The Soufan Group Morning Brief


President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly working with top advisers to restructure and pare back the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “The move is prompted by his belief that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has become bloated and politicized,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Trump’s advisers are also said to be working on a plan to restructure the CIA, cutting back on staffing at its Virginia headquarters and pushing more people out into field posts around the world.

“The view from the Trump team is the intelligence world has become completely politicized,” said the individual, who is close to the Trump transition. “They all need to be slimmed down. The focus will be on restructuring the agencies and how they interact.”

Among those helping with the plan is Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who had served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency until he was pushed out by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and others in 2014. Also involved in the planning is Rep. Mike Pompeo (R- Kan.), whom Trump has nominated as CIA director.
Wall Street Journal
NBC News: Democrats Now Give the CIA Higher Marks Than Republicans Do
On Wednesday, the president-elect appeared to publicly side with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange over U.S. intelligence agencies regarding Russian hacking. Assange appeared on Fox News on Tuesday night with Sean Hannity, one of Trump’s biggest media boosters, to declare again that the Russians were not the source of the purloined emails that WikiLeaks released from the DNC and John Podesta’s email account. Trump picked up on Assange’s claim on Twitter on Wednesday morning, writing: “Julian Assange said ‘a 14-year-old could have hacked Podesta’—why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!” In a follow-up tweet, Trump noted that Assange had called American news media coverage “very dishonest” and added, “More dishonest than anyone knows.” New York Times

In Politico, former CIA counterterrorism analyst Aki Peretz writes: “I can only imagine how my former colleagues are feeling now. Never in our history has a U.S. president openly chosen to trust the word of a foreign adversary ahead of his own analysts.” Politico
Washington Post: How Assange Evolved from Pariah to Paragon
Washington Post: Fact-checking Assange’s Claim that There Was No Russian Involvement in the Wikileaks Emails

First congressional hearing on Russian hacking: Top U.S. intelligence officials are set to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday morning in the first public hearing about Russian interference in the 2016 election. James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, and Marcel Lettre, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, are expected explain in more detail why U.S. intelligence agencies concluded Russia is to blame for election-related hacking and email leaks. Wall Street Journal
Politico: McCain and Graham vs. Trump and Putin
Washington Post: Trump’s Criticism of Intelligence on Russia Is Dividing Hill GOP

Four detainees at Guantanamo who have been cleared for release are expected to be transferred to Saudi Arabia sometime Thursday, according to reports. Several U.S. officials spoke to media outlets on the condition of anonymity on Wednesday and stated that the transfers would take place within the next 24 hours. The identities of the detainees were not released. Reuters, Fox News

Abduction in Afghanistan? The wife of Paul Overby, a 74-year-old Massachusetts man who has been missing for two years in Afghanistan, said for the first time this week that he was abducted while trying to interview the head of the Haqqani network. New York Times

Fight against ISIS increases munitions demand: U.S. defense firms are racing to keep up with the demand for precision-guided missiles and bombs as the U.S. military steps up its air fight against ISIS. Wall Street Journal

ISIS suspect: Lionel Williams, a 26-year-old Virginia man arrested last month, has been charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS. Virginian-Pilot

For nearly two weeks, Damascus and its surrounding towns have been afflicted by a water crisis that has left taps dry, caused long lines at wells, and forced people to stretch whatever thin resources they can find, reports the New York Times. The crisis is a symptom of the war, because most of the water for the capital, which is controlled by the government of President Bashar al-Assad, comes from the Barada Valley north of the city, which is controlled by rebels who want to oust Assad. New York Times
Washington Post: A Once-Beautiful Valley in Syria Is Now a Microcosm of the Country’s War

Iraq: An ISIS car bomb in Baghdad killed six and wounded 15 others on Thursday. Reuters

Turkey: Turkish military officials said Thursday that strikes on ISIS targets in Syria over the past 24 hours have killed 38 militants. Reuters
New York Times: In Turkey, U.S. Hand Is Seen in Nearly Every Crisis

Philippines: The leader of an ISIS-linked militant group has been killed in a shootout with police. Officials said Jaafar Maguid, leader of a small armed group called Ansar al-Khilafa, died in a shootout in Kiamba, in the southern province of Sarangani. His group is believed to be behind a string of attacks including a grenade blast that killed a police officer. Wall Street Journal

United Kingdom: An Algerian terror suspect who allegedly had ties to Osama bin Laden and is known only as “G” in the press has won a 21-year-legal battle against the British government to live in the UK. Telegraph, Independent
How the USSR’s effort to destroy Islam created a generation of radicals: “In the early 1920s, the Soviet government effectively banned Islam in Central Asia,” writes Amanda Erickson in the Washington Post. “Rather than stamp out Islam, though, efforts to stifle Islam only radicalized believers. It's a trend that's played out again and again over the past century, and one that could have dire consequences in the war on terror.”

All roads lead to Aleppo: “The fighting and destruction will go on elsewhere in Syria,” writes Jon Lee Anderson in “Aleppo’s fall is a momentous milestone, and probably marks the beginning of the end for Syria’s myriad rebel factions, five and a half years after their uprising began.”

Is a two-state solution dead? “Secretary of State John Kerry’s Israel speech may not have been intended as a eulogy for the two-state solution,” writes Aaron David Miller in the Wall Street Journal. “But in laying out the formidable obstacles that stand in the way of a two-state solution – the Israeli settlements enterprise, bad Palestinian behavior, and principles for a deal which neither side is remotely close to accepting – the speech made clear how long the odds actually are against its success.”

Five (overlooked) national security decision points for Trump: From taking a hard line against Iran to the fate of Edward Snowden, here are the top five overlooked national security issues that will face Trump when he takes office, writes Ryan Goodman in JustSecurity.

Is the United States Prepared? Zero Days, Cyber Wars, and the Russian Hack
Thursday, January 5, 2017 at 6pm
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Islamic State in 2017

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