The Soufan Group Morning Brief



Following through on a campaign pledge, President Trump has directed the Department of Homeland Security to enforce federal immigration laws much more aggressively. Two memos released by DHS call for, among other things, publicizing crimes by undocumented immigrants; stripping such immigrants of privacy protections; enlisting local police officers as enforcers; building new detention facilities; discouraging asylum seekers; and ramping up deportations.


Analysts say that many of the policies outlined would require new funding from Congress. The memos call also for 5,000 more Border Patrol agents, 10,000 more immigration enforcement officers, and a border wall with Mexico estimated to cost more than $21 billion.

The memos say that any unauthorized immigrant who has been charged or convicted of any crime--and even those suspected of a crime--is to be an enforcement priority. Immigration raids this month targeted criminals but also nabbed undocumented people who would have likely been given reprieve by the Obama administration. Deportations reached a record high of 434,000 in 2013, but pressure from immigration advocates prompted President Obama to focus enforcement on hardened criminals. The number of people deported in 2015 was just over 333,000, the lowest number since 2007, according to federal data. (WSJ, NYT, Guardian, WaPo)



President Trump’s selection of H. R. McMaster, an Army general, as his national security adviser creates a powerful trio of senior officers who served in Iraq, teaming him up with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and DHS Secretary John Kelly, both retired Marine generals. Analysts note that each witnessed up close what a losing war looked like, especially during the 2004-2006 time frame in Iraq, and have learned lessons about how to avoid repeating strategic mistakes. (NYT)



Wall Street Journal: Trump May Reconsider Bannon’s NSC Role

Politico: McMaster Needs Senate Approval to Keep Stars

Washington Post: A Soldier Who Can Say ‘No’

CNN: Trump's Brilliant Choice


More may be needed to fight ISIS: Gen. Joseph L. Votel, head of the U.S. Central Command, said more U.S. troops may be needed in Syria to speed the campaign against ISIS. Meanwhile, the deadline for Sec. Mattis to submit to Trump a “preliminary plan” to defeat the ISIS is fast approaching. (NYT)


Aid to Syrian rebels on hold: CIA-coordinated military aid for rebels in northwest Syria has been frozen since they came under a major Islamist attack last month. Several said they believed the cutoff was to prevent arms and cash falling into the jihadists’ hands, and said they expected the aid to resume. (Reuters)


U.S.-EU relations: Before Vice President Pence visited Brussels recently to reassure EU allies, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon reportedly signalled to Germany's ambassador to Washington that he viewed the EU as a flawed organization and favored conducting relations on a bilateral basis. (Reuters)

Assault weapons ban: A federal appeals court in Virginia upheld a ban on military-style rifles and large-capacity magazines in Maryland, ruling that such items “are not protected by the Second Amendment.” The 9-4 ruling is almost certain to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. (WSJ)



Beijing is close to completing work on almost two dozen structures on artificial islands in the South China Sea, which U.S. officials say may be designed to house long-range surface-to-air missiles. The development is likely to raise questions about whether and how the Trump administration will respond, given its tough rhetoric on China. (Reuters)


ISIS bomber: Jamal al-Harith, a 50-year-old Muslim convert from the UK, and former Guantanamo detainee, has been identified by family as the individual who carried out a suicide attack near Mosul. (Guardian)

Gaza: Residents of the Palestinian enclave feel increasingly distant from their kin in the West Bank, analysts say. The future of Gaza, which is governed by Hamas, is especially cloudy given  the Trump administration’s apparent ambivalence about a Palestinian state. (NYT)

Portugal: Sabrina de Sousa, a former CIA officer living in Portugal, lost her final appeal to avoid prison in Italy for her part in a U.S. program that kidnapped suspected terrorists and flew them to other countries for interrogation. Sousa was one of 26 Americans convicted in absentia by Italian courts for the 2003 abduction of an Egyptian imam on a Milan street. (WSJ)

Sweden: Days after President Trump unleashed a vague critique of Sweden’s immigration policies, residents in a northwestern suburb of Stockholm predominantly inhabited by immigrants clashed with police officers. Trump’s comments were greeted with anger in Sweden, in what his critics say is the latest sign that the U.S. president is antagonizing friendly countries. (NYT)


Immigration Memos Ignore Reality: “A nation’s laws are not handed down from on high – they are the creation of flawed human beings working through flawed political processes. Successful political leaders understand this reality, and try to work within its limitations. Those who ignore it risk creating damaging social conflict. And that is what the Trump administration is risking with its new approach to enforcing U.S. immigration laws,” writes Edward Alden for the Council on Foreign Relations.


Can McMaster Stabilize Trump’s Team? “General McMaster may well establish himself, with General Mattis, as an effective stabilizing force within the administration. Or he could find himself sidelined, or even ousted, if he brings too many inconvenient truths to the table. The drama would make for an entertaining piece of political theater — if it didn’t involve the risk of a strategic disaster,” writes Jonathan Stevenson in the New York Times.


Supreme Court Shots Fired: “The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a case that could decide whether foreign nationals outside the U.S. are entitled to constitutional protections. Such a ruling would unleash fresh opportunities for lawsuits against everything from drone strikes to interrogation, and the good news is that the Justices seemed skeptical of upending decades of settled law,” write editors of the Wall Street Journal.

The Role of White House Counsel: “The President is the ‘client,’ but so are the individual members of the White House staff, and the obligation extends to the public. It is naturally hard, and some imagine it to be impossible, for the Counsel to the President to separate obligations to the institution from the demands of loyal service to the flesh-and-blood individual holding the office,” writes Bob Bauer on the Lawfare blog.


Frontline: Out of Gitmo

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Death of the Blind Sheikh

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