Today we’re sorting through some of the big national security moves President Donald Trump is planning, according to draft executive orders passed to The New York Times and the Washington Post. Among the more eyebrow-raising issues: he wants a review of treaties, a review of the CIA’s use of “black site” prisons overseas, a look into adding detainees to the facility at Guantanamo Bay, and more.
Writes WaPo: “The document was provided to The Post by a person who said it had been circulated among agencies in Washington for comment. The immediate feedback, this person said, helped convince the White House counsel that the document needed wider distribution and review before being finalized. It was unclear which agencies received the document, but those with the most direct stake would include the CIA, the Pentagon, and the State and Justice departments.”
Adds NYT: “It contained crossed-out phrases and typos. It said that the Sept. 11 attacks occurred in 2011, rather than a decade earlier. It was clearly not meant for public consumption.”
It was also apparently “a revised version of the “most comprehensive” executive action on the topic proposed for the first 100 days of a Mitt Romney White House,” Buzzfeed News reported in a side-by-side comparison piece, here.
A critical caveat: “It’s not yet clear whether Trump will sign the draft order, or whether senior members of his administration who have been skeptical of such plans, including Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, were consulted,” the Post reports. “Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.), ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that Mattis and Pompeo were caught off guard by the draft order.”
And in one puzzling pull-out, the Times reports “the White House had circulated the draft order among national security staff members in the same way that a flurry of other pending executive orders had been distributed for review: with no warning and scant time to provide comments.”
The window for submitting feedback was less than 80 minutes—the document was received at 8:41 a.m., with feedback required by 10 a.m. same day.
Sen. John McCain’s reax to the renewed interest in interrogation: “The President can sign whatever executive orders he likes. But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America.”
Trump orders the wall. CNN: “Trump signed two executive orders directing the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border, boosting border patrol forces and increasing the number of immigration enforcement officers who carry out deportations.” In a DHS appearance yesterday, the president reiterated his campaign promise that Mexico would bear the multi-billion-dollar cost of the wall. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto responded last night that his country would do no such thing, drawing Trump to tweet at 8:55 a.m. today: “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming [Jan. 31] meeting.” Read on, here.
Trump also spoke with ABC News to say, among other things, he still wants “safe zones” in Syria, a move echoed in section 6 of a draft Executive Order. It’s also a military option for the war in Syria that we broke down in September when Trump maintained his interest in “safe zones” months after acknowledging generals told him it would require in the neighborhood of “20,000 to 30,000” extra American troops.
Turkish officials are already showing interest in finding exactly what Trump meant by those safe zones, Reuters reports. Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu said this morning his country has already set up a “de facto safe zone” around Jarablus, in northern Syria. “We have seen the U.S. President’s request for conducting a study. What’s important is the results of this study and what kind of recommendation will come out,” he said. More here.
From Defense One
Border Officers: Real Security is More Complicated Than Building a Wall // Patrick Tucker: Trump’s order notwithstanding, it would take years and new technology to truly close the border
Why Iraq Needs the Oil // Jack Watling, via The Atlantic: Taking it, as Donald Trump has mused about doing, is not only illegal—it would tear the country apart.
Trump Orders Halt to ‘Catch and Release,’ But There’s a Catch // GovExec’s Katherine McIntire Peters: Ending the practice of releasing illegal border crossers before they can be deported is easier said than done.
The Art of Dealing with Pakistan // American University’s Stephen Tankel: Trump’s transactional approach to foreign policy may help get Islamabad moving in the right direction.
Welcome to Thursday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1945, 2nd Lt. Audie Murphy took apart an entire German unit in northeastern France, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. (Enjoy the D Brief? Send your friends this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. And let us know your news: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Businessman tapped as Navy secretary. Philip Bilden, who ran the Hong Kong branch of the U.S. private equity firm HarbourVest Partners for a decade, has been nominated to succeed Ray Mabus, Washington Post reports. A former Army reserve captain and a longtime GOP donor, Bilden has served on the boards of the Naval Academy and Naval Institute. The chairman of the latter board, retired Adm. James Stavridis, praised Bilden’s integrity, and told USNI News, ““He is a man of extraordinary expertise on maritime and nautical affairs. He is an expert on Asia and understands, in particular, China very deeply.”
In other naval news, check out photos of RAF Typhoons flying past the Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov as it makes its smoky way home from the Mediterranean via waters off the British coast, here.
In the war against ISIS in Iraq, children are reportedly “flocking” back to schools in east Mosul, AFP reports.
More than 100 humanitarian aid organizations are helping with the refugees of the Mosul offensive. And here’s a map from the UN showing the scale of their task.
The Defense Department tweeted out a story of an Iraqi teenager who fled his country, and who’s now in the U.S. Marine Corps: Cpl. Ali J. Mohammed, 23, now working as a translator in Iraq. Catch his story, here.
Militants from the African extremist group Shabaab carried out a complex attack on a hotel in Mogadishu early Wednesday, killing at least 28, The Long War Journal reports. “The first suicide car bomb detonated this morning after it rammed into the hotel’s main gate, which made it possible for Shabaab’s fighters to enter the hotel and engage security guards. A second car bomb exploded as security and medical personnel, as well as reporters, gathered at the scene.”
For what it’s worth: “Since 2014, Shabaab has attacked the parliament, the president’s compound, and a high security intelligence headquarters. In June 2013, a Shabaab team struck at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) compound in Mogadishu; several UNDP employees were killed and the jihadist group briefly took over the compound. And in 2010, Shabaab was even able to launch a suicide assault on an African Union medical clinic in the Mogadishu airport.” More here, or here.
Despite months of talk to the contrary, Philippine officials said this morning the U.S. military will still upgrade its facilities in the South-Asian nation in accordance with the 2014 Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement, Reuters reports. “The Pentagon gave the green light to start the work as part of an Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a 2014 pact that Duterte has threatened to scrap during barrages of hostility towards the former colonial power.”
“EDCA is still on,” Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told a news conference in Manila.
Reuters with the context: “EDCA allows the expansion of rotational deployment of U.S. ships, aircraft and troops at five bases in the Philippines as well as the storage of equipment for humanitarian and maritime security operations. Lorenzana said Washington had committed to build warehouses, barracks and runways in the five agreed locations and Duterte was aware of projects and had promised to honor all existing agreements with the United States.”
And, Reuters reports, “This week, Republican U.S. Senator John McCain, who headed the U.S. Senate’s Armed Services Committee, proposed $7.5 billion of new military funding for U.S. forces and their allies in the Asia-Pacific.” More here.
Trump’s still using his Android phone, the NYT reports, and that has security experts nervous. “This is a consumer device, and it’s going to have security vulnerabilities,” Bruce Schneier writes. “He’s at risk from everybody, ranging from lone hackers to the better-funded intelligence agencies of the world. And while the risk of a forged e-mail is real — it could easily move the stock market — the bigger risk is eavesdropping. That Android has a microphone, which means that it can be turned into a room bug without anyone’s knowledge. That’s my real fear.”
Lastly today: Sen. Lindsey Graham is a man with a sense of humor. The satirical news site The Onion wrote a piece Wednesday entitled, “Lindsey Graham Cowers Behind Tree Trunk As Trump’s Hunting Dogs Close In.” Instead of ignoring the story—or striking back in anger—Graham chose a different route on Twitter: “Mainstream media misses scoop of the year - @TheOnion nails it. I won’t go down w/out a fight. Seeking Asylum in Ecuador. #alternativefacts” Read the senator’s tweet, with a link to the story, here.