The Soufan Group Morning Brief


Defense Secretary Ash Carter stated that he is “not a believer in back doors or a single technical approach” to the problem of encryption and that such a solution is not “realistic” nor “technically accurate” in his remarks at a computer security conference on Wednesday. Carter also announced two new measures to encourage tech companies to cooperate in the government’s effort to combat cyber threats and access encrypted data. One effort is an official “hackathon” of military websites to discover security gaps in government networks. The other is a plan to create a Defense Innovation Advisory Board, headed by executives from top tech firms such as Google. Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Reuters, NPR

Foreign Policy: SecDef to Silicon Valley: Can’t We Just be Friends?
Washington Post: Hacked U.S. companies have more options, departing cybersecurity official says
The Hill: Top GOP senator backs encryption commission bill
A federal judge in Minnesota ordered four defendants who pleaded guilty to terrorism charges to enter a new deradicalization program on Wednesday. Abdullahi Yusuf, Hanad Musse, Zacharia Abdurahman, and Abdirizak Warsame will enter the new program contracted through the German Institute on Radicalization and Deradicalization Studies. U.S. District Judge Michael Davis said that the program, which will evaluate the radicalization risks of the terrorism defendants, is the first of its kind in the United States. Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, said the plan could become a model for other programs across the country saying there is a need “for something as an alternative to just harsh measures meted out by law enforcement.” The program will be initially applied to the four men who have pleaded guilty to supporting ISIS in Minnesota, but may be expanded to future terrorism-related defendants or convicts being released from prison. Associated Press, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio

Apple vs. FBI: Digital privacy and civil liberties groups filed amicus briefs on Wednesday in support of Apple’s dispute with the FBI over unlocking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. The American Civil Liberties Union, Access Now, and the Wickr Foundation argued that “law enforcement may not commandeer innocent third parties into becoming its undercover agents, its spies, or its hackers.” Reuters

Huffington Post: Here's What You Need To Know About Apple, FBI Showdown In D.C.
Quartz: The five most colorful moments from the Apple-FBI congressional hearing

ISIS in New York: An undercover FBI agent testified on Wednesday that Tairod Pugh, a U.S. Air Force veteran accused of leaving the United States to join ISIS, expected to be arrested upon his return to the United States. The agent, identified by the alias Talib Nassib, said that “on more than one occasion, [Pugh] said he expected to be arrested” and added that Pugh told him he was stopped in Turkey and sent back to the United States because he looked like a Muslim. Defense lawyer Eric Creizman argued that Pugh never told the undercover agent about any contact with ISIS or of any plans to travel to Syria. He also denied that his client ever said he intended to wage jihad or become a martyr. Associated Press, New York Times, Newsday
Terror trial: U.S. prosecutors will not seek the death penalty in the case of Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, an American man who allegedly helped Al Qaeda plan an attack on a U.S. military base in Afghanistan in 2009. Al Farekh, who was captured in Pakistan last year and transferred to the United States, has been held in solitary confinement for much of the last year while awaiting trial. If convicted, Al Farekh faces life in prison on charges of conspiracy and providing material support to a terrorist group. CBC

In what was described by U.S. intelligence officials as Osama bin Laden’s last will, the Al Qaeda leader outlined how at least $29 million of his assets should be allocated to jihadist efforts after his death. In documents released on Tuesday, bin Laden listed specific amounts to be given to family members as well as to two associates. The documents were part of a collection of 113 files obtained in the 2011 U.S. Special Forces raid that killed bin Laden. Reuters

Time: What Bin Laden’s Will and Other al-Qaeda Papers Show
Newsweek: Al-Qaeda Leaders Considered Truce With Mauritania: Bin Laden Documents Reveal
New York Times: Osama bin Laden Feared Wife’s Tooth Held a Tracking Device
Vice News: Osama bin Laden Wanted Americans to Help Obama Save Humanity from Climate Change
BBC News: Bin Laden files: Seven things we learned from second tranche

Afghanistan: Army General John Nicholson took command of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan on Wednesday. The departing commander, Gen. John Campbell, warned of “very, very tough times ahead” in the country and encouraged reforms on the part of Afghan security forces. Later in the day, five suicide bombers attacked the Indian consulate in the eastern city of Jalalabad killing at least three people and wounding more than 18 others.
New York Times, Wall Street Journal

Nigeria: Dozens of starving Boko Haram members surrendered on Wednesday in northeast Nigeria. 76 people including women and children gave themselves up to security forces in the town of Gwoza. The Nigerian military has been blocking Boko Haram supply routes in an effort to combat the militant group. CBS News

Jordan: Jordanian security forces confirmed on Wednesday that they had thwarted a plot by an ISIS sleeper cell to attack civilian and military targets in Jordan. Seven militants were killed in raids conducted Tuesday night. Reuters

Saudi Arabia: The Gulf Cooperation Council, a Saudi-led political bloc, has designated Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia as a terrorist organization. This comes two weeks after Saudi Arabia withdrew a $4 billion military aid package to Lebanon. The move highlights the growing tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran which provides support and funding to Hezbollah. Washington Post

New York Times: Saudi Arabia Cuts Billions in Aid to Lebanon, Opening Door for Iran

North Korea: The UN Security Council unanimously adopted new sanctions against North Korea on Wednesday in response to the country’s recent nuclear bomb and ballistic missile tests. The new sanctions are some of the harshest ever imposed upon North Korea, and include inspections of all goods going in and out of North Korea by land, air, or sea. New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press
Trump as National Security Threat: “Trump displays a near-total ignorance of international policy, military affairs, and intelligence and counterterrorism policy,” writes Benjamin Wittes on Lawfare. “He appears to have no interest in learning anything either about the complex international security environment in which the United States has to operate on a daily basis. And that is a very dangerous thing in a man who would be president.”

Unfreezing Iran, And Doing It the Right Way: “This is not to say that the United States should remove all of its sanctions on Iran just to match Europe,” write Omar Bashir and Eric Lorber in Foreign Affairs. “Policymakers need to recognize that they face a difficult choice. In their attempts to unwind certain sanctions on Iran while maintaining some economic pressure on the country, they may be hurting their ability to employ financial sanctions against Iran or other targets in the future.”

Government 'backdoor' access to a single iPhone would undo years of progress in online security: “The FBI says its wants a backdoor for just one phone, but it's clearly trying to set a precedent,” write Zoe Lofgren and Darrell Issa in The Los Angeles Times. “Instead of weakening privacy protections, lawmakers should support legislation -- like that which passed the House with overwhelming support on three separate occasions -- prohibiting government-mandated backdoors.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Islamic State’s Expansion Strategy in Libya

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