The Soufan Group Morning Brief




FBI Director James Comey on Saturday asked the Justice Department to publicly reject the claims made by President Trump that his predecessor ordered his phones tapped during the 2016 campaign. Analysts say that Comey’s appeal is a noteworthy rebuke of a sitting president, one that highlights the gravity of Trump’s unsupported claims. Comey reportedly made the request because of his concern that Trump’s allegation was false and suggested that the FBI had broken the law. The Justice Department has yet to comment on the matter.


On Sunday, the White House pressed Congress to investigate Trump’s allegation as part of its inquiry into Russia’s potential interference in the presidential election. Members of the congressional intelligence committees said their panels would look into the claim, though they had not seen any evidence the allegations were true. James Clapper, former president Obama’s intelligence chief, said in a television interview that there “was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect as a candidate or against his campaign.” (NYT, NBC, WSJ, Guardian)


Washington Post: Inside Trump’s Fury

CNN: Russian Intrigue Threatens to Consume Washington

Wall Street Journal: A Guide to the Government’s Wiretap Powers

New York Times: A Conspiracy Theory’s Journey



President Trump is set today to issue a revised executive order temporarily barring the entry of people from certain Muslim-majority countries and halting the U.S. refugee program. The White House has pushed back the signing a number of times as it worked to coordinate with the agencies that will implement it. Unlike the original, the order will leave Iraq off the list, people familiar with the planning said. The revised order is also expected to affect only future visa applicants from the targeted countries, and not current visa holders and legal permanent residents. (WSJ, AP, NYT)


DHS assessment: A recent Department of Homeland Security intelligence assessment found that most foreign-born violent extremists do not arrive in the United States radicalized; they become radicalized after living in the country for several years. The findings seem to undercut the Trump administration's case for its travel ban and track with other studies, analysts say. (CNN)


ICE detainees: A lawsuit filed against a large private prison company in Colorado alleges that tens of thousands of immigrants detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were forced to work for $1 a day or nothing at all, a violation of anti-slavery laws. A federal judge just granted the suit--filed in 2014--class-action status. (WaPo)


Afghans detained: Attorneys filed a petition seeking the release of an Afghan family of five who were detained by U.S. immigration officials when they arrived at Los Angeles international airport last week. The family was approved for relocation after intense vetting because the father had been employed by the U.S. government in Afghanistan, the petition says. (Guardian)


Sikh shooting: Police and the FBI are looking for a white man who allegedly shot an Indian man, Deep Rai, who was working in his driveway in a Seattle suburb. The shooting follows by less than two weeks a similar episode in Kansas. (Seattle Times, NYT)


Oklahoma lawmaker: Muslim students visiting the office of a Republican state representative were required to fill out a form that asked if they beat their wives. This is reportedly not the first time the lawmaker, John Bennett, has faced criticism for his statements against Islam. (Reuters)

Guantanamo: The military judge presiding over the death-penalty trial of five men accused of orchestrating the 9/11 terror attacks publicly rebuked prosecutors over their proposed secret handling of national security evidence. The admonishments signal how behind-the-scenes activity could complicate the prosecution’s proposed March 2018 trial date, analysts say. (Miami Herald)

Yemen: A U.S. drone strike killed two suspected members of al-Qaeda traveling on motorbike in southern Yemen, local sources said. Meanwhile, another drone was reportedly fired at a crowd of suspected al-Qaeda fighters, but there were no reports on casualties. (al-Jazeera)


Syria: The Pentagon’s preferred plan to retake Raqqa, the Islamic State’s capital in Syria, calls for increased U.S. special operations forces, attack helicopters, artillery, and arms supplies to the main Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighting force on the ground. The plan would also ease a number of restrictions on U.S. activities imposed during the Obama administration, officials say. (WaPo)

Af-Pak: After a suicide bombing at a shrine in Pakistan’s Sindh Province last month, Islamabad has kept its border crossings with Afghanistan sealed for more than two weeks, stranding thousands. Imran Khan, an opposition leader in Pakistan, said on Saturday that the border closing was “building into a humanitarian crisis.” (NYT)


Pyongyang test-fired four banned ballistic missiles, unnerving U.S. allies Japan and South Korea. Three of the projectiles, which flew about 1,000 kilometers on average, landed in waters Japan claims as its exclusive economic zone. The test-launches appeared to be a reaction to large U.S.-South Korean military drills, analysts say. South Korea's acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn said Seoul should move swiftly to complete the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile defense system. (AP, CNN)



New York Times: Trump Inherits Secret Cyber War Against North Korean Missiles

Europe’s deterrent: The European Union is reportedly considering a nuclear weapons program where France’s arsenal would be repurposed to protect the rest of the continent. If implemented, the plan would be an unprecedented escalation in Europe’s collective military power and a drastic break with U.S. leadership, analysts say. (NYT)


Trump’s Wiretap Rant Betrays Ignorance: “The president’s remarks alleging his phones were 'tapped' are simply preposterous and reflect his complete ignorance of how the various surveillance authorities retained by the government over which he now presides actually work. The president cannot, on his own, authorize surveillance of a U.S. citizen,” writes Bradley P. Moss on Politico.


Our Terrorism Obsession Gave Us Trump: “Our intense focus on terrorism has helped spawn a veritable counterterrorism industrial complex, made up of new government agencies, private firms and an army of well-funded experts, who keep the issue atop the national agenda. As a result, without much empirical rationale, concern about terrorism is rising,” write Jon Finer and Robert Malley in the New York Times.


Leaks and the Constitution: “While leaks of classified information remain unlawful and potentially dangerous, we shouldn’t be too quick to assume that all leaks are evidence of a deep state that is fighting elected officials. There’s a strong, liberal First Amendment tradition that denies the idea that employees owe an absolute duty of loyalty to their elected bosses,” writes Noah Feldman on Bloomberg.

Intelligence Officers Won’t Exit En Masse: “The CIA isn’t perfect. It has missed some big events, blown some big calls, and endless internal musical chairs doesn’t help. It struggles with public relations, and how to balance secrecy with transparency. But for all of its imperfections, my sense is that the mystique of CIA will always keep recruiting officers busy and the Trump Administration isn’t going to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for those who are considering the exit,” writes David V. Gloe on Lawfare.


Foreign Policy: The Plot Against Europe

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Sanctioning Iran's Revolutionary Guard

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