Today's Headlines and Commentary

Quinta Jurecic
Monday, November 21, 2016, 4:18 PM

The presidential transition continues, and it appears not to be proceeding smoothly.

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The presidential transition continues, and it appears not to be proceeding smoothly. The Wall Street Journal reports that NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers is President-elect Donald Trump’s leading candidate for Director of National Intelligence—though The Intercept tells us that Trump is also considering abolishing DNI altogether.

But the Washington Post writes that Rogers is under fire from both Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and current DNI James Clapper, who have pushed for Rogers to be removed over his mismanagement of NSA, specifically regarding the recent string of leaks from within the agency. The New York Times provides further reporting on the effort to force out Rogers. Perhaps most unusually, reports indicate that Rogers traveled to New York to meet with the President-elect without notifying superiors—a move that the Daily Beast suggests may have been a play by Rogers to lock in his DNI appointment.

General Jack Keane was asked by the Trump team to serve as Secretary of Defense, but turned down the offer for personal reasons, NPR reports. Keane reportedly recommended that Trump consider General David Petraeus and General James Mattis for the position. And it seems that Trump has: Mattis is reportedly a leading candidate for Defense Secretary. The Daily Beast takes a look at the general’s record.

Another Trump national security appointee continues to court controversy. Former DIA Director General Michael Flynn’s appointment as National Security Advisor has cheered the Turkish government, the Times writes. Flynn has voiced support for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, backing Erdogan’s claim that Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen orchestrated the July coup and arguing in favor of Gulen’s extradition to Turkey. Notably, however, Flynn is a paid lobbyist for a Turkish consultancy that may have connections to Erdogan. The Post also reports that Flynn “doesn’t want any military officer who outranked him to be part of the Trump Cabinet.”

Responding to Trump’s campaign promises to bring back waterboarding and “a hell of a lot worse,” Senator John McCain declared at the Halifax International Security Forum, “I don’t give a damn what the president of the United States wants to do. We will not waterboard. We will not torture people.” Torture remains illegal under both international and U.S. law. Politico has more.

The extremist movement that has titled itself the “alt-right” is enjoying the wave of publicity brought about by its association with the Trump campaign. The Times reports on a white supremacist conference held in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, which ended with a recitation of Nazi propaganda and a chant of “Heil victory.”

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is looking to lock in its policy achievements before the next administration comes into office, and the nuclear deal with Iran is no exception. The Journal examines the ongoing efforts to solidify the international agreement, including lifting additional U.S. sanctions on Iran and easing access to Iran for U.S. businesses.

The United States has released the names of a handful of top Syrian military officials responsible for targeting civilians during the Syrian civil war, AFP reports. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power announced the names during a session of the U.N. Security Council, promising that “one day they will be held accountable.”

Renewed bombardment of eastern Aleppo on Saturday killed at least 61 people, the Post tells us. National Security Advisor Susan Rice condemned the attacks as “heinous.” The continued bombing of Aleppo has devastated hospitals in the rebel-held portion of the city to the point where facilities are no longer able to provide medical care, the Times writes. Over a quarter million people in eastern Aleppo are now without access to hospital care, and it is unclear if the hospitals will be able to reopen while the siege continues. On Sunday, the Syrian regime turned down a U.N. proposal to halt the assault and recognize an autonomous rebel government in the city’s east.

As international frustration grows over the Syrian war, Turkey’s President Erdogan is pushing once again to establish a no-fly zone in Syria’s north and to move the coalition away from its reliance on Kurdish troops, the AP reports. And in a moment of honesty, President Obama said on Sunday that he was “not optimistic about the short-term prospects in Syria,” adding that Syria will “be in chaos for quite some time.” Reuters has more.

While coalition forces continue to battle for the Islamic State-held city of Mosul, Iraqi Shiite militias are close to cutting off the Islamic State’s last supply routes into the city. Reuters updates us on the ongoing offensive, which is becoming the biggest battle in Iraq since the downfall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

A 48-hour ceasefire in Yemen will not be extended, the BBC tells us. Both the Saudi-led coalition forces and the Houthi rebels have accused each other of repeatedly violating the cessation of hostilities.

A suicide bombing of a Shiite mosque in Kabul killed at least 30 people and wounded at least 80, the Guardian writes. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, which would mark the group’s third attack on Kabul’s Shiite population since July. The worshipers were gathered in the mosque in observance of the Arbaeen holiday.

The Kremlin may be planning countermeasures against NATO sites in the event that Russia feels threatened by the alliance, the Post reports. In an interview broadcast Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia would be “forced to … aim our missile systems at those facilities which we think pose a threat to us.”

French authorities have detained seven suspects in Strasbourg and Marseille as part of an investigation into a planned terrorist attack. The Times tells us that six of the seven men had previously been unknown to law enforcement, though the other had been on the radar of French authorities thanks to an alert from a “partner country.” The men were reportedly plotting a “coordinated attack aimed to hit several sites simultaneously” across France.

ICYMI: This Weekend, on Lawfare

Zachary Burdette reviewed Lawfare’s week.

Quinta Jurecic provided an updated white paper on encryption from the Manhattan DA’s office.

Quinta also posted the Lawfare Podcast, this week featuring Bill Banks’ discussion of his book Soldiers on the Home Front at the Hoover Book Soiree.

Ammar Abdulhamid pondered the threat that Donald Trump poses to the United States.

In the Foreign Policy Essay, Erik Lin-Greenberg argued that a new regulation to control drone exports is likely to do more harm than good.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.

Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.

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