The Soufan Group Morning Brief

Counterterrorism experts are warning that the controversial immigration ban instituted Friday by President Trump is unlikely to reduce the terror threat, and may even make it worse. They cited the fact that no one has been killed in the U.S. in a terrorist attack by anyone who emigrated from or whose parents emigrated from the banned country list, which excludes Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where the founders of al Qaeda and many other jihadist groups have originated, as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan. They also cited the order’s effect on American Muslims, who are likely to feel resentment and anxiety. “In my opinion, this is just a huge mistake in terms of counterterrorism cooperation,” Daniel Benjamin, formerly the State Department’s top counterterrorism official, told the New York Times. “It sends an unmistakable message to the American Muslim community that they are facing discrimination and isolation,” Benjamin said.
New York Times

Jihadist groups have also celebrated the travel ban as a validation of their claim that the U.S. is at war with Islam, reports the Washington Post. “Comments posted to pro-Islamic State social media accounts predicted that President Trump’s executive order would persuade American Muslims to side with the extremists. One posting hailed the U.S. president as ‘the best caller to Islam,’ while others predicted that Trump would soon launch a new war in the Middle East.” Washington Post

The controversy has also thrust the administration into its first constitutional conflict, as five courts have intervened to block aspects of the order. But the White House and the Department of Homeland Security maintained this weekend that the rulings would not affect the overall implementation of the ban, and border agents were reportedly continuing to defy the orders of federal judges, by detaining travelers, sending them back on planes, and denying them access to lawyers. New York Times, Guardian, CNN, CBS News
JustSecurity: The Airport Cases: What Happened, and What’s Next?

Overall, Trump’s first week has worked to upend and redefine 15 years of U.S. counterterrorism policy. The Washington Post reports that “for Trump and his senior policy advisers, America is locked in a world war for its very survival, and the enemies in this wide-ranging battle are not only radical Islamist terrorists but a chaotic, violent and angry Muslim world.” Washington Post

Washington Post: Officials Worry that U.S. Counterterrorism Defenses Will Be Weakened by Trump’s Actions
Wall Street Journal: Countries Under U.S. Entry Ban Aren’t Main Sources of Terror Attacks
The Hill: McCain, Graham: Trump Order May Become Self-Inflicted Wound in Terrorism Fight
Newsweek: Spy Veterans Say Trump’s Ban Will Hurt Recruitment
Miami Herald: Veterans Angry that Trump Ban Includes Iraq Interpreters Who Risked Their Lives
New York Times: Trump’s Plan to Fight ISIS Includes Calling It By That Name
Time: Iraq Threatens Ban on U.S. Citizens
A U.S. serviceman was killed and six wounded during an operation against suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen on Saturday, in the first known commando mission authorized by President Trump. The operation took place in a remote location in south-central Yemen, according to reports, and reportedly resulted in the deaths of as many as 14 members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. CNN, New York Times, Wall Street Journal

Local reports said more than a dozen civilians were killed in the operation. Among those reportedly killed was the 8-year old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born al Qaeda leader who was based in Yemen and killed in a 2011 drone strike. Los Angeles Times

In an executive order signed Saturday, President Trump ordered the reorganization of the National Security Council, elevating his chief strategist Steve Bannon to a full seat on the principals committee and demoting the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Those officials will now attend only when the council is considering issues in their direct areas of responsibilities. The move has alarmed many in the Washington establishment, who say the elevation of a political adviser, to a status alongside the secretaries of state and defense, and over the president’s top military and intelligence advisers, is unprecedented. New York Times, Newsweek, NPR, Washington Post
Washington Post Op-Ed: The Danger of Steve Bannon on the National Security Council (By David Rothkopf)

Twitter publishes FBI national security letters: Twitter has released two national security letters, sent to the company in 2015 and 2016, requesting information on two accounts. The social media network said the gag order concerning the letters had been lifted. Engadget, The Verge

Hackers hit DC cameras: Hackers infected 70 percent of storage devices that record data from D.C. police surveillance cameras with ransomware eight days before President Trump’s inauguration, forcing major citywide reinstallation efforts, according to the D.C. police. The city said it paid no ransom and resolved the problem by taking the devices offline, removing all software and restarting the system at each site. Washington Post

A shooting at a Quebec City mosque on Sunday during evening prayers left six people dead and eight others injured, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the shooting a “terrorist attack.” Police said two suspects were arrested and they don't believe there are further suspected perpetrators at large. The identities of the suspects were not released and a motive has not been been established. In June, the mosque in question had a pig’s head left outside the building. Though mosques have been the site of numerous hate crimes in recent years, the attack appears to be the first mass shooting at an Islamic house of worship in North America. Macleans, USA Today, Washington Post

A suspected Indonesian militant was killed and one of Southeast Asia’s top terror suspects was wounded this weekend as the Philippines launched airstrikes using South Korean-made jet fighters for the first time in combat. The body of the suspected militant—known by his nom de guerre Mohisen—was reportedly recovered, along with three dead Filipino followers of militant leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was seriously wounded in the assault. Wall Street Journal

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone Saturday and agreed to establish “real coordination” to “crush ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria,” the Kremlin said. The White House put out a short statement later on the one-hour phone call, saying it “ranged in topics from mutual cooperation in defeating ISIS to efforts in working together to achieve more peace throughout the world including Syria.” USA Today, Reuters

Mystery death of ex-KGB chief: A former KGB chief suspected of helping British spy Christopher Steele compile his lurid dossier on President Donald Trump was found dead late last month in the back of his car in Moscow, according to reports. The Dec. 26 death of Oleg Erovinkin has set off a firestorm of speculation in Russian media and British tabloids about possible Kremlin involvement and a cover-up. Telegraph, Kansas City-Star
Malevolence tempered by incompetence: “The malevolence of President Trump’s Executive Order on visas and refugees is mitigated chiefly—and perhaps only—by the astonishing incompetence of its drafting and construction,” writes Benjamin Wittes in Lawfare.

Trump’s refugee bonfire: “Trump campaigned on a promise of ‘extreme vetting’ for refugees from countries with a history of terrorism, and his focus on protecting Americans has popular support,” writes the Wall Street Journal editorial page. “But his refugee ban is so blunderbuss and broad, and so poorly explained and prepared for, that it has produced confusion and fear at airports, an immediate legal defeat, and political fury at home and abroad. Governing is more complicated than a campaign rally.”

Separating hysteria from fact: “Given the terrible recent track record of completed and attempted terror attacks by Muslim immigrants, it’s clear that our current approach is inadequate to control the threat,” writes David French in National Review. “Unless we want to simply accept Muslim immigrant terror as a fact of American life, a short-term ban on entry from problematic countries combined with a systematic review of our security procedures is both reasonable and prudent.”

Trump disrespects second wall at the CIA: “It was a deep irony that Trump chose the CIA lobby, with its quote from John’s Gospel, as the location of his first official act as president,” writes Michael Morell in the Washington Post. “It is an irony because, as has become clear, the president seems to shun the truth and he alters it with alarming frequency. In speaking to the American people, he misrepresents the facts almost daily.”

Revisiting Guantanamo Bay
Where We've Come, Where We're Headed
February 14, 2017
6:00pm - 7:30pm
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief.

Center on National Security
Fordham University School of Law
150 W. 62nd St. 7th Floor
New York, NY 10023 US
Copyright © 2016 Center on National Security, All rights reserved.