The Soufan Group Morning Brief


Speaking in front of a House Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that the Obama administration is legally prohibited from transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States, stating “that is the state of the law.” Lynch’s comments came a day after President Obama submitted his plan to Congress to close the prison at Guantanamo and bring detainees to U.S. soil, which Republican lawmakers say is illegal. However she added that “the administration is committed to closing” Guantanamo and “of course we support those efforts.” The Hill

Miami Herald: Speaker Paul Ryan: Legal steps to stop Obama from closing Guantánamo prison
NBC News: Colin Powell Says Closing Guantanamo Bay in America's 'Best Interest'
Huffington Post: Obama Loses Key Potential Republican Ally On Guantanamo Bay Closure
Los Angeles Times: The real problem with Guantanamo
One of the five 9/11 suspects held at Guantanamo Bay testified that prison guards used noises and vibrations to torment and deprive him of sleep. 43-year-old Ramzi bin al Shibh, a Yemeni man who has been held at Guantanamo since 2006, said that electronic devices in the walls and floors of the detention facility intentionally caused disturbances that prevented him from concentrating, sleeping, and praying. Reuters, Miami Herald

Terror trial: A federal judge expressed her concern about the jailing of a man awaiting trial for nearly four years on allegations of plotting a terror attack. The FBI arrested Adel Daoud in 2012 after he placed an inert bomb outside a Chicago bar. Daoud’s defense attorney Thomas Durkin argued the FBI sting operation was unfair saying that Daoud “wasn’t stable” and that “now he's destabilized” further. Associated Press

Privacy: On Wednesday, President Obama signed into law legislation that extends certain U.S. privacy protections to citizens of U.S. allies. In a bid to reassure European allies, the bill allows for foreign citizens to sue the U.S. government for unlawful disclosure of personal data under certain conditions. The bill also bans Internet access taxes. Associated Press

Combatting Violent Extremism: Government officials met with executives from major technology and entertainment companies on Wednesday to discuss ways to combat online messaging by violent extremist groups. The meeting, which took place at the Justice Department and included speeches by top counterterrorism and technology officials, was aimed at building further government and private sector cooperation on national security efforts. New York Times

Apple: On Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook sent yet another strong message against the government’s request to unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. In an interview with ABC, Cook said that giving into the government’s demands would be “bad for America” and “could expose people to incredible vulnerabilities.” Washington Post, BBC News

Wall Street Journal: Apple’s Other Court Showdown to Watch
New York Times: Apple Is Said to Be Trying to Make It Harder to Hack iPhones

Minnesota: An imam from St. Paul claims that government officials barred him from participating in a tour of airport operations and screening methods because he was critical of federal anti-terror recruiting efforts in Minnesota. Imam Hassan Mohamud had been invited to review operations and screening procedures at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, only to have his invitation be revoked by Department of Homeland Security officials last week. Minnesota Public Radio

Reuters: Minnesota apologizes, revokes 'FMUSLMS' vanity license plate

ISIS has increased its number of attacks in Syria by 5 percent since Russia first began bombing missions into the country, according to a report published by IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center on Wednesday. ISIS militants reportedly have used air cover to move and reposition fighters. Washington Post

Syria: Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Thursday morning that the ceasefire agreement struck between the United States and Russia is “not binding.” He added that Turkey will take “necessary measures” against Kurdish and ISIS militants if its security is threatened. Yahoo News, Reuters, Washington Post

Politico: Turkey gives up on Obama, bristles over Syria deal
New York Times: A Kurdish Convergence in Syria
Reuters: Syrian opposition supports idea of two-week ceasefire
Washington Post: Days before planned Syria cease-fire, details on monitoring remain unclear

Libya: French special forces have been supporting Libyan troops in their fight against ISIS in Benghazi for the last two months, according to two Libyan military officials. The officials said on Wednesday that a combat squad of 15 special forces had conducted four military operations against ISIS and other groups in Benghazi alongside Libyan troops. Associated Press, Reuters, Guardian

New York Times: Assessing the Shifting Military and Political Calculus in Libya

Egypt: On Wednesday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi acknowledged for the first time that terrorists were behind the downing of a Russian airliner that crashed in the Sinai Peninsula last October. Egypt had previously been unwilling to publicly announce that terrorists were behind the attack, despite Russian and Western investigators’ confirmation of the use of a bomb. New York Times, Guardian, BBC News

Vice News: Egypt Finally Comes Clean: Terrorists Downed That Russian Plane

Iran: On Wednesday, Iran detained a U.S. citizen whose son has been held by the country since October. 80-year-old Baquer Namazi, the father of Iranian-American Siamak Namazi, was taken to Evin Prison near Tehran, the same facility as his son. No charges have been announced against Namazi. New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters

Russia: Afghan security officials received 10,000 automatic rifles as a military aid delivery from Russia on Wednesday. The delivery was reportedly part of an earlier security agreement between the two countries. One Afghan official said “this donation represents a deep friendship between two nations.” Reuters, Voice of America
Obama Makes Guantanamo Tribunals More Difficult: “There’s something extraordinary about the president so baldly criticizing prosecutions that are taking place under the auspices of the executive branch that he himself directs,” writes Noah Feldman on Bloomberg View. “The prosecuting party in the Guantanamo trials is the U.S. government, speaking through the executive branch. If Obama isn’t happy with how those prosecutions are going, he has the power to order the government’s side to act differently.”

Obama’s Most Dangerous Legacy: “At this rate, Obama’s drone record may well be one of the most disappointing aspects of his administration’s legacy,” writes David Cole in The New York Review of Books. “But unlike with such matters as Guantánamo, where he faces significant political obstruction from Congress, he has the ability and the authority, on his own, to improve his record substantially before he leaves office.”

Obama Courts Chaos With His Taliban Fantasy: “The Obama administration pins its hopes on China and Pakistan persuading the fundamentalist Islamist group to negotiate the end of its insurgency,” writes Husain Haqqani in The Wall Street Journal. “Yet the Taliban’s main demand—the establishment of what they deem to be an Islamic order—is nonnegotiable. They talk not with the intention of giving up fighting but to regroup and attack again.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Stubborn States of Emergency

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