The Soufan Group Morning Brief




President Donald Trump issued a new executive order intended to keep potential foreign terrorists from entering the United States. Applying only to new visa applicants, the order continued to impose a 90-day ban on travel to the United States by citizens of six-predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. The White House removed Iraq from the list of countries affected, a change that Baghdad expressed “deep relief” with. Other changes from the previous order, which has stalled in the courts, include the removal of language offering special status to persecuted religious minorities, and the decision to treat Syrian refugees the same as those from other countries.


The revised order does not take effect until Thursday, March 16, with officials hoping the delay and other changes will allow them to avoid the confusion that occurred at airports after the original order came out. Immigration advocates say the new ban still discriminates against Muslims and fails to address some of their other concerns. However, legal analysts said it would be harder to challenge because it affects fewer people living in the United States and allows more exemptions to protect them. (WSJ, NYT, Reuters)


Washington Post: Ban Still Wouldn’t Have Kept Out Post-9/11 Terrorists


Rod Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney in Maryland, faces a Senate confirmation hearing today that many political analysts expect to turn into a free-for-all over the investigation into Russia’s influence in the 2016 election as well as over President Trump’s wiretap allegations. If confirmed, Rosenstein, who made a name for himself as a competent U.S. attorney serving both Republican and Democratic administrations, would be the man to decide whether to appoint a special prosecutor to handle the Russia inquiry. (WSJ, Guardian)


Afghans released: U.S. immigration authorities in Los Angeles released the family of five from Afghanistan, but the government has yet to say why they were detained. All five reportedly held special visas for those who have worked for the U.S government in Afghanistan or Iraq. (ABC)


Skilled immigration: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has temporarily suspended fast-track processing for the skilled-worker visa program. Analysts say the decision could impede the ability of U.S. companies to hire foreign workers. Some fear the suspension is a first step by the Trump administration to clamp down on this type of immigration. (Guardian)


White supremacists: A new report from the Anti-Defamation League documents how White supremacists are attempting to recruit students on college campuses at an alarming rate. Since the school year began last September, there have been more than 100 incidents of white supremacist fliers found on campuses. (BuzzFeed)

Jury Secrecy: The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-3 opinion that courts must review typically secret jury deliberations when a juror relies on racial or ethnic stereotypes to convict a defendant. Justice Kennedy wrote that the usual tools to root out biased jurors are less effective when race is at issue. (NYT, WSJ)


The Pentagon confirmed that a U.S. airstrike in Yemen on March 2 killed Yasir al-Silmi, also known as Mohammed Tahar, a former detainee at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. The Yemeni national was held at the controversial facility from 2002 to 2009. Silmi reportedly died in the same strike that killed Usayd al-Adnani, an al-Qaeda explosives expert. (Guardian, BBC)



Miami Herald: Trump Blames Wrong President for Gitmo Releases

Syria: U.S.-backed Syrian militias have cut off the highway between Raqqa and the ISIS stronghold of Deir al-Zor province, in what analysts say is a major blow to the jihadist group. U.S.-backed militias now plan to capture surrounding rural areas and then advance towards Raqqa. (Reuters)


The United States says it has started to deploy components of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or Thaad, in South Korea. Officials said it could take a couple of months for the system to become fully operational. The news comes a day after North Korea launched four ballistic missiles in what it described as an attempt “to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan.” China's Foreign Ministry said it was resolutely opposed to the deployment. (NYT, WSJ, Reuters)


European Union: The EU’s top court has ruled that member states are not required to give visas to people who intend to seek asylum in their country, even if they are at risk of torture or inhuman treatment. In the case at hand, the Court of Justice of the EU ruled Belgium was within its rights to refuse a visa to a family of potential Syrian asylum seekers. (FT, Reuters)

Malaysia: Police foiled an ISIS plot to attack Saudi royals on their visit to Kuala Lumpur last month, arresting seven suspects: four Yemenis, two Malaysians and one Indonesian. (Newsweek)


The Hard Truth About Refugees: “Certainly Mr. Trump’s habit of blaming refugees for terrorism, used to justify his signing a revised executive order banning travel from six predominantly Muslim countries on Monday, flies in the face of the evidence. But so does the reflexive claim that the refugees will fit easily into European society or expand the labor force. Our liberal opinion corridor thus offers the perfect pretext for cynics and xenophobes to parade their prejudice as truth-telling courage,” writes James Traub in the New York Times.


Trump’s Travel Ban Mulligan: “Mr. Trump would have been better served by withdrawing the order and trusting his Department of Homeland Security to protect the U.S. from dangerous aliens case-by-case. The legal and constitutional danger is that willful courts like the Ninth Circuit will again intrude on core presidential powers over foreign affairs once the inevitable legal challenges come to the new order,” write editors of the Wall Street Journal.

Is Trump’s Travel Ban Constitutional: “In the end, the [Trump] administration’s deepest constitutional problem in this affair is entirely straightforward. The order is in fact animated by prejudice, and pretty much everyone knows it. To be sure, there’s no guarantee of how the judiciary will ultimately rule on this order; as with so much else just now, we are in uncharted waters,” writes Richard Primus in Politico.


Congressional Research Service: Opinions by Judge Neil M. Gorsuch

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: A Revised Executive Order 

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