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Former Top Security Officials Criticize Trump's 'Ill-Conceived' Ban In Court Filing

Demonstrators in Los Angeles march to support a federal judge's ruling that grants a nationwide temporary restraining order against President Trump's order to ban travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries.
David McNew
Getty Images
Demonstrators in Los Angeles march to support a federal judge's ruling that grants a nationwide temporary restraining order against President Trump's order to ban travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries.

President Trump's ban on some Muslim travelers and immigrants "was ill-conceived, poorly implemented and ill-explained" — and harms, rather than advances, U.S. interests, say 10 former officials who led parts of America's diplomatic and security apparatus over the past 20 years.

"In our professional opinion, this Order cannot be justified on national security or foreign policy grounds," the group wrote to the court weighing the legality of Trump's executive order that targets seven majority-Muslim nations.

The group, which includes former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former CIA Director Michael Hayden, is siding with two states (Washington and Minnesota) that on Friday won a temporary restraining order that suspended Trump's ban. Over the weekend, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit refused his administration's request to restore the ban.

The document that Albright and the other experts signed is entered as Exhibit A in the states' case against Trump's ban, which the states say "unleashed chaos" when it was enacted by executive order in late January.

While Albright and the other experts cite their work in government that extends back decades, four of the former officials on the list were receiving intelligence briefings up until Trump's inauguration — including former Secretary of State John Kerry and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice. The group includes veterans of the Bush and Obama administrations.

After his ban was put on hold, Trump tweeted, "What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?"

He later implied that if an attack occurs, federal Judge James Robart should be blamed: "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!"

Both sides of the case are facing Monday deadlines to submit their briefs for the next round in the legal fight, with a ruling possible early this week. The states say that withdrawing the temporary order blocking the ban would "unleash chaos again."

Albright, Hayden and their colleagues told the court, "Very few attacks on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001 have been traced to foreign nationals at all. The overwhelming majority of attacks have been committed by U.S. citizens." And in another reference to Sept. 11, the group states that even that terrorist attack didn't provoke the U.S. government "to broadly bar entrants based on nationality, national origin, or religious affiliation."

The states attacking the ban say the president's order disrupted the personal lives of thousands of people and undermined businesses and universities that rely on ties to the seven banned countries. After Washington filed its suit one week ago, Minnesota joined its case.

Saying the president's order runs counter to America's values, the former security and diplomatic officials state, "Rebranding a proposal first advertised as a 'Muslim Ban' as 'Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States' does not disguise the Order's discriminatory intent, or make it necessary, effective, or faithful to America's Constitution, laws, or values."

Criticizing the ban, the former officials say Trump's administration hasn't aired any facts or allegations regarding threats posed by any specific person or phase of the current visa vetting process.

Here's the full list of former officials who signed the document:

Former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and John Kerry;
Former CIA directors Michael Hayden and Leon Panetta (who was also a Defense secretary);
Former CIA deputies and acting directors John McLaughlin and Michael Morell;
Former Deputy CIA director Avril Haines;
Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice;
Former Deputy National Security Advisor Lisa Monaco;
Former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano;

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.