The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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TUESDAY, JANUARY 31, 2017
TRUMP FIRES ACTING ATTY. GEN. OVER IMMIGRATION BAN

President Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday evening, hours after she announced publicly that she had ordered Justice Department lawyers not to defend his immigration order temporarily banning entry to citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from around the world. In a press release, the White House said Yates had “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order.” It also said she was an Obama appointee “who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.” She was replaced by Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Boente said he would enforce the president’s directive until he was replaced by Trump’s attorney general nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions. Boente is authorized to sign Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants.

Yates, who had served as deputy attorney general under President Barack Obama, was like other government officials caught by surprise by the executive order last Friday. In a letter to DOJ attorneys on Monday, she said her determination in deciding not to defend the order included questions not only about the order’s lawfulness, but also whether it was a “wise or just” policy. Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times

Trump’s immigration order continues to garner sharp criticism at home and abroad. More than 1 million people took to the streets in Great Britain on Monday, calling on their government to cancel Trump’s planned state visit to the UK later this year. And in Iraq, parliament approved a “reciprocity measure” that could temporarily ban Americans from entering Iraq. CBS News

MORE COVERAGE:
Lawfare: What Yates Should Have Done
Wall Street Journal: Who Is Dana Boente, Acting Attorney General?
Politico: Hill Staffers Secretly Worked on Trump’s Immigration Order
Washington Post: Obama, in Rare Move for Ex-President, Breaks Silence to Criticize Trump on Immigration
Politico: Pentagon Recommending Exceptions to Travel Ban for Iraqis Who Helped U.S.
Wall Street Journal: Homeland Security Chief and White House Clash

ACCUSED MOSQUE SHOOTER IN CANADA KNOWN FOR FAR-RIGHT VIEWS
A 27-year-old French Canadian university student charged with killing six Muslim men during evening prayers at a mosque in Quebec City on Sunday was known for far-right, nationalist views and his support of the French rightist party led by Marine Le Pen, according to reports. Alexandre Bissonnette has been charged with six counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder; despite earlier reports that there was a second shooter, police believe Bissonnette may have acted alone. He was described by neighbors and acquaintances as a socially awkward introvert who had recently adopted virulent political views. Globe and Mail, NBC News, Toronto Star, Washington Post
Related:
New York Times: Killings at Quebec City Mosque Force Canadians to Confront a Strain of Intolerance
REPORT: U.S. MILITARY BOTCHES ONLINE FIGHT AGAINST ISIS
A multi-million dollar initiative to counter ISIS recruiters online and sway would-be recruits from joining the terrorist group is being touted as an ongoing success by the Pentagon. But according to an Associated Press investigation, “the management behind the program is so beset with incompetence, cronyism and flawed data that multiple people with direct knowledge of the program say it’s having little impact.”

“Several current and former WebOps employees cited multiple examples of civilian Arabic specialists who have little experience in counter-propaganda, cannot speak Arabic fluently and have so little understanding of Islam they are no match for the Islamic State online recruiters.” Associated Press

WHITE HOUSE: STATE DEPT. OFFICIALS SHOULD LEAVE IF THEY DON’T AGREE WITH TRUMP’S AGENDA
Amid reports that a dissent cable was circulating the State Department criticizing President Trump’s recent immigration executive order, Press Secretary Sean Spicer warned State Department officials on Monday that they should leave their jobs if they did not agree with President Trump’s agenda. “These career bureaucrats have a problem with it?” Spicer told reporters. “They should either get with the program or they can go.” New York Times

Yemen raid: President Trump’s first clandestine strike in Yemen over the weekend, which resulted in the death of a member of SEAL Team 6, was intended to capture valuable intelligence, specifically computer equipment, according to NBC News. But “almost everything went wrong,” an unnamed U.S. official said. Also killed was 8-year-old girl, a U.S. citizen, who was the daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, NBC News
Related:
The Hill: Pentagon IDs Navy SEAL Killed in Yemen Raid  

Trump adds CIA Director to NSC: Under criticism for changes he made to the National Security Council over the weekend, President Trump will amend his recent executive action and add the CIA Director to the National Security Council. Wall Street Journal

Torture suit moves forward: On Friday, a federal judge ruled that a case brought by former detainees can move forward against two American psychologists who helped devise the CIA’s now-defunct interrogation program, which included tactics widely considered to be torture. New York Times

ISIS guilty plea: A Pennsylvania man accused of aiding ISIS pleaded guilty Monday to two federal felony counts that carry combined penalties of up to 25 years in prison. Jalil Aziz, 20, was accused of using Twitter and encrypted messaging platforms to spread ISIS propaganda. Penn Live

El-Gammal convicted: Ahmed Mohammed el-Gammal, an Arizona man accused of helped a college student from New York City join ISIS, was convicted Monday after a three-week jury trial and faces up to 55 years in prison. New York Times, New York Daily News


PAKISTAN PLACES MILITANT TIED TO MUMBAI ATTACKS UNDER HOUSE ARREST
Militant leader Hafiz Muhammad Saeed has lived in the open for years in Pakistan despite a $10 million bounty on his head for his alleged role orchestrating the 2008 Mumbai attacks. But on Monday, the Pakistani government placed Saeed under house arrest in Lahore, reportedly as a result of increased pressure from the United States. New York Times, Time

SYRIAN FORCES RECLAIM DAMASCUS WATER SOURCE FROM REBELS
Syrian government forces have retaken the contested Barada Valley area north of Damascus, where the capital’s main source of water originates. The victory appears likely to end a war-induced shortage that has left millions of inhabitants thirsty and dirty for six weeks. New York Times, BBC News
Related:
CFR: 15 Questions Trump Should Answer about His Syrian Safe Zones
Washington Post: ‘Trump Is Right in a Way’: These Syrian Christians in Pa. Back the Travel Ban

ISIS executioner killed: One of ISIS’s top executioners, Abu Sayyaf, was reportedly gunned down in an ambush near Mosul, according to reports. New York Post


Iran conducts missile test: The Iranian government carried out a medium-range ballistic missile test Sunday that may be a violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution. Los Angeles Times, CNN
 
TOP OP-EDS
Making ISIS great again: “America is less safe today than last Friday,” writes Robert Pape in the Boston Globe. “The reason is President Donald Trump’s ban on citizens and refugees from seven predominately Muslim countries. This ban gives unprecedented life to the worst jihadist narrative — the idea that the West has declared war on Muslims. This narrative is not just talk. It is the principal catalyst for ISIS and other radical Islamic terrorist groups’ ability to carry out attacks that kill Americans.”

History shows that visa bans make us less secure: “The last time the U.S. used security fears to steer its immigration policies, they not only chased away one of its top scientific minds, but also helped jumpstart a nuclear missile complex that now targets the United States,” writes P.W. Singer in Popular Science.

The Obama administration did nothing similar to Trump’s travel ban: There were “ at least five enormous differences between the executive order the White House issued on Friday and what the Obama administration did” in 2011 with respect to Iraqi visas, said Jon Finer in Foreign Policy.

To defeat ISIS, arm the Syrian Kurds: “The only fighters capable of seizing Raqqa belong to our most effective partner on the ground — the Syrian Democratic Forces, a mixture of Arabs and Kurds dominated by the People’s Protection Units, a Kurdish militia,” writes Antony Blinken in the New York Times.

America likes Trump’s agenda, including the immigration pivot: “In its hysteria-driven coverage of President Trump’s immigration order, the mainstream media forgot to mention this: most of the country supports it,” writes Liz Peek in FoxNews.com. “A recent Quinnipiac poll indicated that 48 percent of the nation approves of ‘suspending immigration from terror prone regions, even if it means turning away refugees,’ while 42 percent oppose such a measure.”
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: Murders in a Quebec Mosque




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