The Soufan Group Morning Brief



Airstrikes on a crowded market in rebel-controlled territory killed more than 50 civilians on Tuesday. State Department officials said they believe the Syrian government was responsible for the airstrikes against two rebel-held towns in northwest Idlib province. Citizens in the town of Maarat al-Noaman had recently resumed peaceful street protests rejecting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad as well as advances by the Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. Opposition leadership, which pulled out of peace talks on Monday, called the attacks a “dangerous escalation.” New York Times, Reuters, Washington Post

Newsweek: Syria Ceasefire Collapses as Key Group Pulls Out of Peace Talks
Economist: Syria's peace talks and partial ceasefire are both breaking down

The chief judge serving on the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), has rejected a legal challenge to rules allowing the FBI to search U.S. citizens’ emails without a warrant, according to a court opinion declassified on Tuesday. Judge Thomas Hogan ruled that so-called “backdoor searches” comply with both the Constitution and the FISA Amendments Act. However, Hogan sharply criticized the FBI and NSA over two “compliance incidents” mentioned in the heavily redacted document. New York Times, Politico, The Hill

Los Angeles Times: U.S. spy court judge dismissed privacy advocate's concerns about data use

Gitmo: A federal maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado is the most likely destination for the relocation of Guantanamo Bay detainees, according to a report by NBC News. Terrorism experts told reporters that the “Supermax” prison, also known as Florence ADX, is at least as secure, and may be harsher than the prison at Guantanamo Bay. It also holds Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the failed “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, and the failed “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Karen J. Greenberg added that “to claim ADX is less secure than Guantanamo is ludicrous.” NBC News

Miami Herald: In Guantánamo glitch, guards took captive to cell, not parole hearing

Sotloff: The family of journalist Steven Sotloff, who was executed by ISIS militants in August 2014, is suing the Syrian government in U.S. court, claiming that the Assad regime provided support to ISIS. The reportedly family seeks $90 million in compensatory damages, according to the lawsuit filed on Monday in federal court. However, if the family wins the case, it is unlikely they will receive money from the Syrian government. NBC News, Newsweek

FBI vs. Apple: Data obtained from the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook has helped the FBI answer some questions in its ongoing investigation of last December’s terrorist attack, according to a report on CNN. U.S. law enforcement officials said that the FBI is now more confident that Farook did not make contact with another suspect in an unaccounted 18-minute gap in the timeline of the mass shooting. CNN

New York Times: F.B.I. Says It Needs Hackers to Keep Up With Tech Companies
Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers Struggle for Answers on Encryption
NPR: Lawful Hacking: Should, Or Can, The FBI Learn To Overcome Encryption Itself?

On Tuesday, the United States imposed new sanctions on Libyan politician Khalifa al-Ghweil, freezing his U.S.-held assets in an effort to force the country’s factions to accept the authority of a UN-backed unity government. Al-Ghweil, the leader of a separate self-declared government in the capital, Tripoli, opposes the unity government and is supported by several Islamist militias and groups. New York Times, Voice of America

Syria: ISIS militants seized Syrian government-controlled territory in the city of Deir ez-Zor on Tuesday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. ISIS reportedly took control of the city’s industrial district after clashes with Syrian government and allied forces. Reuters

Belgium: Belgian officials warned that the country is at risk of another attack on Tuesday, as prosecutors charged another suspect in connection with last month’s attacks in Brussels. 23-year-old Osama Krayem, a Swedish national, was charged with terrorist murders for his alleged role in the bombing of a Brussels subway station. Prosecutors also charged Krayem in connection with last November's attacks in Paris. Guardian, Wall Street Journal

Spain: Spanish authorities arrested an alleged ISIS recruiter on the island of Mallorca on Tuesday. The 26-year-old Moroccan national is suspected of encouraging attacks in Spain in Europe and of having connections to ISIS leadership. Spanish police said that the suspect presents “a clear threat to national security,” as he “tried, both online and in person, to convince vulnerable targets” to join ISIS and helped facilitate travel for fighters heading to Iraq and Syria. Newsweek, The Independent

United Kingdom: Muslim imams routinely distributed Islamist hate literature within British prisons, according to a leaked report. Investigators found extremist CDs and pamphlets in more than ten prisons’ chaplaincy rooms that were available for inmates to use. The Ministry of Justice warned of “severe reputation damage,” as it oversees chaplaincy appointments within the prisons. The Times, Breitbart News
Obama Shouldn’t Trade Cluster Bombs for Saudi Arabia’s Friendship: “The Pentagon claims that these arms transfers to Saudi Arabia ‘improve the security of an important partner which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East,’ ” writes William Hartung in The New York Times. “Recent Saudi actions suggest otherwise. A prime example of what’s wrong with unbridled American weapons transfers to the Saudi government is the Saudi-led war in Yemen.”

Still in the Bush Embrace: What Really Stands in the Way of Closing Guantánamo: “There is, however, one man who could make all of this far more likely and that’s Brigadier General Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor of the Office of Military Commissions since 2011. With soldierly loyalty, a sharp legal mind, and a charismatic public demeanor, Martins has for six long years defended the ability of the Guantánamo commissions to succeed as constitutionally and legally valid courts with built-in protections and procedures that approach those of federal criminal courts,” writes Karen J. Greenberg on TomDispatch. “He has the power to declare the commissions no longer viable, leaving the administration with little choice but to close them. Were he to do so, it would be a game-changer.”

Why We Should Let Iran Fight The Islamic State: “The infiltration of Palestinian territory by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) could draw in American ground troops in our next futile Middle East conflict,” writes Raheb Homavandi on Newsweek. “The way to offset Sunni ISIS is to let Shia Iran do the fighting in the Middle East’s sectarian war, via forces almost as vicious, including Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guard. And by supporting Shia movements fighting Sunni radicals as Iran is already doing in Yemen.”
New York Times: A Close Look at Brussels Offers a More Nuanced View of Radicalization

Guardian: The reluctant jihadi: how one recruit lost faith in Isis

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Afghanistan’s Endless Fighting Season

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. The event is currently full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist please send an email here.

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