The Soufan Group Morning Brief




Lawyers for the Trump administration filed a brief last evening in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in San Francisco, urging the panel of judges to lift a nationwide injunction on the president’s travel ban in the interest of national security and executive authority. A brief for the plaintiffs, the states of Washington and Minnesota, was filed earlier in the day, claiming the president’s order is unlawful, represents poor national security policy, and is an economic threat. The Ninth Circuit has scheduled oral arguments for 3 p.m. PST today. They will take place by telephone and be live-streamed on the court’s website.


Analysts note that this legal battle poses an unusually direct test of presidential powers and the courts’ ability to limit them. The appellate court’s ruling will likely be followed by an appeal to the Supreme Court. (WSJ, NYT, WaPo)



Wall Street Journal: What the Appeal Court Must Consider

New York Times: How Attorneys General Became Dems’ Bulwark Against Trump

Washington Post: Former National Security Officials Organize to Oppose Trump

Politico: What’s Next in the Legal Fight?

Lawfare: Does Trump Want to Lose the EO Battle in Court?



In his first speech at U.S. Central Command, the president said that western media were playing down the terrorist threat posed by the Islamic State. “All over Europe, it's happening. It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported,” Trump told a crowd of about 300 U.S. troops at a military base in Florida. Many news organizations, for their part, noted that his comments appeared to ignore the depth and breadth of reporting on violence committed by the Islamic State and its supporters. Late yesterday, the White House released a list of 78 terrorist attacks around the world since September 2014 and argued that “most” of them were not widely reported. (NYT, Reuters, WaPo)


Indictment of former NSA worker coming soon: Federal prosecutors in Baltimore are expected to seek an indictment as early as this week against Harold T. Martin III, a former NSA contractor who is accused of carrying out one of the largest thefts of classified information in U.S. history. (WaPo)


A small team at State fights terror online: Officials at the State Department’s new Global Engagement Center claim they are the first to harness the Internet’s wealth of personal information, including Facebook profiles, to discourage young Muslims from joining the Islamic State. (WaPo)


Guantanamo 2.0: U.S. military commanders are starting to think about how to handle Guantanamo prison 2.0, assuming President Trump intends to follow through on his pledge to increase the detainee population at the facility. Filling the prison up could mean adding at most 200 more captives, officials say. (Miami Herald)


Bergdahl trial: Military prosecutors argued that President Trump’s anti-Bergdahl rhetoric on the presidential campaign trail does not compromise his right to a fair trial. Attorneys for the former soldier, who abandoned his post in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban, had sought to have the case dismissed over Trump’s comments. (The Hill)

Mattis Schedule: The secretary of defense will meet with German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen in Washington, DC, on Friday. The visit comes ahead of a meeting of NATO defense ministers next week and the Munich Security Conference the week after. (Reuters)


Syrian government forces have advanced on the northern Islamic State-held city of al-Bab in what reports say is a move to sever the last supply route that connects it to ISIS strongholds further east. ISIS militants are now effectively surrounded by the Syrian army from the south and by Turkish-backed rebels from the north. Meanwhile, Russia has carried out airstrikes on the Islamic State in the area in support of both sides. (Reuters)



Reuters: Syria Reported to Have Carried Out Mass Hangings at Prison

U.S. raid failed to nab leader of AQAP: U.S. officials say the Navy SEAL raid in Yemen last week tried but failed to kill or capture Qassim al-Rimi, the head of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Defense Secretary Mattis had told Trump that al-Rimi’s capture would be a “game changer.” (NBC)


Israel’s Parliament passed a provocative law that would retroactively legalize Jewish settlements on privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank. Many political analysts say that, although the country’s high court will likely nullify the legislation, it sends a dangerous signal about the prospects for a two-state solution, and will likely spark legal challenges and draw international condemnation. (NYT, WSJ)


Refugee suing Facebook over Merkel selfie: Anas Modamani, a refugee from Syria, is seeking to prevent Facebook from allowing users to repost an image of him and the German chancellor, after the photo repeatedly showed up in fake news reports linking him to terrorism. (NYT)

Austrian parliament hacked: Austria's parliament said that a Turkish Islamist group claimed responsibility for a cyberattack that disabled its website for 20 minutes this past weekend. The hacking was apparently a retaliation for Vienna’s pushing the EU to abandon accession talks with Turkey following President Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on dissent. (Reuters)


Is Trump’s Executive Order Constitutional?: “In addition to this broad delegation of authority from Congress, the president has inherent, formidable constitutional authority of his own over foreign affairs and national security, with the power to control immigration being an integral part of those authorities. So, here we have two political branches that have spoken in unison on this issue, placing the president in the strongest possible legal position,” says David P. Rivkin Jr. in the Washington Post.


Neil Gorsuch Needs 60 Votes: "Nominees to our nation’s highest court must demonstrate that they are mainstream and independent enough to earn the support of at least 60 senators from both parties. Both of President Obama’s nominees to the Supreme Court exceeded that level of support. The simple question we are asking is: Can President Trump’s nominee meet that same test?," writes Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)  in Politico.

Dodd-Frank Change Will Hurt National Security: “Ironically, a legislative change that makes corrupt practices easier might be one of the first to land on the desk of a U.S. president who campaigned on ‘draining the swamp’ and fighting special interests. Killing the SEC rule would not only be a defeat for human rights, democratic governance, and U.S. moral leadership, it would also run counter to U.S. national security interests,” writes Kate Bateman in Foreign Affairs.


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: America's Failure on Refugees

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