The Soufan Group Morning Brief




The high-stakes legal fight over President Trump’s temporary immigration ban is moving to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The San Francisco-based court must decide whether to lift a nationwide injunction imposed on the executive order by a Seattle federal court last Friday. The attorneys general for Washington and Minnesota, who brought this case against the government, say the injunction should remain in place because they are likely to succeed in their constitutional challenge. The Justice Department counters that the injunction should be lifted for now while the legal process continues. The three-judge panel is expected to issue a ruling as early as tomorrow.


Several former senior U.S. officials, including former Secretaries of State John Kerry and Madeleine Albright, signed onto a declaration supporting the states’ lawsuit. “We view the (Executive) Order as one that ultimately undermines the national security of the United States, rather than making us safer,” they wrote. (CNN, WaPo, Lawfare)



Wall Street Journal: Why the Seattle Case Looms Above Other Immigration Challenges

New York Times: Immigration Clash Portends Years of Legal Battles

Financial Times: Trump Voters Keep Faith in America’s Arab Heartland

Politico: Travel Ban Could Endanger U.S. Intel Gathering

Reuters: Top Tech Firms File Brief Against Trump


The Trump administration looks to have backed away from a plan to revisit the operation of overseas “black site” prisons, where the CIA once tortured terrorism suspects. Late last week, the White House circulated to national security staff a revised version of an executive order on detention that deleted language considering a revival of the CIA prisons. However, the draft order retains other parts of the original that focus on increasing the use of the Guantanamo Bay prison. (NYT, WaPo)


Pentagon fails to report many airstrikes: The U.S. military has failed to disclose potentially thousands of lethal airstrikes conducted over several years in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, raising serious concerns about the accuracy of everything from costs to casualty counts. (Military Times)


Trump wants to upend Russia-Iran relations: The White House is reportedly exploring ways to break Russia’s military and diplomatic alliance with Iran in an effort to end the Syrian conflict and bolster the fight against Islamic State. (WSJ)


Mattis says diplomacy should be focus in SCS: Visiting Tokyo over the weekend, Defense Secretary Mattis blamed China for "shredding the trust of nations in the region", but he played down any need for U.S. military maneuvers in the South China Sea and instead called for open lines of communication. (Reuters)

Trump to meet NATO leaders: The president agreed to meet alliance leaders in Europe in May. In an interview broadcast ahead of the Super Bowl, Trump seemed to dismiss concern from interviewer Bill O'Reilly that “Putin's a killer.” (Reuters)


Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula pressed its followers to retaliate for the recent U.S. raid in Yemen that killed senior figures in the group. AQAP has also begun attacking villages south of where the U.S. raid took place, according to local residents. The militant group has tried to capitalize on the country’s chaos to gain territory but has lost significant ground over the past year, analysts say. (WSJ)


NATO trains soldiers in Iraq: The security alliance has begun its training effort in Iraq, as it looks to step up its assistance to forces fighting the Islamic State. The United States has pressed NATO to get more involved, requesting its early-warning planes be used in the air war over Syria. (WSJ)

Al-Shabaab executes spies: Residents say that al-Shabaab militants publicly beheaded four men suspected of spying for Somalia’s Western-backed government, the United States, and neighboring Kenya. (Reuters)

Turkey conducts massive counterterrorism sweep: Authorities arrested several hundred people suspected of being Islamic State operatives in a series of coordinated raids. The country has suffered numerous attacks linked to the Islamic State since 2014, most recently in January when a fighter killed 39 people at an Istanbul nightclub. (NYT)


Louvre attacker refuses to talk: The suspected Louvre Museum attacker refused to talk to French police during two rounds of questioning. The man, who is believed to be an Egyptian national named Abdallah El-Hamahmy, was shot in the stomach after lunging at soldiers with machetes on Friday. (AFP)

Most Britons See Trump as Threat: Almost two-thirds of the British public believe Donald Trump is a threat to international stability, and a clear majority believe he will be a bad president, according to a poll conducted during his second week in office. (Guardian)

Will the Supreme Court Stand Up to Trump?: “President Trump’s hyperactive first days in office, along with the evidence that the two Republican-controlled houses of Congress will do the president’s bidding with few questions asked, leaves the judiciary as the only branch of government standing between the new administration and constitutional chaos,” writes Linda Greenhouse in the New York Times.

Will This Man Take Down Donald Trump?: “[Eric] Schneiderman has emerged as perhaps the lefty media’s favorite lawyer, tangling with mortgage bankers, ExxonMobil, and national retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch, J Crew and The Gap. And on November 9, he was handed what might become his largest target when Donald Trump, his longtime nemesis, was elected president,” writes David Freedlander in Politico.

Trump’s Restraining Order: “Mr. Trump’s rants against the judiciary are offensive to the rule of law, and perhaps also to his own case,” write editors of the Wall Street Journal. “Even if the law is on his side, Mr. Trump and aides Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller created this mess with an executive order that was conceived in secret, sloppily written and overbroad, and sprung on a confused public.”


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: A Rise in Levels of Hate

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