The Soufan Group Morning Brief


MONDAY, APRIL 11, 2016

On Sunday, Belgian investigators said that the terrorists behind the March 22 attacks in Brussels changed their target from Paris at the last moment. The terrorist cell was reportedly part of the same network that carried out last November’s attacks in Paris. On Friday, prosecutors announced the arrest of several suspects in the Brussels attacks, including Mohamed Abrini, who confessed to being the “man in the hat,” the suspect caught on surveillance camera rolling luggage carts with two other alleged suicide bombers at the Brussels airport. New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, CBS News

CBS News: Parents of ISIS recruits fight to stop radicalization in Belgium
New York Times: A Brussels Mentor Who Taught ‘Gangster Islam’ to the Young and Angry
Washington Post: One woman helped the mastermind of the Paris attacks. The other turned him in.
BBC News: Video shows Belgium terror suspect arrest
NPR: Paris Terror Suspect Admits He Was In Video With Brussels Bombers, Prosecutors Say

CIA Director John Brennan said on Sunday that he will refuse to order CIA staff to carry out enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, even if he is directed to do so by a future president. Speaking with NBC News, Brennan said “I will not agree to carry out some of these tactics and techniques I’ve heard bandied about,” and “I would not agree to having any CIA officer carrying out waterboarding again.” Politico, Guardian

Gitmo: Senator Cory Gardner (R-Col.) has filed an amendment to a Federal Aviation Administration bill that would prohibit using U.S. airspace to fly Guantanamo Bay detainees from the prison to the U.S. homeland. Colorado is one of several states the Obama administration is considering for a potential alternative facility for Guantanamo detainees. The Senate will continue to work on the bill next week and no vote has been scheduled for Gardner’s amendment. The Hill

Huffington Post: Yet More Republican Obfuscation on Guantánamo

9/11 Documents: The Obama administration is considering whether to declassify documents known as the “28 pages” which could connect the Saudi Arabian government to the 9/11 hijackers. The Bush Administration cut the 28 pages from its 2003 report on the 9/11 attacks in the interest of national security. Former Senator Bob Graham, who helped write the report, said that he believes the Saudi government “substantially” supported the 9/11 hijackers while they were inside U.S. borders. CBS News, The Hill

New York Times: Inside Saudi Arabia’s Re-education Prison for Jihadists

FBI vs. Apple: On Friday, the Justice Department announced it will seek a court order to force Apple to unlock an iPhone seized in a New York drug investigation. Apple responded, saying that it will continue to pressure prosecutors into revealing how the government broke into the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. Wall Street Journal

Navy espionage: A U.S. Navy officer has reportedly been charged with espionage, attempted espionage, and prostitution. Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin, a Taiwan-born naturalized U.S. citizen, allegedly shared classified information with the Chinese government, according to U.S. officials. On Friday, the Navy examined the charges against Lin in a preliminary military justice hearing. Washington Post, CBS News

During an unannounced visit to Iraq on Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry promised continued U.S. military and humanitarian aid in the fight against ISIS. Kerry said that the Iraqi government had not requested any “new infusion of troops at this point,” confirming that there was no planned change in U.S. troop levels in Iraq. Kerry also announced $155 million in additional humanitarian assistance to help rebuild cities damaged in the fighting with ISIS, including Ramadi. New York Times, Associated Press

Syria: The Russian air force and Syrian military are preparing for a joint operation to take back rebel-controlled territory in Aleppo, according to statements by the Syrian Prime Minister on Sunday. Opposition leaders warned that the U.S.-Russian-brokered ceasefire in Syria was on the verge of collapse. Reuters

Washington Post: Syria releases U.S. freelance photographer Kevin Patrick Dawes

Afghanistan: On Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced stop in Afghanistan to meet with the country’s leaders in an effort to calm political tensions within the government. Kerry encouraged President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who share power in a national unity government, to set aside their rivalries and work together towards stabilizing the country. CNN, Wall Street Journal, New York Times

New York Times: Afghan General Plants Flowers in Helmand, but Taliban Lurk

Philippines: At least 18 Philippine soldiers were killed in clashes between government forces and militants linked to ISIS in remote areas in the south of the country over the weekend. The fighters are members of the Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf, which officials believe is holding nearly two dozen hostages taken from tourist resorts. The Philippine military is carrying out operations to kill or capture Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon who has reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS. Wall Street Journal, BBC News

Lebanon: A military court in Lebanon sentenced former Information Minister Michel Samaha to 13 years in prison on terrorism charges on Friday. Lebanese authorities arrested Samaha in 2012, after he allegedly helped smuggle explosives into Lebanon from Syria for use in terrorist attacks against political and religious targets in Lebanon. New York Times, Deutsche Welle
Alex, Sascha and the Toll of Islamist Terror: “Belgium has been described as the closest thing Western Europe has to a failed state. Its neighborhoods, including those in which the murderers grew up, are breeding grounds for Islamist extremism. Multiple agencies have overlapping and inconsistent jurisdiction and refuse to share intelligence,” writes James P. Cain in The Wall Street Journal. “The Belgian authorities clearly have been unable to ensure their own national security, or that of visitors to their country...More important, where is American leadership?”

Why Apple’s Stand Against the F.B.I. Hurts Its Own Customers: “Apple has lost leverage in legal cases and the average iPhone user is significantly more vulnerable — both to government access and to criminal hacking — than if Apple had assisted the government in the first place,” write Jamil Jaffer and Daniel Rosenthal in The New York Times. “The longer it takes Apple to patch this vulnerability (either because the government discloses it to Apple or because Apple figures it out on its own), the longer iPhone user data is at risk — both from the government and from criminals.”

The US is missing a huge opportunity in Syria: “Over the past month, residents of the Idlib province have taken to the streets to protest both the authoritarian regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Jabhat al-Nusra,” writes Pamela Engel on Business Insider. “The protests could provide a crucial opening for the US to support the moderate Syrian opposition and push for a political solution that includes Assad leaving power, but experts doubt that the US will make use of it.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Iran’s Post-Sanctions Strategy

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.

Fordham Law School will host the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals for an Outreach Argument and Q&A: “United States v. Staff Sergeant Charles D. Buford Jr.” on Friday, April 15, 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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