The Soufan Group Morning Brief

Morning Brief: Bin Laden Bodyguard Approved For Transfer From Guantanamo

The Periodic Review Board approved the transfer of Majid Ahmed, a 35-year-old Yemeni man suspected of working as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, from the prison at Guantanamo Bay to an Arabic-speaking country “with appropriate security assurances.” The PRB wrote in a statement that Ahmed’s “relative candor in discussing his time in Afghanistan, acceptance of the mistakes he made, and a credible desire to not repeat those mistakes,” were factors in its decision to approve his release. Ahmed has been detained at Guantanamo since the prison was opened in January 2002. Miami Herald
Miami Herald: 91 Guantánamo captives vastly outnumbered by 2,000 guards, staff
On Saturday, Edward Snowden said he would return to the United States if the government guarantees him a fair trial. Speaking via Skype at the New Hampshire Liberty Forum, Snowden said he wanted the opportunity to “make a public interest defense of why this was done and allow a jury to decide.” Snowden has been living in Russia since June 2013. Guardian, The Hill

Christian Science Monitor: Could Edward Snowden get a fair trial if he returned to the US?

San Bernardino Phone: On Friday, the Justice Department criticized Apple’s unwillingness to comply with a court order to unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. Federal prosecutors wrote in a court filing that Apple’s refusal “appears to be based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy.” The Justice Department also added that “this is not the end of privacy,” in response to Apple CEO Tim Cook’s open letter against the government’s request. New York Times, Politico

Washington Post: FBI asked San Bernardino to reset the password for shooter’s phone backup
Reuters: San Bernardino victims to oppose Apple on iPhone encryption
Buzzfeed News: FBI Admits It Urged Change Of Apple ID Password For Terrorist’s iPhone
Slate: How Apple’s Stand Against the FBI Could Backfire

FBI Informants:(T)error,” a documentary film by that examines the methods and effectiveness of FBI informants in terrorism cases, will debut on the PBS series Independent Lens tonight. Karen J. Greenberg, Director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, praised the film for shedding light on abuses in the system, but added that the government may be changing its tactics and “now seems to take more seriously the idea of early intervention” with young people influenced by ISIS, “rather than enticing them to bigger and bigger crimes.” This has resulted in plea deals and prison sentences that are “significantly lighter as well.” Newsweek

Donald Trump won the South Carolina Republican primary on Saturday with 32 percent of the vote. Marco Rubio edged out Ted Cruz for second place, earning 22.5 percent of the vote to Cruz’s 22.3 percent. In the Nevada Democratic caucus, Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders 53 percent to 47 percent. New York Times, Reuters

Wall Street Journal: Jeb Bush Exits Republican Race
Politico: 5 takeaways from South Carolina and Nevada

On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had reached a provisional agreement regarding the terms of a “cessation of hostilities” that could begin “in the coming days.” Kerry added that the sides were “closer to a ceasefire” than they had been before. Meanwhile, violence in Syria continued as bombings claimed by ISIS killed at least 87 people in Damascus and 59 in Homs. Reuters, New York Times, Guardian, Washington Post, CNN

Vice News: Assad Says He’s Worried About 'Terrorists' and Foreign Meddling If There's a Truce in Syria
Newsweek: Putin's Quagmire and Other Fairy Tales About Syria

Libya: U.S. airstrikes against ISIS-controlled areas in Libya killed two Serbian embassy staffers held hostage by ISIS on Friday, according to Serbian officials. The Serbian government criticized the military operation and questioned the accuracy of U.S. intelligence, as the two Serbian nationals had been held hostage since November of last year. Pentagon officials claimed they had monitored the target site for weeks and that there were “no indications of any civilians present.” New York Times, Guardian, Reuters

Washington Post: This is the ISIS militant the U.S. might have just killed in Libya
The Hill: Pentagon: ISIS terrorists in Libya planning 'external attacks' against US interests
New York Times: U.S. Scrambles to Contain Growing ISIS Threat in Libya

Afghanistan: The Afghan army reportedly withdrew the last of its troops from a key district of Helmand Province on Saturday. The Taliban has made significant gains in Helmand province in recent months and now controls 10 of its 14 districts. New York Times, Reuters

The Atlantic: What America Leaves When It Leaves Afghanistan
The Telegraph: Afghan forces withdraw from Musa Qala, scene of so much British bloodshed
New York Times: Russia Pulls Back From Cooperating With U.S. on Afghanistan

France: The brother of a man who killed seven people in southwestern France in 2012 may face trial for his involvement in planning the attacks. A Paris prosecutor asked that Abdelkader Merah, the brother of Mohammed Merah who carried out an attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, be charged with criminal terrorist conspiracy, theft in connection with a terrorist act, complicity in premeditated terrorist murder, and attempted murder. If a judge approves the request, Merah will face trial in a special court for terrorist crimes in Paris. The court consists of a panel of judges rather than a jury. New York Times

Bangladesh: Suspected ISIS militants killed a Hindu priest and shot and wounded one other at a temple in Bangladesh on Sunday. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on social media. However local police said the attack was carried out by a local militant group, The Jamaatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh. Reuters, CNN, BBC News

Iran: Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami urged voters to back moderate and reform candidates in Friday’s upcoming elections. Reformists are pushing for high turnout and are urging voters to support a coalition headed by President Hassan Rouhani. New York Times, Yahoo News

Buzzfeed News: What To Expect In Iran’s Upcoming Elections

Canada: On Sunday, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said he is “a little concerned” that “Islamic terrorists” could “infiltrate that flow of refugees” coming to Canada and enter the United States. This comes in response to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent initiative to expedite the approval process for asylum seekers and resettle additional Syrian refugees in Canada. The Hill
ISIS Goes Global: ISIS groups outside of Syria and Iraq, including Libya and the Sinai, called “provinces,” “pose a serious threat to Western interests: they enable ISIS to expand its reach and make local groups more deadly in their regional conflicts,” writes Daniel Byman in Foreign Affairs. “Yet the United States and its allies are only just beginning to factor the provinces into their counterterrorism strategy.”

To Keep America Safe, Embrace Drone Warfare: “The program is not perfect. No military program is. But here is the bottom line: It works,” writes Michael Hayden in The New York Times. “I think it fair to say that the targeted killing program has been the most precise and effective application of firepower in the history of armed conflict. It disrupted terrorist plots and reduced the original Qaeda organization along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to a shell of its former self.”

Think U.S. intel is in decline? These declassified memos may change your mind: “The funding allocated for the intelligence community remains far above what it was before 9/11. Of course, merely spending money doesn’t necessarily get great results,” writes Aki Peritz in The Washington Post. “By at least some measures, though, our intelligence collection and analysis seem vastly more sophisticated than they used to be.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Counterterrorism from 20,000 Feet

The Center on National Security at Fordham Law will host “Iran in Context” with Laura Secor and Hooman Majd on February 23, 2016. To RSVP, click here.

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