The Soufan Group Morning Brief



On Monday, Belgian authorities released a man they wrongly accused as an attacker in last Tuesday’s bombings in Brussels due to a lack of evidence. Fayçal Cheffou, a citizen journalist claimed earlier by officials to be “an extremist jihadi horror,” is the only person who has been arrested and charged with involvement in the attacks. He was charged last week with with “participation in the activities of a terrorist group, terrorist murders, and attempted terrorist murders.” The release of Cheffou, whose arrest was originally seen as a significant break for investigators, raises further questions about the capabilities and preparedness of the Belgian and European security services. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BBC News, ABC News

Wall Street Journal: Brussels Bombers Dodged Chemical Curbs
Washington Post: A terror attack exposed Belgium’s security failings. Europe’s problem is far bigger
The Hill: Brussels attackers originally planned to strike next week: report
Informed Comment: What would effective Counter-Terrorism look like after Brussels?

The Justice Department said on Monday that it had without assistance from Apple successfully unlocked the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. The government also announced it has dropped its legal case to compel Apple to provide technical assistance to unlock the phone. However, new conflicts between the government and Apple may arise, as questions remain over how the Justice Department cracked the phone. ACLU lawyer Esha Bhandari said that “from a legal standpoint, what happened in the San Bernardino case doesn’t mean the fight is over.” Apple may seek a way to learn about how the government found a gap in its security software. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR

Associated Press: Apple Vs. FBI _ What Happened?
Fortune: Cracked Apple iPhone By F.B.I. Puts Spotlight On Apple Security
BuzzFeed News: FBI Accessed San Bernardino Shooter’s iPhone Without Apple, Drops Litigation

Minnesota terror trial: Federal prosecutors claim that a man serving on the defense team of a Minnesota terror trial has been “preaching about jihad and related topics.” Prosecutors are expected to file a motion by Tuesday to try to disqualify Hassan Mohamud from participating on the defense team of Adnan and Mohamed Farah, who face charges of planning to travel abroad to join ISIS in Syria. Hassan Mohamud has previously been critical of the government’s terror prosecutions and anti-radicalization efforts in Minnesota. MPR News

CIA: The CIA took nude photographs of detainees it sent to foreign countries as part of “extraordinary renditions,” according to a report in the Guardian. A senior U.S. official familiar with the photographs described the photos of the CIA captives as “very gruesome.” The justification for the naked photos was to document detainees’ physical condition while in CIA custody prior to their transfer to partner intelligence agencies known to use torture, according to Guardian sources. Human rights groups are calling the practice a form of “sexual humiliation” and a potential war crime. Guardian

TSA: In the wake of the bombings in the departure hall of the Brussels airport, security experts are warning about the risks of long, winding lines at security checkpoints and ticket counters. Theses areas are known as the vulnerable “soft side” of airports. Former TSA Administrator Kip Hawley, said that “what happened in Brussels underscores the urgency to fix the security line problem,” as long lines and wait times add security risks when passengers are packed close together. Reveal

Hayden: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is criticizing former CIA Director Michael Hayden’s account of the government’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques, citing inconsistencies and false information in his new book. In a 38-page document Feinstein and her staff methodically review Hayden’s claims that enhanced interrogation provided “incredibly valuable” information. Politico

Human Rights First: Hayden’s Torture Claims Don’t Measure Up to the Truth

Syrian government forces, with the help of Russian air support, continued their battle with ISIS on Monday during fighting around the city of Palmyra. The Syrian government is attempting to extend its gains in the area since retaking the city from ISIS control on Sunday. The loss of Palmyra is one of the biggest defeats for ISIS since it declared a caliphate in 2014. Reuters, BBC News, The Atlantic

Meanwhile, anti-government Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. government have reportedly been fighting each other near Aleppo. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, CIA-backed rebels have been fighting forces supported by the Pentagon amid the complex security environment in the contested northern city of Aleppo. Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, The Week

New York Times: Scenes From Palmyra Indicate ISIS Slowed Assault on Treasures
War on the Rocks: Are CIA-backed Syrian Rebels Really Fighting Pentagon-backed Syrian Rebels?
Newsweek: ISIS Crucifies Catholic Priest Tom Uzhunnalil on Good Friday: Reports
The Independent: The expulsion of Isis from Palmyra is good news
The Hill: Poll: Few think ISIS will be destroyed within year
Wall Street Journal: ISIS Fails to Gain Much Traction in Yemen

Pakistan: A suicide bombing in a public park in Lahore killed at least 70 people, including 29 children, and wounded around 300 others during Easter celebrations on Sunday. Jamaat-e-Ahrar, a splinter faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack and said it specifically targeted Christians, although many Muslims died in the attack as well. Security and government officials announced plans on Monday for a full-scale operation involving paramilitary forces to conduct raids and interrogate suspects linked to the attack. New York Times, Reuters, Washington Post

Financial Times: Mullahs push back against protection for women in Pakistan
New York Times: Keen Pain in Pakistan Over Lives ‘Shattered Into Pieces’

Iraq: The Pentagon announced on Friday that a top ISIS commander, Haji Imam, was killed in U.S. airstrikes last week along with several other senior members of ISIS’s “cabinet.” Senior officials also said that the Pentagon plans to provide recommendations for increased American troop levels in Iraq. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford said that “the secretary and I both believe that there will be an increase in U.S. forces in Iraq in coming weeks, but that decision hasn't been made.” New York Times, Washington Post

Netherlands: On Sunday, Dutch authorities arrested a French national suspected of “involvement in planning a terror attack.” The unidentified 32-year-old man was reportedly linked to Reda Kriket, a man suspected of plotting a terror attack in France. Police arrested three others during a raid in the city of Rotterdam, two of which were described as “having an Algerian background.” CNN, Voice of America

Israel: A video showing an Israeli soldier killing a wounded Palestinian attacker has sparked outrage in Israel, as human rights groups have condemned the soldier’s actions. The Israeli military began an investigation and arrested the soldier, calling his actions a “grave breach” of its values. Washington Post

CNN: Video shows Israeli soldier shooting an attack suspect lying in street
The Brussels attacks were a terrorist interrogation failure: “Now it is Belgium that has some explaining to do for its failure to effectively interrogate a high-value terrorist — an interrogation that may have foiled last week’s deadly terrorist attacks,” writes Marc Thiessen in The Washington Post. “The carnage is a direct result of Europe’s refusal to accept that terrorists must be treated differently than common criminals...astonishingly, officials did not question Abdeslam at all for his first 24 hours in custody.”

Terrorists cross borders with ease. It’s vital that intelligence does too: “It has been clear for some time that European governments urgently need to give their intelligence and law enforcement agencies better tools to deal with the threat as it exists today,” writes Ali Soufan in the Guardian. “EU member states must agree on workable rules for sharing intelligence on their own nationals. It is troubling that the cell that carried out these atrocities appears to be the same one that assaulted Paris in November.”

Je Suis Sick of This: “This has made it a terrible time to be a dark-skinned European man in his 20s. Discrimination was a problem before terrorism. Now the bad deeds of a few people have made life worse for millions,” writes Pamela Druckerman in The New York Times. “The French are learning to live with more security. Guards now search bags — or at least glance into them — at the entrances to theaters and department stores.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Soft Targets of Terror

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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