The Soufan Group Morning Brief


FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2016

FBI Director James Comey suggested that the government paid more than $1 million for the hacking tool that unlocked the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. Speaking at a conference in London, Comey said that the FBI paid “more than I will make in the remainder of this job, which is seven years and four months.” That total amount adds up to about $1.35 million. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post

The Justice Department signaled that it will not try to block a lawsuit by alleged victims of CIA enhanced interrogation techniques. The lawsuit brought by the ACLU in federal court in Washington state on behalf of three former CIA prisoners, accuses two Air Force psychologists of human rights violations. This is the first time the Justice Department has not sought to block such a case by invoking state secrets privilege. NY Mag, Associated Press

Huffington Post: 3 Men Who Were Brutally Tortured In CIA Prisons Are Fighting Back In Court

ISIS in Massachusetts: In federal court on Thursday, two men accused of plotting to murder an anti-Muslim activist were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism and obstruction of justice. 26-year-old David Daoud Wright and 25-year-old Nicholas Alexander Rovinski allegedly tried to recruit members for a “martyrdom operations cell” to kill Pamela Geller, the organizer of a controversial Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas last year. Boston Globe, Washington Post

Drones: A federal appeals court dismissed an ACLU lawsuit that sought access to details about U.S. lethal drone strike operations on Thursday. The DC Court of Appeals said that the disclosure of such details “could reasonably be expected to damage national security.” The lawsuit sought specific information about the drone program, such as the dates, locations, and numbers of people killed in lethal strikes. Washington Post

Fighting broke out between Kurdish militias and Syrian government forces on Thursday in northern Syria. At least 26 pro-government fighters were killed in the flighting in the town of Qamishli on the Turkish border. The clashes threaten to open up a new front in the Syrian conflict. Tensions have mounted between the two sides since the Kurds declared an autonomous zone in Syria last month. New York Times, Reuters

BBC: Syria conflict: Largest aid convoy reaches besieged Rastan

Iraq: The cost of U.S. military operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria has surpassed $7 billion, according to a Pentagon estimate released on Thursday. The estimate includes the total amount spent in operations since the U.S. air campaign began in Iraq on August 8, 2014, until March 31, 2016. The average daily cost over that time was $11.6 million. The Hill

CNN: ISIS is struggling to fund its war machine
Washington Post: U.S. visit highlights obstacles to an Iraqi offensive on Mosul

Afghanistan: Drone strikes outnumbered conventional manned aircraft bombings last year in Afghanistan, according to U.S. Air Force data. The data shows that unmanned aircraft airstrikes accounted for 56% of deployed weapons in Afghanistan in 2015, up from only 5% in 2011. In the first quarter of 2016, the number has risen to 61%. Guardian

United Kingdom: According to newly disclosed documents, British intelligence agencies conduct mass surveillance techniques to collect citizens’ personal data. The London-based group, Privacy International, obtained the previously classified files through a legal challenge and found that UK spy agencies were collecting bulk data, including passport information, travel records, financial data, phone calls, and emails, as early as 1998. Guardian, The Intercept

Belgium: On Thursday, Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam was charged with attempted murder in reference to a shootout with police in Brussels in the days before his arrest last month. Four Belgian police officers were wounded in the shootout in the Brussels suburb of Forest on March 15, three days before Abdeslam’s arrest. CNN, Guardian
Islamic State has erased the line between foreign and domestic policy: “Not since the Vietnam War has a foreign-policy issue transformed Western domestic politics in the way the threat from Islamic State has,” writes Nader Mousavizadeh on Reuters. “Across the West, domestic policy debates — ranging from immigration to law enforcement to education — are now refracted through the lens of the new terrorism. Because of the Islamic State-related attacks in the United States and Europe, the line between foreign and domestic policy is gradually being erased.”

Outnumbered, Outranged, and Outgunned: How Russia Defeats NATO: “Nearly two years of extensive wargaming and analysis shows that if Russia were to conduct a short-warning attack against the Baltic States, Moscow’s forces could roll to the outskirts of the Estonian capital of Tallinn and the Latvian capital of Riga in 36 to 60 hours,” write David Shlapak and Michael Johnson on War on the Rocks. “In such a scenario, the United States and its allies would not only be outranged and outgunned, but also outnumbered.”

Why does the court charged with protecting our privacy keep doing the opposite?: “The NSA is set to expand data access to all sorts of federal agencies, and potentially local law enforcement,” writes Trevor Timm on the Guardian. All Americans should be deeply concerned, not just that more of their private information will be vulnerable to authorities, but that the oversight in place to keep this from happening instead let it continue unabated.

New Yorker: Ben Taub on the Case Against Assad

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Outcomes from a U.S.-Gulf Summit

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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