By Esther Lee
February 6, 2017
A bipartisan group of top senior U.S. diplomats and national security officials, including two former secretaries of state, filed an affidavit in the 9th Circuit claiming that President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel for people from seven majority-Muslim countries could cause “long-term damage to our national security and foreign policy interests.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on Saturday temporarily suspended Trump’s order, granting entry to refugees, people with valid visas, and previously banned individuals from seven majority-Muslim countries.
The bipartisan group of top-level signatories on the brief filed early Monday morning are two former secretaries of state, two former Central Intelligence Agency heads, and senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Council. Signatories include Madeleine K. Albright, Avril D. Haines, Michael V. Hayden, John F. Kerry, John E. McLaughlin, Lisa O. Monaco, Michael J. Morell, Janet A. Napolitano, Leon E. Panetta, and Susan E. Rice.
“We view the Order as one that ultimately undermines the national security of the United States, rather than making us safer,” the declaration read in part. “In our professional opinion, this Order cannot be justified on national security or foreign policy grounds. It does not perform its declared task of ‘protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.’”
“It could do long-term damage to our national security and foreign policy interests, endangering U.S. troops in the field and disrupting counterterrorism and national security partnerships,” the letter added, explaining that the order could bolster the Islamic State group’s propaganda effort to show that the United States is at war with Islam.
“In our professional opinion, the Order was ill-conceived, poorly implemented and ill-explained,” the letter said.
Over the weekend, Trump went after Judge James Robart, the judge responsible for blocking his travel ban, for putting America “in such peril,” saying that “if something happens blame him and the court system.” He has also hinted in tweets that “bad and dangerous people” would come to the United States, saying that he has “instructed Homeland Security to check people coming into our country VERY CAREFULLY.”
In spite of Trump’s criticism of the court’s decision and his placement of senior adviser Steve Bannon on the National Security Council, it would appear that national security officials are in fact fully aware of the dangers. Four signatories on the letter, Haines, Kerry, Monaco, and Rice, “were current on active intelligence regarding all credible terrorist threat streams directed against the U.S. as recently as one week before the issuance of the Jan. 27, 2017 Executive Order on ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States’ (“Order”).
Trump is not just taking heat for his executive orders from top officials. Technology companies filed an amicus brief early Monday opposing the ban. John Yoo — a former Department of Justice official who famously wrote legal memos condoning the use of torture — published an opinion piece saying Trump’s order was within the law, but that it had been “ill-conceived.” And many recent polls such as Gallup, Reuters, CNN, and CBS News find that a majority of Americans disagree with the ban.
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