The Soufan Group Morning Brief


A prosecutor in the case to unlock San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone warned that the phone could potentially contain a dormant “cyber pathogen” that could be “used as a weapon” to harm local infrastructure. In a court brief filed on Friday, District Attorney Michael Ramos added that the phone could possibly hold information about an unconfirmed third shooter in the attack. The FBI has reportedly not ruled out the possibility of a third suspect and some witnesses to the attack have insisted that there were three shooters. ABC News, Chicago Tribune, The Hill, NY Mag

Guardian: What’s a 'cyber pathogen'? San Bernardino DA baffles security community
Washington Post: Apple VP: The FBI wants to roll back safeguards that keep us a step ahead of criminals
The Verge: Apple VP says FBI encryption order 'puts everyone at risk'
The Obama administration plans to release its so-called “drone playbook” to the public, according to a court filing on Friday. In a letter filed in New York federal court in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the administration stated it plans to release the Presidential Policy Guidance document which includes the basic principles for U.S. drone strikes overseas. The court filing says that the document will include redactions to protect the identities of government officials that helped make decisions on drone targets. Politico, CNN, The Hill

Gitmo: The majority of Americans oppose the closing of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, according to the results of a CNN/ORC poll released on Friday. 56 percent of Americans oppose closing the prison, while 40 percent support the idea. The poll also found that Americans increasingly view North Korea as one of the nation’s greatest threats. Political talk on both sides of the Guantanamo debate has steered away from facts and realities, according to a report in The New York Times. CNN

New York Times: Political Talk on Guantánamo Veers From Facts
NPR: The Case For Closing — And Keeping Open — Guantanamo
The Hill: Sen. Ayotte: Send captured ISIS fighter to Gitmo
Le Monde: Après Guantanamo, le combat de Mourad Benchellali pour faire entendre ses mots

ISIS in New York: A letter written by Tairod Pugh, an Air Force veteran accused of leaving the United States to join ISIS, is the most concrete piece of evidence against him, according to a report in The New York Times. In a letter addressed to his wife, Pugh wrote of his plan to become a martyr, saying “I will escort you into Paradise and when you see the home paid for by my blood and your tears you will know it was worth it.” Pugh’s defense attorney Eric Creizman argued that Pugh, rather than planning travel to Syria, went to Turkey “to clear his head” and also provided evidence that Pugh was looking for a new pilot job in the region after being fired from his last position in Kuwait. New York Times

On Friday, Donald Trump backed down from his claims that he would order the U.S. military to conduct waterboarding and other acts that violate international law, saying he would be “bound by laws and treaties” and would “not order our military or other officials to violate those laws.” However, on Saturday he said he would seek to “broaden” laws with regard to the torture of terrorism suspects. Washington Post, New York Times

A truck bomb exploded at an Iraqi checkpoint south of Baghdad on Sunday killing at least 60 people and wounding more than 70 others. The suicide attack was claimed by ISIS and is the second deadliest in Iraq this year, after an attack on a market in Sadr City on February 29. The recent attacks highlight how Iraqi security forces may be stretched thin after recent gains against ISIS in the north and west of the country. Reuters, New York Times, CBS News

International Business Times: New ISIS Video Shows Execution Of Alleged Russian Spy, Threatens Attack On Vladimir Putin

Afghanistan: The Taliban said on Saturday that it would not participate in upcoming peace talks hosted by Pakistan, in response to increased American airstrikes and Afghan military operations. The peace talks were expected to begin this month and include representatives from the United States, China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. However, Afghan officials said the refusal was “just public bargaining on the part of the Taliban” and assured that the talks would likely move ahead. New York Times, CNN, Financial Times

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday that ISIS has been defeated in eastern parts of the country, where it had held territory in several remote areas. Speaking in front of parliament, Ghani said that Afghan security forces had driven ISIS militants out of Nangarhar province on the Pakistani border. Associated Press

Yemen: A nursing home in the southern city of Aden founded by Mother Teresa was attacked on Friday, when four gunmen entered the facility and killed 16 people. Among the victims were six nuns, security guards, and a staff gardener. Officials announced on Sunday that the gunmen had also kidnapped an Indian priest. On Sunday Pope Francis called the attack an “act of senseless and diabolical violence” and described the victims as “today’s martyrs.” Yemeni officials have blamed the attack on ISIS, although no group has yet claimed responsibility. Reuters, BBC News, New York Times

Nigeria: On Sunday, Nigerian troops cleared Boko Haram militants from their locations in the northeast of the country and arrested a key arms dealer who had supplied the militant group with weapons. Security officials described the man, Musa Abubakar, as a “major gun fabricator, arms runner and a covert linkman” for Boko Haram. Bloomberg

AFP: Little to show in Boko Haram-IS partnership: analysts

NATO: On Sunday, NATO announced plans to expand efforts to stop human traffickers and smugglers from crossing the Aegean Sea. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that after “close consultation and coordination” with Turkey and Greece, NATO ships would begin operations in the two countries’ territorial waters in an effort to curb the flow of migrants. He added that the NATO patrols will focus on “collecting information and conducting monitoring” in order to “take action in real time” against human traffickers. New York Times, Guardian, Associated Press

Wall Street Journal: Turkey Wages Uphill Battle to Stop Migrant Smugglers on Aegean Sea

Sudan: Hassan al-Turabi, a Sudanese Islamist who supported Osama bin Laden and helped Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to power, died on Saturday at age 84. Al-Turbani played a key role in the 1989 coup that brought al-Bashir to power and once hosted Osama bin Laden. He had called bin Laden a hero and said the United States was the “incarnation of the devil.” New York Times, Guardian
When the Tide of Islamophobia Reached My Hometown Mosque: “Anti-Muslim hatred in the United States has grown in recent years. The “Ground Zero Mosque” episode in 2010 and successive anti-mosque protests across the country signaled a simmering Islamophobia,” writes Mustafa Hameed in The New York Times. “There is a fine line between stoic resilience and irresponsible passivity. Muslims in America face a growing threat.”

Afghan peace talks: Pakistan's credibility on the line: “The next round of four-party talks to be held in Islamabad on Monday could well be the last if Pakistan fails to deliver the Taliban to the table,” writes Ahmed Rashid on Al Jazeera. “If there is another failure, the consequences could be fearful for the entire region - Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will face a vicious political backlash at home, a stepped-up Taliban offensive in the spring that could capture a major province within weeks, and a collapse of international trust with Pakistan, which has played both sides in the Taliban game.”

The campaign debate we need on Libya: “Libya is not only a story of U.S. failure but also a problem that the next president will have a chance to get right — whether he or she likes it or not. As the Pentagon brass have been warning with rising alarm, the Islamic State is methodically building a base in the country,” writes Jackson Diehl in The Washington Post. “It could become the new Islamic State headquarters if Iraq and Syria are overrun, and it could serve as an easy launching pad for attacks on Western capitals. Another U.S. plunge into Libya is a matter of when and how — not if.”
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Saudi Arabia’s Escalating Fight with Iran

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