The Soufan Group Morning Brief


FRIDAY, MAY 13, 2016

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is raising the issue of a new authorization for the use of military force against ISIS, as the debate about the legality of the military operations has heated up following the deployment of hundreds of more troops and death of a third U.S. servicemember in Iraq. The group filed several amendments to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, one of which would prohibit funding for troops headed to Iraq and Syria after April 2017 unless a new authorization is passed. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said that “it’s unacceptable that while our brave service men and women face snipers and mortar rounds, Congress cannot even muster the courage to declare the war that they are fighting.” The Hill, Huffington Post

John Lehman, a member of the 9/11 Commission, claimed there is clear evidence in the 28 classified pages of the congressional investigation report that as many as six Saudi officials supported Al Qaeda in the lead-up to the 9/11 attacks. Lehman said that the officials worked for the Saudi Embassy in the United States, several Saudi charities, and the Saudi-funded King Fahd Mosque in California. However, Lehman stressed that the 28 pages do not contain a “smoking gun” and that he supports the report’s conclusion that “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” Al Qaeda. Lehman added that potential Saudi involvement was never sufficiently investigated and that a new investigation into such evidence should be “vigorously pursued.” CNN, Guardian

Gitmo: Camp 7 at Guantanamo Bay, the most secret area of the military prison, could potentially be opened up to a UN torture watchdog for the first time. Attorneys for Ammar al-Baluchi, one of the suspects in the 9/11 attacks, are asking the judge in the case, Army Col. James Pohl, to allow access to Camp 7 for Juan Mendez, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture. Guardian

Bomb scare: A bomb scare at Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington, DC, put the military facility on lockdown on Thursday, according to officials. Staff members said that a woman entered the base’s visitor center and claimed she had a bomb strapped to her chest. Officials confirmed there was no explosive device on-scene and that the incident had been a false alarm. Washington Post

TSA hearing: The head of the Transportation Security Administration, Administrator Peter Neffenger, faced sharp criticism from members of the House Oversight Committee during a hearing on Thursday. The hearing focused on management problems, misconduct, and the awarding of bonuses to TSA supervisors who ignored warnings about security lapses. Committee members also questioned Neffenger on the alleged practice of sending difficult employees to undesirable locations as a form of punishment. New York Times

Facebook subpoenas: On Thursday, a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled that prosecutors could not force Facebook to keep confidential 15 grand-jury subpoenas involving the company’s customers. Judge James Orenstein said that while the government had legitimate concerns that their investigations could be compromised, the 15 applications for gag orders did not include sufficient details, saying that law enforcement officers cannot “obtain an order that constrains the freedom of service providers to disclose information to their customers without making a particularized showing of need.” New York Times

Since late 2015, American Special Operations forces have been stationed at two outposts in eastern and western Libya, according to U.S. officials. The two teams, totalling less than 25 troops, have been tasked with gathering intelligence and identifying potential local partners among armed militias and factions in advance of a possible offensive against ISIS in Libya. Washington Post

Iraq: ISIS fighters killed at least 20 people, including Iraqi soldiers and tribal fighters, near the city of Ramadi. Five police officers were also killed in a coordinated attack outside the Abu Ghraib district of Baghdad. ISIS militants have launched a wave of car bombs as part of a counteroffensive against Iraqi forces that have recently retaken Ramadi and other areas in Anbar Province. New York Times

Wall Street Journal: ‘The Secret History of ISIS’ Review: Sowing the Terrorist Wind
Politico: Belgium to launch air strikes against ISIL in Syria

Somalia: A U.S. drone strike killed five al-Shabab fighters on Thursday west of the capital, Mogadishu. The U.S. military has about 50 personnel in Somalia to advise and support the African Union mission (AMISOM) in the country in its fight against the Al Qaeda-linked extremist group. Reuters

European Missile Defense: The United States activated a $800 million missile shield site in Romania on Thursday in an effort to protect Europe and NATO allies from potential ballistic missile attacks. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said that “as long as Iran continues to develop and deploy ballistic missiles, the United States will work with its allies to defend NATO.” The topic of missile defense in eastern Europe has fueled tensions with Russia, which believes the defense systems are meant to neutralize its own nuclear arsenal. Reuters

Lebanon: Hezbollah confirmed on Friday that one of its top commanders, Mustafa Badreddine, was killed in an Israeli airstrike on the Lebanese-Israeli border this week. 55-year-old Badreddine was one of the highest ranking officials in the group and “took part in most of the operations of the Islamic resistance since 1982,” according to a Hezbollah statement. Reuters
David Petraeus: Anti-Muslim bigotry aids Islamist terrorists: “I have grown increasingly concerned about inflammatory political discourse that has become far too common both at home and abroad against Muslims and Islam, including proposals from various quarters for blanket discrimination against people on the basis of their religion,” writes David Petraeus in The Washington Post. “As policy, these concepts are totally counterproductive: Rather than making our country safer, they will compound the already grave terrorist danger to our citizens. As ideas, they are toxic and, indeed, non-biodegradable — a kind of poison that, once released into our body politic, is not easily expunged.”

Struggling to Fight Islamic State in a Fractured Libya: “The fight against Islamic State faces daunting challenges. First, there still is no unified military structure through which the U.S. and Western allies can channel assistance,” writes Frederic Wehrey in The Wall Street Journal. “Western special forces must work with militia surrogates in any operations against Islamic State. But this is risky: Assisting these armed groups could rekindle old rivalries and further reduce the incentives for national reconciliation.”

To Beat ISIS, We Must Think Smaller: “We know enough about recruitment for ISIS and its ilk to know that there is no single way individuals radicalize. We also know it involves some combination of ideological, psychological, and community-based factors,” write Justin Richmond and Ryan Greer on Defense One. “People flocking to Syria to join terrorist groups tend to be radical before they are religious, and tend to be motivated more by seeking personal agency than by any lofty ideology. Our work involves looking at these local community factors through the eyes of community members, using data to map the lifecycle of recruitment to violence, looking at the root causes among community factors.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Consequences of Conflict in the South China Sea

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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