The Soufan Group Morning Brief


Citing a letter written by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) said that Carter approved last October’s transfer of Guantanamo detainee Shaker Aamer without the full support of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In a February 16 letter released Wednesday, Carter wrote that “based on my discussions with Chairman [Martin] Dempsey, I understood that he had some concerns that Shaker Aamer might reengage in terrorist activity after his transfer to the United Kingdom.” The Pentagon had previously announced that Aamer was “unanimously approved for transfer by the six departments and agencies comprising” the military joint task force at Guantanamo, which includes the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Aamer, a Saudi citizen and British resident, was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and brought to Guantanamo in 2002 where he was held without being charged with a crime for more than 13 years. The Hill

CNN: The truth about closing Gitmo
Al Jazeera: Obama readies for showdown on Guantanamo closure
The Hill: How the White House lost McCain on Gitmo
NPR: Fact Check: Is Obama Handing Guantanamo Bay Back To Cuba?
TIME: PETA Calls for Guantanamo Bay to Become ‘Empathy Center’
USA Today: Obama can't close Guantanamo Bay outright. But could he simply empty it out?
Middle East Eye: Will Obama's last-ditch effort to close Guantanamo succeed?
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), accused military officials of illegally deleting intelligence files related to the U.S. military campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Nunes said at a hearing on Thursday that the committee had “been made aware that both files and emails have been deleted by personnel at CENTCOM” and that he expects the Pentagon to “provide these and all other relevant documents.” There is an ongoing Defense Department investigation into allegations that CENTCOM analysts were pressured into creating overly optimistic reports. CNN, Foreign Policy

The Daily Beast: 400 Intel Pros Warn: ISIS Info Flawed

NSA: The Obama administration may soon allow the NSA to share more of the private communications it collects with other U.S. intelligence agencies without first adding privacy protections to them, according to a report published on Thursday in The New York Times. The administration is reportedly considering changing restrictions to allow analysts across the intelligence community access to unprocessed information, without prior NSA privacy filtering. Civil liberties organizations are criticizing the potential change in policy and argue that it will weaken privacy protections. New York Times

Apple: In its first official legal response to the government’s request to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s phone, Apple asked Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym to drop last week’s court order in a court filing on Thursday. In its filing Apple said “no court has ever authorized what the government now seeks, no law supports such unlimited and sweeping use of the judicial process, and the Constitution forbids it.” Other major tech companies, including Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, and Google, reportedly plan to file a joint motion in support of Apple. There is speculation that the case could reach the Supreme Court, as Apple CEO Tim Cook previously said that “we would be prepared to take this issue all the way.” New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Associated Press

Guardian: Apple's top lawyer to testify before Congress over encryption fight with FBI
Los Angeles Times: Apple court papers: FBI is seeking 'dangerous power' that violates its constitutional rights
The Hill: Microsoft plans to back Apple in court
Bloomberg: FBI Chief Says Phone May Hold Key to Terrorists' Missing Minutes
Reuters: Apple unlocking case not 'trailblazer' for precedent: FBI chief

ISIS threats: An ISIS propaganda video reportedly threatens Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for suspending social media accounts of suspected ISIS supporters. Twitter announced earlier this month that it has suspended over 125,000 “terror linked” accounts since the middle of last year. Newsweek, International Business Times
In a town hall Thursday with NBC’s Chris Matthews, Bernie Sanders said that he “would not throw the book” at Edward Snowden, saying that he “deserves his day in court.” NBC News

The UN claims that all sides in the Libyan conflict are likely guilty of committing war crimes including torture, arbitrary detentions, and unlawful killings, according to a report released on Thursday. The UN Human Rights Council-ordered report documented abuses from 2014 to 2015 and warned of deteriorating conditions in the war-torn country. Yahoo News, BBC News, Guardian

Syria: The first UN airdrop of aid over the city of Deir ez-Zor on Wednesday may have been off target. According to the World Food Programme, the aid operation “faced technical difficulties” and “necessary adjustments” were needed. Deir ez-Zor is held by the Syrian government, but is surrounded by ISIS militants. BBC News, Associated Press

Vice News: No One Knows What Just Happened to the UN's First-Ever Humanitarian Airdrop in Syria
Associated Press: Syrian army recaptures town in Aleppo province from IS group
Washington Post: On the road to retake Raqqa, U.S.-backed forces have surrounded key Syrian town, Pentagon chief says

Al-Shabab: On Thursday, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said that as many as 200 soldiers were killed in an attack on a Kenyan military camp in Somalia last month. Kenya has refused to provide a death toll figure of its own, and denied the Somali president’s number. The January 15 attack targeted African Union troops near the southern Somali town of El-Adde. Reuters, BBC News

Vice News: Al Shabaab May Have Killed 200 Kenyan Soldiers in January Attack
Newsweek: Al-Shabab Killed 180 Kenyan Troops in El Adde: Somali President

Israel: A Sudanese migrant who stabbed an Israeli soldier two weeks ago was influenced and motivated by ISIS ideology, according to Israel’s intelligence service. Shin Bet internal security service said on Thursday that Kamal Has, who was shot and killed after wounding the soldier, had photos saved in his phone of “Islamic State loyalists taken in locations around the world.” The intel service added that “it looks like the attack was inspired by ISIS.” Reuters

Indonesia: Australian officials warned the Indonesian government that recent intelligence indicates that “terrorists may be in the advanced stages of preparing attacks” in the country. This comes a month after an attack in downtown Jakarta claimed by ISIS left eight people dead, including four attackers. Reuters, Guardian
Obama’s Flawed Plan to Close Guantánamo: “Perhaps, then, Obama should concentrate on at least shutting down the category of forever prisoners, if he cannot shut the prison itself,” writes Amy Davidson in The New Yorker. “This would involve not only paring down the number of such prisoners but also rejecting the rationale for holding them without charges.”

Really Good at Killing: “Drones are a signal departure from the impersonal destruction that typifies modern technologically advanced warfare...the personal character of this kind of killing goes all the way to the top. Obama ‘did not trust the agencies carrying out the strikes to grade their own work,’ ” writes Thomas Nagel in The London Review of Books. “The president as killer is a chilling new face of the role of commander-in-chief. I suspect that it is the personal, individualised nature of drone warfare that many people find so repellent.”

Why Moscow Holds the Cards in Syria: “It is doubtful whether safe zones would actually improve protection for civilians. Without an accompanying ground force able to secure the zones, fighting will continue,” write Julien Barnes-Dacy and Jeremy Shapiro in Politico Magazine. “Al-Nusra and ISIL are likely to partly fill any vacuum” and “the regime and its Russian and Iranian allies will simply counterescalate.”

Global Dispatches: The Global Implications of Apple V. FBI

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Families Bound to the Islamic State

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