The Soufan Group Morning Brief



The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco asked attorneys pressing questions on the legality of President Trump's order temporarily banning U.S. entry to people from seven Muslim-majority countries. The three-judge panel is expected within days to rule on whether to lift a lower court’s nationwide injunction on the order, and an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is likely, analysts say.


August Flentje, on behalf of the Trump administration, said among other things that the judiciary should not be second-guessing the president and Congress on the matter. “This is a traditional national security judgment that is assigned to the political branches,” he said. Noah Purcell, solicitor general for Washington State, the plaintiff in this case, said that the underlying purpose of the executive order was religious discrimination. Trump had indicated as much during his presidential campaign, calling for a complete ban on the entry of Muslims, Purcell noted. (NYT, Reuters, WSJ, WaPo)



Wall Street Journal: Homeland Security Chief Says Ban Rolled Out Too Fast

Pew Research Center: Are Refugees From Iraq and Syria a Threat to the U.S.?

Lawfare: It’s Not Foreigners Who Are Plotting Here

New York Times: Why Silicon Valley Wouldn’t Work Without Immigrants


The Yemeni government has reportedly withdrawn permission for U.S. counterterrorism forces to conduct ground operations in the country. However, neither the White House nor the Yemeni leadership have publicly confirmed the news. The decision comes after a commando raid last month that resulted in the deaths of several Yemeni women and children as well as a U.S. Navy SEAL. The Trump administration said on Tuesday that the mission was a “highly successful” intelligence-gathering raid, despite reports that its objective had been to kill or capture a senior al-Qaeda operative. (NYT, Time)


White House weighs terrorist labels: The Trump administration is reportedly debating whether to designate as terrorist organizations the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist group with members throughout the Arab world, as well as Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. Many foreign policy experts fear labeling the Brotherhood a terrorist organization would upset U.S. relations in the Middle East. (NYT, Reuters)

Pentagon in Trump Tower? The Defense Department may rent space in the midtown Manhattan building in order to support the day-to-day operations of the president and his staff. The military has pursued similar arrangements for other presidents, analysts note. (CNN)

Syria using brutal security measures: The Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad is using mass detentions and other harsh security-state measures to stifle dissent in areas where it is retaking territory. A recent Amnesty International report said that at least once a week authorities executed large groups of prisoners in the middle of the night. (WSJ)

Bomber hits Afghan court: A suicide bomber targeted Afghanistan’s top court, in Kabul, killing 21 people and wounding many others. There was no claim of responsibility, but the attack bore hallmarks of the Taliban, analysts say. (Stars and Stripes)


Turkish officials said Presidents Erdogan and Trump agreed in a phone call to collaborate against Islamic State forces in the Syrian towns of al-Bab and Raqqa. Erdogan reportedly urged his U.S. counterpart not to support the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. The leaders also discussed a safe zone in Syria and the refugee crisis. (Reuters)


Is Russia’s election hacking an act of war? An expert on international law and cybersecurity says Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. presidential contest “is not an initiation of armed conflict.” He says the hacking is not a violation of the UN Charter’s prohibition on the use of force, and should not prompt the U.S. to respond militarily. (WaPo)


Hunt for Islamist suspects: Police searched properties in Britain and Germany for evidence on two suspects believed to have supported the Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra. (Reuters)

Philippines: Speaking on national television, President Rodrigo Duterte accused more than 200 police officers in Manila of a range of crimes, and told them to resign or be shipped off to the island home of Abu Sayyaf, the Islamist terrorist organization. (NYT)


Trump’s Terrorism Claim Is Baloney: “Terrorist attacks over the past couple of years are, in fact, some of the most well-reported stories of our times. The total number of media hits for the 78 terrorist attacks that the White House released Monday is 80,878, or about an average of slightly more than 1,000 mentions per incident,” writes Peter Bergen for CNN.


The War Among the Generals: “Despite early concerns that Trump would militarize foreign policy by filling senior administration positions with so many retired generals, the emerging reality is quite different. Instead, there seems to be a rising internal struggle for power between the two cabinet generals, Mattis and Kelly, and the two White House generals, Flynn and Kellogg,” write Barno and Bensahel on War on the Rocks. “The cabinet generals and the White House generals have very different views of both the global threats to American security and what we should be doing about them.”


Cameras Belong in More Courtrooms: “Lawyers appeared before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, arguing the same case up the appeals chain. Though those arguments were conducted via teleconference, the audio was live-streamed online on Tuesday. Interested parties — and everyone with a minute to spare and a stake in the country should have been interested — could listen as the lawyers tangled over some of the most high-minded concepts underpinning American freedom in one of the most consequential cases any judge will hear this year,” write editors of the Washington Post.

How President Trump Could Seize More Power: “One of the questions raised by Trump’s claims that the media and the courts have endangered the country is what he would do in the event of a terrorist attack,” writes Ryan Lizza in the New Yorker. “I asked [Jack] Goldsmith and others what the menu of options might be for a President Trump empowered by the justifiable fears Americans would have in the aftermath of a serious attack.”


Congressional Research Service: The Islamic State and U.S. Policy

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: The Real Terror Threat to the United States

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