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Vox Sentences: Is Donald Trump launching a cold war against the CIA?

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Donald Trump is engaged in a cold war with the intelligence community; the defeated president of Gambia is all but daring his neighbors to depose him; an Israeli soldier is convicted for killing a Palestinian man.


Trump, Assange, and Hannity vs. the intelligence community

Donald Trump tweet about dishonest media @realDonaldTrump
  • President-elect Donald Trump is siding with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who denies that Russia is responsible for hacks of Democratic operatives during the 2016 election — and against the entire US intelligence community, which has concluded that it was. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • The skepticism of Russian nefariousness (also seen in Trump's occasional denials that Russia invaded Ukraine) is an offshoot of the Trumpian foreign policy agenda to rebuild the US-Russian relationship. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • But it's become tangled up with the question of Trump's legitimacy as president — which has resulted in some very odd bedfellows and claims. The two leading figures pushing the idea that there was a mass conspiracy in the US media to hurt Trump by connecting the hacks to Russia, for example, are Assange and Sean Hannity — not known for his past support for WikiLeaks. [Washington Post / Callum Borchers]
  • And Trump, for his part, has expressed what Vice President-elect Mike Pence calls a "healthy American skepticism" that Russia, and not some "300-pound" hacker rando, hacked the relevant servers. [Washington Examiner / Susan Ferrechio]
  • To be fair: There are legitimate holes in the accounts the intelligence community has offered so far about the hacks, raising questions about just how, precisely, they know the hackers were aligned with the Russian government. [Just Security / Ronald Deibert]
  • And the fact that the FBI hasn't done some of the things one might expect when looking into a hack — like, say, investigating the servers that were hacked into — certainly makes those questions reasonable. [BuzzFeed News / Ali Watkins]
  • But the swing in public opinion has been too huge, and too abrupt, to be explained as anything but partisanship. Before 2016, Republicans thought the CIA was very good and Democrats were skeptical; now that the CIA has become identified with the Russia hack investigation, Democrats are pro-CIA and Republicans are substantially less so. [NBC News / Carrie Dann]
  • This isn't a good start. For one thing, tensions between a president and the intelligence community can lead to Nixonian paranoia and excess. [War on the Rocks / Matteo Faini]
  • One of those skeptical Republicans is the president-elect himself. According to the Wall Street Journal, Trump feels the intelligence community has become too "politicized" — and wants to shrink the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and restructure the CIA, to stop it. [WSJ / Damian Paletta and Julian E. Barnes]
  • Potentially worse, though, is the fact that Trump doesn't appear to be concerned with partisanship at the FBI — even though its political struggles burst out into the open during the campaign. The lesson might be that agencies that leak things that hurt the president's enemies don't get touched — while those that hurt the president get restructured. [Vox / Dara Lind]

Headed for a showdown in Gambia

Gambia’s president-elect, Adama Barrow Joe Sinclair/AFP/Getty Images
  • Gambian President Yahya Jammeh still hasn't stepped down after losing an election in early December — despite the fact that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has sent troops into Gambia in an attempt to pressure Jammeh to back down. [Al Jazeera]
  • Indeed, within Gambia Jammeh's position has been strengthened. The head of the army — initially reported to support winner of the election Adama Barrow — came out in support of Jammeh on Wednesday. [BBC]
  • And the head of the electoral commission — whose offices were seized by Jammeh's security team — has fled the country. [BBC]
  • ECOWAS has given Jammeh a deadline of January 19. If he hasn't stepped down by then, Gambia's neighbors — led by Senegal — will conduct a full-on military intervention to depose him. [Africa News / Dible Ike Michael]
  • It's an important step forward for ECOWAS — African presidents haven't usually taken it upon themselves to ensure free and fair elections and depose authoritarian leaders. [Washington Post / John Yearwood]
  • But an intervention could be risky. It would further exacerbate Gambian refugees' flight to the same neighboring countries leading the intervention — and to Europe. [Newsweek / Conor Gaffey]

Israel's trial of the year ends in conviction

Israeli mourners Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images
  • Israeli soldier Elor Azaria was convicted of manslaughter in a military court Wednesday for the killing of a 21-year-old Palestinian man in 2016. [AP / Aron Heller]
  • Video footage of the incident in the West Bank shows that Abdel Fattah al-Sharif had attacked an israeli soldier with a knife — but had already been wounded and "neutralized," lying on the ground, when Azaria fatally shot him. [NPR / Camila Domonoske]
  • The case has split Israeli public opinion. Half of Israelis supported Azaria's actions when the video of the shooting was released in 2016... [The Guardian / Peter Beaumont]
  • ...and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly considering a pardon. [BBC]
  • Other Israelis are horrified by the apparent support for extrajudicial killing. But some, like Haaretz's Israel Harel, blame Israeli officials for being too quick to condemn Azaria — somehow politicizing an action that otherwise would be recognized as beyond the pale. [Haaretz / Israel Harel]
  • The problem is that it might not, after all, be beyond the pale. Reports from Human Rights Watch indicate that Israeli military policies encourage the killing of suspected terrorists, and that al-Sharif is far from the only victim. [Think Progress / Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani]
  • In 2015, Max Fisher wrote for Vox that Israel's commitment to the occupation of the Palestinian territories was eroding its commitment to its own democratic institutions and ideals. It's worth bearing in mind, as Israel debates whether a soldier should be forgiven for killing a man who didn't threaten his life (but who had attacked one of his colleagues), whether that line has been crossed. [Vox / Max Fisher]

Miscellaneous

  • What caused the fall of Star Wars' Old Republic? Could it be … poor reproductive health care for women? [Vice / Sarah Jeong]
  • The unbearable whiteness of La La Land. [MTV News / Ira Madison]
  • Ayn Rand opposed the programs' existence, but she ultimately relented and accepted Social Security and Medicare. [Open Culture / Josh Jones]
  • There's a new online Go player in town, who's already beaten No. 1 ranked player Ke Jie twice in 2017. And no one knows who it is, or if it's a person or a bot. [Kotaku / Alex Walker]
  • The Women’s March on Washington is set to be the largest protest of Trump's inauguration. It began with a Facebook post by a grandmother in Hawaii, not affiliated with any national group. [Washington Post / Perry Stein and Sandhya Somashekhar]

Verbatim

  • "Mike Primavera believes when it comes to Jack in the Box tacos, there are two kinds of people: those who think they’re disgusting and those who agree they’re disgusting but are powerless to resist them." [WSJ / Russell Adams]
  • "Natural selection is heinously immoral." [Kevin Esvelt to New Yorker / Michael Specter]
  • "The longest biography on Wikipedia is of Belgian astronomer Eric Walter Elst. It tediously lists thousands of asteroids that he discovered, but has few revisions." [Medium / Jason Crease]
  • "Things, however, got weird." [NYT / Dwight Garner]
  • "His secret career was running smoothly until late 1977, when he received a disturbing message from Prague: 'YOUR MOTHER IS TRYING TO FIND YOU IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA WITH THE HELP OF THE RED CROSS. SHOULD THE RED CROSS FIND YOU, A MEETING IS TO BE AGREED WITH.'" [BBC / Jeff Maysh]

Watch this: Why American TV needs a Muslim Modern Family

Writer Reza Aslan thinks a Muslim Will & Grace could truly change American perceptions of Islam. [YouTube / Joshua Seftel]