almost immediately began arguing and refused to negotiate directly. Envoys pressed on for a second day on Tuesday, but expectations remain low. Rebel fighters appear to have rejected a plan for Iran to play a role in monitoring the ceasefire. Associated Press, New York Times, Guardian, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal


UK’S HEAD OF GCHQ STEPS DOWN
Robert Hannigan, head of Britain’s electronic intelligence agency, GCHQ, has announced his early resignation. Hannigan, 51, took  the job in November 2014 and had been expected to serve four years.  He said the decision was taken for personal reasons. Financial Times, Ars Technica
 
 
TOP OP-EDS
Why Trump’s feud with the CIA could make it stronger: “Of all the government agencies likely to benefit, in terms of money and power, under the new administration, the winner may well be the CIA,” writes Joshua Kurlantzick in the Washington Post. “Not the CIA’s leaders in Washington, to be sure. The incoming president seems eager to cut some of the agency’s senior spies and analysts. Instead, power would flow to operatives in the field — those who help arm allied foreign military forces, manage drone strikes, command small battles and reportedly kill enemy fighters in places from Somalia to Syria to West Africa to Afghanistan.”

Trump’s dangerous view of the CIA: Trump’s visit to the CIA on Saturday “was supposed to present him as a normal president with a healthy regard for national security,” writes William Saletan in Slate. “It did just the opposite. The speech exposed Trump as an incipient autocrat who would pervert the intelligence community and American foreign policy.”

What a Trump doctrine might look like: “Trump intends to recycle ‘America First’ for our uncertain modern times,” writes Ishaan Tharoor in the Washington Post. “Based on his own rhetoric, here's an early breakdown of what we think ‘America First’ will mean for the world.
EDITOR'S PICK

UPCOMING EVENTS
Revisiting Guantanamo Bay
Where We've Come, Where We're Headed
February 14, 2017
6:00pm - 7:30pm
 
SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief:  The American Shift Towards Bilateralism




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