“Chelsea Manning, an anti-secrecy activist and former U.S. Army intelligence analyst whose release of classified information to WikiLeaks in 2010 sparked worldwide controversy over transparency in the military and whistleblower protections, was taken into custody at a federal court on Friday after a federal judge found her in contempt of court for refusing to answer questions before a secret grand jury,” ABC News reports.
“The National Security Agency has quietly shut down a system that analyzes logs of Americans’ domestic calls and texts, according to a senior Republican congressional aide, halting a program that has touched off disputes about privacy and the rule of law since the Sept. 11 attacks,” the New York Times reports.
“The agency has not used the system in months, and the Trump administration might not ask Congress to renew its legal authority, which is set to expire at the end of the year.”
New York Times: “Intelligence officers, steeped in how Mr. Trump views the world, now work to answer his repeated question: Who is winning? What the president wants to know, according to former officials, is what country is making more money or gaining a financial advantage.”
“While the professionals do not criticize Mr. Trump’s focus, they do question whether those interests are crowding out intelligence on threats like terrorism and the maneuvers of traditional adversaries, developments with foreign militaries or geopolitical events with international implications.”
“The president has also shown less interest in details about potential terrorist plots or cloak-and-dagger spy work — the kind of secret information that excites most officials… So in security briefings, Mr. Trump peppers officials with questions about economic competition with China, including Beijing’s efforts to gain technological superiority and to achieve trade advantages over the United States.”
“The U.S. military blocked Internet access to an infamous Russian entity seeking to sow discord among Americans during the 2018 midterms, several U.S. officials said, a warning that the group’s operations against the United States are not cost-free,” the Washington Post reports.
“The strike on the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, a company underwritten by an oligarch close to President Vladimir Putin, was part of the first offensive cyber campaign against Russia designed to thwart attempts to interfere with a U.S. election.”
“A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant and self-identified white nationalist has been arrested after federal investigators uncovered a cache of weapons and ammunition in his Maryland home that authorities say he stockpiled to launch a massive domestic terror attack targeting politicians and journalists,” the Washington Post reports.
Christopher Paul Hasson called for “focused violence” to “establish a white homeland” and dreamed of ways to “kill almost every last person on earth.”
“The White House is working to assemble a panel to assess whether climate change poses a national security threat, according to documents obtained by the Washington Post, a conclusion that federal intelligence agencies have affirmed several times since President Trump took office.”
“The proposed Presidential Committee on Climate Security, which would be established by executive order, is being spearheaded by William Happer, a National Security Council senior director. Happer, an emeritus professor of physics at Princeton University, has said that carbon emissions linked to climate change should be viewed as an asset rather than a pollutant.”
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told NBC News that the “Gang of Eight,” the congressional leaders regularly briefed by the executive branch on classified issues, did not object to the counterintelligence investigation into President Trump and his possible ties to Russia.
Said McCabe: “That’s the important part here, no one objected. Not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds and not based on fact.”
“President Trump has tapped a senior Navy officer that he considered last year to be his Veterans Affairs secretary for promotion to two-star admiral, even though there is still an open Pentagon investigation against him into allegations that derailed his VA secretary nomination,” the Washington Post reports.
“The White House sent Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson’s name for promotion consideration to the Senate on Jan. 15. He was serving as the president’s doctor last April when Trump nominated him for the VA post, and withdrew from consideration after accusations of mismanagement and misconduct as White House physician emerged.”
“The United States is suspending one of the last major nuclear arms control treaties with Russia after heated conversations between the two powers recently failed to resolve a long-running accusation that Moscow is violating the Reagan-era treaty,” the New York Times reports.
“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the decision on Friday as the Trump administration maintained that the Russian government has been unwilling to admit that a missile it has deployed near European borders violates the terms of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Mr. Pompeo and his deputies have insisted that Moscow destroy the missile.”
Washington Post: “The demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty raises fears of a new nuclear arms race, although U.S. officials discount the risk.”
“A draft Pentagon report warns that without continued pressure, ISIS could regain territory in six to 12 months,” NBC News reports.
“The draft says ISIS is intent on reconstituting a physical caliphate and that with ungoverned spaces in Syria and no military pressure, the terror group could retake land in a matter of months.”
President Trump continued to disparage his intelligence officials, and insisted “time will prove me right” on sensitive foreign policy matters like North Korea and the Islamic State, Politico reports.
When asked if he has confidence in CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to give him good advice, Trump replied: “No, I disagree with certain things that they said. I think I’m right. Time will prove me right, probably.”
President Trump lashed out at U.S. intelligence officials, calling them “extremely passive and naive” about the “dangers of Iran” and pushing back on their assessments of the Islamic State and North Korea during a congressional hearing, the Washington Post reports.
“In tweets, Trump offered what amounted to a rebuttal of testimony on global threats provided to the Senate on Tuesday by a panel of top officials from his administration.”
“Trump was most pointed in his pushback on the assessment of Iran. During testimony, officials said that Iran was not trying to build a nuclear weapon and was in compliance with an agreement forged during the Obama administration from which Trump subsequently withdrew the United States.”
Chris Cillizza: “This is, of course, shocking.”
“Former Defense Secretary James Mattis received a standing ovation Saturday at the annual black-tie Alfalfa Club dinner after delivering a speech in which he honored the troops and talked about the importance of the US’ standing abroad,” CNN reports.
“For the third year running, President Trump skipped the annual event — but this year, so did the vice president as well as Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner.”
Five former Department of Homeland Security secretaries — including former White House chief of staff John Kelly — wrote a letter to Congress and President Trump urging them to restore funding to the agency to ensure that its “critical national security functions continue without compromise,” Axios reports.
“The Supreme Court on Tuesday revived the Trump administration’s policy of barring most transgender people from serving in the military. In a brief, unsigned order, the justices temporarily stayed trial court decisions blocking the policy while litigation in the lower courts moves forward,” the New York Times reports.
“The vote was 5 to 4. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.”
“Two years into his presidency, Donald Trump is fueling unprecedented uncertainty and anxiety inside the Pentagon. In private conversations over the past month, many of them unsolicited, more than a dozen key military officers, enlisted personnel and senior civilians have expressed worry and concern to CNN. None of the officials have spoken publicly about this, as military law prohibits active-duty personnel from criticizing a sitting president.”
“It’s not just Trump’s unpredictable decision making that has officials on edge, it’s also his penchant for politicizing the military— something that’s come into focus in recent months as he’s struggled to fulfill his campaign promise to crack down on immigration and build a border wall. His decision to draw down troops in Syria and his claims that ISIS is defeated have also rankled military commanders who felt it wasn’t well thought out.”
Washington Post: “The Trump administration is seeking to expand the scope and sophistication of American missile defenses on a scale not seen since President Ronald Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’ initiative in a new strategy that President Trump plans to roll out personally on Thursday alongside military leaders at the Pentagon.”
New York Times: “Despite being a contemporary of Mr. Trump’s, however, Bolton is not a member of his inner circle. He does not have the same relationship with Mr. Trump that he had with Mr. Bush. Sometimes, with aides, the president refers to him as ‘Mike Bolton.’”