The Soufan Group Morning Brief

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Despite missing a January 31 deadline, U.S. and EU officials agreed Tuesday to new regulations for businesses that move European citizens’ information between Europe and the United States. The deal, called the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, allows American tech companies to move personal data—including social media posts and financial information—across the Atlantic in exchange for “robust obligations” on the part of private businesses and “written assurances” on the part of the United States that such data is not being made available to American intelligence agencies in an indiscriminate manner. The accord also requires the United States to establish an ombudsman in the State Department to whom European countries can report suspected violations.

Data-sharing privacy concerns became a continent-wide concern after Edward Snowden revealed the secret policies of the U.S. government, though American representatives contended in these negotiations that the United States had put in place superior intelligence oversight mechanisms than most European countries. Last October, the European Court of Justice struck down the “safe harbor” framework on the grounds that it allowed U.S. authorities regular access to EU citizens’ data. The new agreement will be reviewed today by European national privacy agencies. If approved, the measures will go into effect in April. New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters, The Hill

Politico: Safe Harbor Deal Divides Opinion
Forbes: Safe Harbor Out—Stronger U.S., Corporate Obligations In
Lawfare: EU Commission Press Release on New EU-U.S. Privacy Shield
Huffington Post: New Privacy Deal May Not Actually Stop U.S. Snooping
Quartz: Against All Odds, a New EU-U.S. Data Privacy Deal Has Been Announced
Bloomberg View: EU Fails to Build on Data Privacy Success
In a speech at the Economic Club of Washington on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter previewed the Pentagon’s forthcoming budget request for 2017, which seeks an increase in spending on the anti-ISIS military campaign. The Defense Department will request from Congress $1.8 billion for the purchase 45,000 smart bombs and rockets, stockpiles of which are near exhaustion due to ongoing operations in Iraq and Syria. Carter noted that the United States faces a “dramatically different” security environment and does not have the “luxury of just one opponent, or the choice between current fights and future fights.” The $582.7 billion budget will also increase funding for the American troop presence in Europe in a bid to deter further Russian aggression. The administration is expected to formally release the 2017 defense budget next week. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Hill

The Daily Beast: Pentagon Won’t Say How Many Troops Are Fighting ISIS

Nuclear Secrets: In federal court on Tuesday, a former Nuclear Regulatory Commission scientist admitted to hacking into Department of Energy computers and conducting “spear-phishing” email attacks on employees. According to an FBI affidavit, 62-year-old Charles Harvey Eccleston became disgruntled after being fired by the NRC in 2010. The FBI began tracking Eccleston in 2013 after he allegedly threatened to sell U.S. officials’ information to Iran, Venezuela, and China. He also pled guilty to attempting to plant a virus on more than 80 Energy Department employees’ computers. Eccleston was detained in the Philippines last year and extradited to the United States to face charges of unauthorized access and intentional damage to a protected computer. Eccleston is scheduled to be sentenced in April. New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press

Associated Press: United States to Rework Arms Control Rule on Exporting Hacker Tools

NSA Reorg: The National Security Agency is planning major changes to its organizational structure in an effort to meet modern digital threats, according to a report published on Tuesday in the Washington Post. The NSA will create a Directorate of Operations to combine its Signals Intelligence and Information Assurance directorates, which collect intelligence on foreign targets and conduct counterintelligence respectively. The new directorate will bring analysts and operators together in one entity, a model that mirrors the structure of issue-specific centers established by the CIA last year. NSA Director Michael Rogers described the initiative, known as NSA21, as “among the most comprehensive” at the agency since the 1990s. Washington Post

Benghazi: On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper rejected the requests of a man charged in the 2012 Benghazi attacks to return to Libya and to avoid the death penalty in relation to his murder charges. Ahmed Abu Khattala, a 44-year-old Libyan citizen, was captured by U.S. Special Forces in June 2014 and is believed to have helped lead the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that resulted in the death of Amb. Christopher Stevens and other Americans. Defense attorneys had argued that Khattala’s arrest and interrogation “outrageously violated” his constitutional rights, including due-process protections. Khattala was held aboard a Navy ship without counsel for thirteen days as U.S. intelligence officials interrogated him. A trial date for the case has not been set. Washington Post, Associated Press

ISIS in New York: The upcoming trial of Tairod Pugh, a U.S. Air Force veteran accused of leaving the United States to fight alongside the Islamic State, raises questions about whether spousal privilege regarding his communications with his wife could affect similar ISIS-related trials, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. Federal prosecutors plan to use as evidence in the case an email Pugh sent to his wife in which he wrote that he sought to “establish and defend the Islamic States” and hinted that he wanted to become a martyr. U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis has yet to decide whether the evidence is admissible. Prosecutors are questioning the validity of Pugh’s marriage, as they claim he never completed a previous divorce. Eighteen of the 78 individuals who have been arrested in the United States on ISIS-related charges were married at the time of their arrest, according to data from Fordham Law School’s Center on National Security. Wall Street Journal
U.S. drone airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan destroyed the Islamic State’s FM radio station on Monday. U.S. military officials had suspected that the radio broadcasts were being transmitted through mobile facilities along the Pakistan border. ISIS expanded its operations into Afghanistan last year and used its radio station, “Voice of the Caliphate,” as a method of recruiting fighters to their cause. Radio programming is a popular medium in Afghanistan, where many people do not own televisions or have access to the internet. The airstrikes, which occurred in the remote Achin district of Nangarhar Province, also killed 29 ISIS militants, including eight at the radio station. Reuters, BBC, CNN, Haaretz

Vice News: The Islamic State’s ‘Voice of the Caliphate’ Radio Broadcast Goes Silent After Airstrikes
Washington Post: Afghanistan Needs Long-Term U.S. Commitment, Says Gen. Campbell
New York Times: Taliban Gun Down 10-Year-Old Militia Hero in Afghanistan
Slate: “Boots on the Ground” Is a Meaningless Phrase. We Need New Language to Talk About War
The Hill: Gen. Campbell: “Afghanistan Is at an Inflection Point”

Syrian Peace Talks: Despite UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura’s announcement on Monday that formal talks had begun between the Syrian opposition and the Assad government, the two sides contradicted him, denying that talks had started. Bashar al-Jaafari, the head of the Syrian government delegation, told reporters on Tuesday that talks were “in the preparatory stage before the official launch of indirect negotiations.” The opposition delegation brought attention to the recent Russian-backed military advance on key supply lines near Aleppo, as well as Sunday’s suicide bombing at a holy Shiite shrine near Damascus. These recent events have put the Geneva peace talks in jeopardy. New York Times, Reuters, Al Jazeera

Reuters: Senior Opposition Negotiator Alloush Says Not Optimistic on Talks
Associated Press: Syria Allows Aid Into Rebel-Held Area as Peace Talks Stall
Al Jazeera: ISIL Suicide Bomber Kills Iraqi Troops Near Ramadi
New York Times: Anti-ISIS Coalition to Intensify Efforts, John Kerry Says

Lebanon: Hezbollah killed at least four members of the al-Nusra Front, an al Qaeda-affiliated militant group, on Tuesday in a rocket attack on their car near the Syrian border. The attack occurred near the Lebanese town of Arsal, near the Syrian border. Arsal was shortly held by al-Nusra and ISIS fighters in 2014 before being retaken by the Lebanese army. The clashes in Arsal and the continued involvement of al-Nusra and ISIS inside Lebanon’s borders show how the Syrian conflict has spilled over into neighboring countries. Reuters
ISIS in Canada: Aaron Driver, a 23-year-old Canadian citizen who has been accused of supporting the Islamic State, agreed to a ten-month peace bond in a Canadian court on Tuesday. Driver acknowledged “that there are reasonable grounds to fear that he may participate, contribute, directly or indirectly, in the activity of a terrorist group.” He must also receive written permission to change his address or own any computers, cell phones, or other electronic devices. Driver is no longer required to wear a GPS tracking bracelet or attend religious counselling, conditions he faced when he left custody on bail.

Canadian intelligence authorities began tracking Driver in October 2014 after they noticed him frequently tweeting his support for ISIS under a pseudonym. He was arrested by authorities in June of last year after Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided his home in Winnipeg. Driver has not been charged with a crime. CBC, CTV, Vice News

Reuters: Canada’s Syrian Refugee Plan Draws U.S. Senate Panel Scrutiny

Europe: The European Union laid out new plans to combat terrorist financing across Europe on Tuesday. The action plan aims to cut off sources of revenue to terrorist organizations and use cash flows and money transfers to track suspects’ movements. It also enhances financial intelligence-sharing among EU member states. EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said that he hopes the efforts will “improve the oversight of the many financial means used by terrorists, from cash and cultural artefacts to virtual currencies and anonymous pre-paid cards.” Pending endorsement by member states, the complete plan could be in place by the end of 2017. Wall Street Journal, Yahoo News, Deutsche Welle

The Telegraph: €500 Bills ‘May Be Used by Terrorists,’ EU Warns

Killing Jihadist Hackers Sets a Flawed Precedent: “The digital wing of the Islamic State resembles Anonymous more than it does a sophisticated cyber-warfare service,” write Meg King and Grayson Clary in War on the Rocks. “Still, the United States has launched jets to hunt it down all the same… Under the standard set by recent strikes, oceans of amateurs would crowd kill lists. From the evidence available, lethal action seems to have been taken too quickly.”

The Hawkeye State Sours on Hawkish Republicans: “Four years ago, Iowans rewarded the neocon-inflected campaigns of Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney,” writes Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic. “This year, four of the top five finishers are critics of unnecessary interventions… In Iowa, well over 50 percent of the electorate seems to support candidates who are openly skeptical of major wars of choice supported by rivals in this campaign.”

Afghanistan: Threatening News: “Notwithstanding the one trillion dollars spent in Afghanistan by American taxpayers since 2001, the fact is that Afghanistan is a country whose government has hardly any ability to enforce its writ, even in the capital itself,” writes Ahmed Rashid in The New York Review of Books. “Governors and officials have resorted to tweeting or putting up messages on Facebook to alert the government that they are surrounded by Taliban and their town or post is about to fall.”
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For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Assad’s Military Momentum.


The Center on National Security at Fordham Law will host “United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists” on February 12, 2016. To RSVP, click here.