The Soufan Group Morning Brief


THURSDAY, MAY 12, 2016

As the U.S. military continues to advise and assist Iraqi forces in their preparations to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul, there are increasing concerns about the fate of potential captured ISIS fighters. A National Security Council spokesman said that “the United States does not intend to engage in the long-term detention of [ISIS] detainees, nor will we send any such detainees to the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay.” However, the Obama administration has not outlined a clear plan or strategy to dealing with ISIS detainees. Experts have cited “widespread” opposition in the White House to wartime detention, but have warned that without a plan, American-backed local fighters may encounter more prisoners than they can handle. New York Times

Two defense attorneys of 9/11 suspect Khalid Sheik Mohammed are asking the government prosecution team and the trial judge to step down, on accusations that they were involved in the destruction of evidence in the case. The defense lawyers, David Nevin and Maj. Derek Poteet, could not describe the evidence in question under rules of secrecy, but some experts suspect that the evidence may have been related to the CIA “black sites” where the 9/11 suspects were allegedly tortured. Miami Herald, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press

Artificial Intelligence: Defense Secretary Ash Carter made his fourth trip to Silicon Valley on Wednesday in an effort to pursue the emerging technology of artificial intelligence for defense applications. The Pentagon’s interest in artificial intelligence is based on the “Third Offset” strategy, discussed by Carter last fall, which aims to deter and outcompete China and Russia as military competitors. New York Times

Washington Post: Pentagon chief overhauls Silicon Valley office, will open similar unit in Boston

ISIS in New York: On Wednesday, federal prosecutors said they had charged a sixth suspect in connection with an alleged ISIS cell based in Brooklyn. 28-year-old Uzbek national Azizjon Rakhmatov was reportedly added to an existing indictment of four other suspects Akhror Saidakhmetov, Abror Habibov, Dilkhayot Kasimov and Akmal Zakirov, who were arrested on similar charges in February 2015. Last August, another defendant, Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to ISIS. New York Times, NBC, Reuters

Foreign Fighters: Fewer Americans are leaving the country to fight alongside ISIS and the extremist group’s appeal has significantly declined in the United States, according to FBI Director James Comey. On Wednesday, Comey said that the number of Americans caught attempting to travel abroad to join ISIS has dropped to about one per month on average, down from “6, 8, 10” per month in 2014 and the first half of 2015. Associated Press, Voice of America

Torture: Four former Iraqi detainees who claim they were tortured at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison have requested a federal appeals court to revive their lawsuit. The former detainees sued CACI, a U.S. military contractor, for its employees conduct at the prison. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the case on Thursday. Associated Press, Just Security

The Intercept: The Secret NSA Diary of an Abu Ghraib Interrogator
Guardian: Judge criticizes Pentagon suppression of thousands of Bush-era torture photos

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on Wednesday that Donald Trump’s idea to create a commission  on “radical Islam” was “a good step,” adding that he would consider potentially leading such a commission to “figure how to distinguish between all the good people who are Muslims and the bad ones.” In comments on Wednesday, Trump softened his language regarding his proposed ban on Muslims into the United States, saying the plan was “just a suggestion.” New York Times

New York Times: Sadiq Khan, London’s Muslim Mayor, Calls Trump ‘Ignorant About Islam’
The Hill: Dems unveil bill to block Trump Muslim ban

A suicide bomber killed eight people and wounded a senior Yemeni army commander in an attack in eastern Yemen on Wednesday. No group claimed responsibility for the attack on General Abdul-Rahman al-Halili, commander of Yemen’s First Army District, but the bombing resembled past attacks by ISIS or Al Qaeda militants against security forces in Yemen. Reuters, Associated Press

Washington Post: Saudi military threatens to move forces into Yemeni capital if peace talks fail

Syria: Syria’s Al Qaeda branch, the Nusra Front, seized a village of President Bashar al-Assad’s minority Alawite sect on Wednesday. The capture of the town of Zaara in central Syria raises concerns about an outbreak of sectarian violence, as many families in the town have been reported missing. Associated Press

Afghanistan: Exiled former prime minister and insurgent Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is reportedly finalizing a peace deal with the Afghan government to allow him to return to the country. Hekmatyar, the leader of the militant group Hezb-i-Islami, has been in exile from the country since 1996. New York Times

Belgium: The attacks on the Brussels airport and subway in March could have been much worse, according to new details from investigations and a Belgian parliamentary inquiry. Solid police work, luck, and disarray all played a role in lessening the impact of the attacks, according to interviews with people briefed on the ongoing investigations into the attacks. Wall Street Journal

United Kingdom: 23-year-old Abdal Raouf Abdallah was convicted on two counts of preparing acts of terrorism for his role in helping a British air force veteran and three others travel to Syria to fight alongside militants. Abdallah was paralyzed while fighting alongside other Islamists in the Libyan uprising in 2011. BBC News

Turkey: On Wednesday, Turkey again refused to make changes to its anti-terrorism laws requested by the European Union as part of the deal to secure Turkish assistance with the refugee crisis. EU officials and human rights groups have accused Turkey of using sweeping, broad anti-terrorism legislation to target government dissenters and suppress free speech. The European Union wants Turkey to narrow its definition of terrorism and change other anti-terror laws to meet EU standards. Reuters
Abu Ghraib prisoners deserve, finally, their day in court: “Do we want our American courts to uphold this lawlessness? To join the torturers and their enablers in smirking at the victims?,” writes Alberto Mora in the Guardian. “So far, our courts have acted in just this way, barring torture victims from pursuing civil claims...Most of the torture claimants (and none in the Abu Ghraib case) have never been charged with involvement with insurgent activity, much less terrorism.”

In the Event of the Islamic State’s Untimely Demise…: “For Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, surrender is out of the question. And given the Islamic State leadership’s horrific behavior and stated objective of establishing a caliphate governed by sharia, a negotiated settlement is a non-starter,” write Brian Michael Jenkins and Colin P. Clarke on Foreign Policy. “That’s why, if they haven’t already, the Islamic State’s leaders in Raqqa will soon formulate a contingency strategy — a ‘Plan B’ that the West will then be forced to contend with. Here are some of the options they may be considering.”

Former senator: Release the uncensored truth about 9/11: “With all due respect, that argument is an affront not only to the American public in general but also to all those who lost family members, loved ones and friends on that fateful September day in 2001,” writes Bob Graham in The Washington Post. “Americans are fully capable of reviewing the 28 pages and making up their own minds about their significance.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Car Bomb Campaigns of the Islamic State

Join the Center on National Security on Wednesday, June 1 for a discussion with Director Karen J. Greenberg, author of Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State. To RSVP click here

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