The Soufan Group Morning Brief

Editor’s Note: There will be no Morning Brief on Friday, March 25th or Monday, March 28th in recognition of the Easter holiday. We will be back Tuesday, March 29th.


The Turkish government claims that Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, one of the two brothers identified as suspects Tuesday’s suicide bombings, was reportedly detained at the Syrian border and then deported to the Netherlands last year. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that “one of the attackers in Brussels is an individual we detained in Gaziantep in June 2015 and deported. We reported the deportation to the Belgian Embassy in Ankara on July 14, 2015, but he was later set free.” Erdogan added that his government had warned Belgian officials that el-Bakraoui “was a foreign terrorist fighter,” but that “Belgian authorities could not identify a link to terrorism.”

On Wednesday, during searches of an apartment in the Schaerbeek neighborhood of Brussels, investigators found bomb-making materials, including large quantities of the household ingredients used to produce TATP, the substance used in Tuesday’s attacks. Police are still searching for at least one other suspect and are trying to determine whether the a third bomber at the airport was Najim Laachraoui, a suspected bomb maker linked to November’s Paris attacks. New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Reuters

U.S. World & News Report: How Radicalization Happens and Who Is at Risk
Washington Post: The west’s Islamophobia is only helping the Islamic State
Los Angeles Times: Did the capture of a terrorist in Brussels prompt the attacks?
Reuters: U.S. frustration simmers over Belgium's struggle with militant threat
The Hill: Intel chairman: Brussels attacks appeared to target Americans
BuzzFeed News: Everything We Know About The Suspects In The Brussels Attacks
NY Mag: What We Know So Far About the Brussels Attackers

On Wednesday a senior Pentagon official said that the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees has led to American deaths. Speaking in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Paul Lewis, a DoD special envoy for Guantanamo’s closure, said that “unfortunately, there have been Americans that have died because of Gitmo detainees,” although he did not provide specific examples. An Obama administration official later said that Lewis was referring to an incident involving an Afghan prisoner released during the George W. Bush administration. Associated Press, Miami Herald, Washington Post

NSA: U.S. Representatives Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) wrote a letter expressing their concern over potential changes to how the NSA shares citizens’ information with other intelligence agencies. The NSA is reportedly planning to share intercepted private communications with other intelligence agencies without applying privacy protections to the data. The congressmen claim that the NSA’s policies would violate Fourth Amendment privacy protections against unlawful search and seizure. Reuters, The Hill

FBI v. Apple: Justice Department officials say they have received advice from numerous outside parties about how to circumvent Apple’s security software and unlock the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. Justice Department attorney Tracy Wilkinson said “there have been a lot of people who have reached out to us during this litigation with proposed alternate methods.” New York Times

Politico: Apple wasn't 'flouting' iPhone order, judge says
Wall Street Journal: Apple Win in iPhone Case Comes With Cost
Business Insider: Apple worries that spy technology has been secretly added to the computer servers it buys

Defense contractor hacker: A Chinese businessman pleaded guilty to conspiring to hack and steal sensitive data from Boeing and other U.S. defense contractors on Wednesday. Su Bin, who was arrested in Canada in July 2014, allegedly helped two Chinese military hackers steal data from U.S. defense contractors. Washington Post, Wall Street Journal

On Wednesday, President Obama sharply criticized Ted Cruz for his proposal to secure and patrol Muslim communities in the United States. Speaking at a press conference during a visit to Argentina, President Obama said that Cruz’s proposal “makes absolutely no sense” and that “I just left a country that engages in that kind of neighborhood surveillance, which, by the way, the father of Senator Cruz escaped [from] for America, the land of the free.” New York City Police Chief Bill Bratton also expressed criticism, saying Cruz was “really out of line with his comments,” and that his statements show “why he’s not going to become president of this country.” ABC News, Huffington Post

The Hill: Clinton hits Trump, Cruz for Brussels response: 'Slogans aren't a strategy'

UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed announced on Wednesday that the Yemeni government and Houthi rebel leaders have agreed to an April 10 ceasefire, before peace talks begin on April 18 in Kuwait. Previous attempts to implement a ceasefire and find a political solution to the conflict have failed, as each side has accused the other of violating the truce. New York Times, Associated Press

Syria: Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Moscow on Wednesday for his first face-to-face meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin since Russia partially withdrew its forces from Syria. Russia has recently grown impatient with the United States over determining rules of engagement to punish violators of the fragile truce in the war-torn country. Reuters, Wall Street Journal

United Kingdom: A British jury convicted 21-year-old Suhaib Majeed on charges related to a terrorist drive-by shooting plot targeting police and military personnel in London. The ringleader of the plot, 22-year-old Tarik Hassane, nicknamed “The Surgeon”, previously pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to murder and preparation of terrorist attacks. New reports claim that Hassane is believed to be associated with Mohammed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadi John,” as the two grew up together and attended the same mosque in west London. Hassane is also believed to have met with Emwazi during a trip to Syria in 2014. Guardian, The Telegraph

ISIS in Europe: ISIS has trained at least 400 fighters to target Europe, according to European and Iraqi intelligence. According to reports, ISIS cells in Europe are reportedly semiautonomous from the extremist group in Iraq and Syria, with orders to choose the time, place, and method of attacks. Associated Press
Brussels bombings are a sign of Islamic State's panic: “The West should understand that this is what winning may look like in the battle against Islamic State. The attackers' coordinated strikes could well stem more from a sense of weakness, than strength,” writes Karen J. Greenberg on Reuters. “Islamic State has recently taken a series of serious hits at its power and prowess. First, and most important, its territory in Iraq and Syria….the Brussels attacks may still have been a sign of a group feeling cornered and on the run.”

Brussels shows Europe’s shockingly dysfunctional approach to security: “The European Union needs to reinvent its security system. It needs to break the stovepipes that prevent sharing information, enforcing borders and protecting citizens,” writes David Ignatius in The Washington Post. “In the months before Tuesday’s terrorist attacks in Brussels, “the system was blinking red,” as George Tenet, the former CIA director, famously described the period before Sept. 11, 2001. Yet Belgium (like pre-9/11 America) couldn’t connect the dots.”

Why keeping us safe from terrorism is so hard: “Open societies that rely on the flow of people and goods, that are plugged into the global market and engaged with the world, can't possibly harden every place where people gather,” writes Juliette Kayyem on “As a result, they are constantly balancing the need for counterterrorism efforts against the freedom of movement.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Brussels and the Difficulties in Connecting the Dots

The Center on National Security at Fordham Law will host a full-day conference “Hindsight: Reflections on 15 years of The War On Terror” on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. To RSVP, click here.

Call for Papers: Revisiting the Role of International Law in National Security. For more information, click here.

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