Today's Headlines and Commentary

Jordan Brunner
Thursday, February 2, 2017, 12:26 PM

The New York Times examines the botched counterterrorism raid in Yemen over the weekend in which “almost everything that could go wrong did,” resulting in the deaths of numerous civilians and Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William Owens. Trump and other officials, including Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) flew to Dover Air Force Base on Wednesday to meet with Owens’ family.

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The New York Times examines the botched counterterrorism raid in Yemen over the weekend in which “almost everything that could go wrong did,” resulting in the deaths of numerous civilians and Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William Owens. Trump and other officials, including Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) flew to Dover Air Force Base on Wednesday to meet with Owens’ family. Reuters reports that U.S. Central Command is investigating the raid to “determine if there were any still-undetected civilian casualties in the ferocious firefight,” after having concluded that civilians “were likely killed.” Military officials said that Trump approved the mission without sufficient intelligence, ground support, or adequate backup preparations.

The Washington Post reports that during his phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, President Donald Trump blasted the leader of one of America’s staunchest allies over an agreement for the United States to take 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center. Boasting about his electoral win and saying that he was “going to get killed” politically if he accepted refugees, Trump hung up on Turnbull after 25 minutes on what was supposed to be an hour-long call. Trump later tweeted that he would have to “study” the refugee agreement. While Trump has treated other world leaders similarly, the special relationship the U.S. and Australia share on intelligence, diplomacy, and military action makes this treatment particularly striking.

The Post also writes that the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General is opening an internal investigation into the rollout of Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. The investigation, which was prompted by the requests from Congress and whistleblower complaints, will examine whether Customs and Border Protection officers failed to comply with court orders halting the deportation and detention of green card holders stranded in airports after the executive order was signed.

Politico reports that the leaders of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are planning to meet soon to discuss the progress of their investigations into Russia’s tampering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election, including potential contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign. The group will meet to ensure they are not producing duplicate work. The House Permanent Committee on Intelligence is also investigating the issue.

In response to Steve Bannon appointment to the National Security Council, the Intercept writes that Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) has introduced legislation to codify the membership of the NSC. The bill, entitled the "Strengthening Oversight of the National Security Act," would require a joint congressional resolution to add any member or attendee who has not been confirmed by the Senate. The bill would also limit the principals committee to members of the National Security Council, and require any attendance by someone not confirmed by the Senate for a “one-time decisionmaking action,” to be shared with Congress within 24 hours.

Reuters also tells us that Trump wants to revamp and rename the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program, which seeks to deter groups or lone wolf attackers through community partnerships and educational programs, to focus exclusively on militant Islamism. The program would be renamed “Countering Islamic Extremism,” or “Counter Radical Islamic Extremism,” reflecting Trump campaign rhetoric. The program would no longer target white supremacists who have carried out bombings or shootings, even as statistics demonstrate that more attacks are carried out by this group then by militant Islamists.

The proposed revamping of CVE would be in line with the views of many of Trump’s close advisors, who have pushed a conspiratorial view of Islam as “hateful” and engaged in a clash of civilizations with Christianity, the Times writes. Trump aides General Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, and Sebastian Gorka are among those who have influenced the President’s worldview in this direction.

The Post notes that the first criminal case in a Western court against members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has been filed. A Spanish citizen who received a picture through WhatsApp of her dead brother has brought a complaint in the Spanish National Court in Madrid as an “indirect victim” of the war crimes committed against her brother by nine named Syrian government officials.

CNN informs us that Iran has vowed to “vigorously” continue its missile activity in response to National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s statement that the administration is “officially putting Iran on notice,” after a recently launched a test ballistic missile. While Iran stated that this was not in violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution that bars Iran from missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, but was “solely for defensive purposes,” Flynn called the test a “provocative” breach of the resolution. Ali Akbar Velayati, senior advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader, dismissed the administration’s pushback as “baseless ranting.”

AP tells us that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to build another settlement in place of Amona, whose evacuation is nearly complete, “as soon as possible.” The security services were forced to break their way inside a synagogue, after around 200 protesters barricaded themselves inside. Netanyahu expressed “great pain,” over the removal of Amona, and stated that he had formed a team to look into the location of the new settlement.

Motherboard writes that a wave of cyber attacks have targeted Egyptian human rights activists since last November when Azza Soliman, a well-known women’s rights activist, was arrested. Ramy Raoof, a senior research technologist at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, says that they are “witnessing the widest, most sophisticated, and dangerous phishing and spearphishing campaign against independent human rights groups and activists in Egypt.”

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Michael Price examined whether President Trump’s executive order barring refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries violates the rule against ideological exclusion under the INA.

Paul Rosenzweig flagged the New York Times report on the hacking of the Czech Foreign Ministry as potentially having been perpetrated by Russia.

Arun Mohan Sukumar described what the Russian hacking of the U.S. election means for the rest of the world.

Stewart Baker posted the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast: Interview with Corin Stone.

Helen Murillo, Yishai Schwartz, and Clara Spera provided a summary analysis of the national security cases of Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch.

Doyle Hodges examined whether we should trust the military to protect us from the revival of torture based on the current legal landscape.

Quinta Jurecic posted the Lawfare Podcast: Goldsmith v. Lederman on Yates.

Shannon Togawa Mercer reported that the “Brexecution” can begin now that the British Parliament has voted to give Prime Minister Theresa May power to invoke Article 50.

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Jordan A. Brunner is a graduate of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, and was a national security intern at the Brookings Institution. Prior to law school, he was a Research Fellow with the New America Foundation/ASU Center for the Future of War, where he researched cybersecurity, cyber war, and cyber conflict alongside Shane Harris, author of @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex. He graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University with a B.S. in Political Science.

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