The Soufan Group Morning Brief

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Following the deadly clash with members of the armed militia occupying Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon, Ammon Bundy, the leader of the group who was arrested Tuesday, urged his followers to end their nearly month-long occupation. “To those remaining at the refuge, I love you,” Bundy said in a statement following a court appearance on Wednesday. “Let us take this fight from here. Please stand down. Please stand down. Go home and hug your families.” Eight individuals, including most of the militia’s leaders, were arrested on charges of conspiracy to impede officers from performing their official duties through force, intimidation, or threats. Despite the previous days events, the protesters remaining at the site continued to debate Wednesday whether to end their occupation of the refuge. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Guardian, Reuters

Washington Post: The Importance of a Martyr to the Oregon Occupiers
Guardian: Oregon Militia Explainer: Background to the Standoff
The Atlantic: A Dramatic Turn in the Oregon Standoff: Eight Arrests and a Death
Foreign Policy: Oregon Stand-Off Enters New Phase with Killing of Spokesperson, Arrest of Leader
Ardit Ferizi, a 20-year-old Kosovar who was recently extradited to the United States on terrorism and identity-theft charges, appeared in a U.S. federal district court in Alexandria for the first time on Wednesday. Federal authorities have accused him of hacking into the database of an American retailer and then sending the names, email addresses, and other personally-identifiable information of U.S. military and government personnel he identified to the Islamic State. Ferizi is alleged to have shared these records with Junaid Hussain, a British ISIS propagandist, who posted them online in a bid to incite violence against Americans; Hussain was killed in a drone strike later that month. He will appear in court again this Friday. Washington Post, NBC News, Voice of America

The Hill: CyberCaliphate Vows Revenge for U.S. Killing of Top ISIS Hacker
Defense One: ISIS Communications App: Much Ado About Not Much

Gitmo: In a recent letter to the Congressional Budget Office publicized by her office on Wednesday, Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) demanded that the office conduct a comprehensive study to determine the direct and indirect costs of closing Guantanamo. “These costs should include, but not be limited to, the increased security and law enforcement personnel, the economic loss due to voluntary move outs and the need for enhanced physical infrastructure around the city, county and region to assuage the residents’ fears and concerns,” the Congresswoman wrote. Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has vowed to close the detention facility, which costs approximately $400 million per year to operate. The Hill

Al Jazeera: After Repatriation, Ex-Guantanamo Afghans Pursue Variety of Life Options

Surveillance: The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to meet in a classified session next week to discuss a 2008 amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The amendment allows the government to collect Americans’ communications data without warrants and authorizes the NSA’s PRISM and Upstream collection programs, both of which remain controversial. Civil liberties organizations contend that “excessive secrecy” contributes to governmental abuses and has called on the committee to hold an unclassified session. The 2008 FISA Amendments Act does not come up for renewal until 2017. The Hill

Naval Intel: Vice Admiral Ted “Twig” Branch, the Director of Naval Intelligence, has not been able to view classified information for over two years since having his security clearance suspended in November 2013 as the result of a corruption investigation. Branch’s name, along with that of his deputy Adm. Bruce F. Loveless, appeared in a massive bribery case involving naval personnel and defense contractors. Since then, neither have been been charged in the case, though their access to classified information remains suspended. Branch has remained in his position, despite not being able to meet with other U.S. intelligence leaders to discuss sensitive operations or missions. Washington Post
Human rights groups have alleged that the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is using a practice known as “enforced disappearance” to suppress the faintest hint of opposition to its authoritarian rule. Under the Sisi regime, tens of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members, civil society activists, and other alleged enemies-of-the-state have been imprisoned arbitrarily, held in secret detention centers for sustained periods, and subjected to coercive interrogation techniques, including torture. In 2015, rights advocates documented more than 340 cases of enforced disappearance in a three-month period alone, and some of them believe the repression is worse than at any point during Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule. New York Times

Al Jazeera: Al Jazeera Files Arbitration Claim Against Egypt
ABC News: Egypt Officials: Sinai Bombing Kills Army Colonel, Three Troops
Newsweek: Pranksters Could Face Jail For Handing Condom Balloons to Police in Viral Video
The Economist: Reflections on a Revolution

Afghanistan: Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook announced Wednesday that Lt. Gen. John “Mick” Nicholson, the current head of NATO’s Allied Land Command, will replace Gen. John Campbell as the commander of American and international forces in Afghanistan. Nicholson, a West Point graduate, is a career infantry officer with a decade of experience in Af-Pak affairs, including stints as the Chief of Staff of Operations for the International Security Assistance Force and the Director of the Defense Department’s Afghanistan-Pakistan Coordination Cell. If confirmed by the Senate, he will take over the campaign as Washington weighs whether to maintain a long-term military presence in the country to combat ISIS’ burgeoning presence and al Qaeda’s resurgence there. New York Times, Yahoo News, ABC News

Foreign Policy: As the War Grinds On, New General Nominated to Lead Fight in Afghanistan
Defense One: Obama Taps New General to Lead Afghan War

Yemen: An expert body tasked with monitoring the conflict in Yemen on the UN Security Council’s behalf has concluded that the Saudi-led coalition intentionally targeted civilians in what may constitute crimes against humanity, according to a final 56-page assessment leaked to the media earlier this week. In its report, the monitoring group encouraged the 15-member Security Council to set up a Commision of Inquiry to explore possible violations of international law. In addition to documenting Saudi abuses, the expert panel also noted that Houthi rebels have engaged in a systematic anti-civilian campaign indicative of crimes against humanity. Guardian, Reuters, Deutsche Welle

Vice News: Saudi-Led Bombing in Yemen Targets Civilians as Houthis Use Migrants as Human Shield
Iran: Nader Modanlo, a 55-year-old Iranian-American and former aerospace executive, was one of seven individuals released by the United States as part of its recent prisoner exchange with Iran. He is also the only one known to have initially balked at the terms of the deal. Modanlo was convicted in 2013 of facilitating an agreement between Russia and Iran that helped the latter puts its first communication satellite into space. In order to ensure his inclusion in the swap, Washington demanded that he forfeit an appeal of his case and the chance to expunge a felony conviction from his record. His wife and relatives in Iran ultimately convinced him to sign off on the exchange. New York Times

Wall Street Journal: Iran’s Rouhani Says Europe Trip Marks ‘New Spring’ in Relations
Washington Post: Iran Election Gatekeepers Keep Tight Controls on Candidates for Key Panel
Associated Press: France Asks EU Partners for New Sanctions on Iran
The Hill: Iran Warns U.S. Warship to Leave Waters

France: French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira resigned Wednesday in protest of President Francois Hollande’s proposal in the wake of the Paris attacks to strip the citizenship of French-born dual nationals who are convicted of terrorism. Taubira contended that the measure was both discriminatory and unlikely to deter terrorists. Prime Minister Manuel Valls introduced the terrorism legislation into Parliament on Wednesday as part of a package that would amend the French constitution to better align it the state-of-emergency laws. The current state-of-emergency expires at the end of next month, but Hollande is expected to seek a three-month extension. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Guardian

New York Times: France Restricts ‘Salafistes,’ Film on Islamic Radicals

Congress Must Take Sides in the War Against Terrorists: “What would a model measure contain?” writes the Editorial Board of Bloomberg View. “One clever proposal that deserves more consideration comes from Democratic Representative Adam Schiff: While the president would be empowered to unilaterally deploy ground forces in a combat role, any member of Congress would be able to put forth a measure blocking or modifying the White House plan using an expedited procedure laid out in the War Powers Resolution.”

Is It Time to Switch from Riyadh to Tehran?: “Whatever the alleged benefits of the Saudi alliance, America pays a high price,” writes Doug Bandow in Newsweek. “Over the last few years, Riyadh’s behavior has become more harmful to America’s interests… By executing Sheikh al-Nimr, the KSA triggered sectarian protests in Bahrain, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon. Riyadh responded by breaking diplomatic relations with Iran, undermining political negotiations to resolve Syria’s civil war.”

Why Is Israel So Cautious on the Islamic State?: “The Israelis don’t want to disturb a hornet’s nest in taking on the Islamic State,” writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post. “Is a similarly measured option available to the United States? Most Israeli officials say no. They argue that the United States is a superpower, and that if it wants to maintain leadership in the region, it must lead the fight to roll back the Islamic State.”
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