The Soufan Group Morning Brief


MONDAY, MAY 2, 2016

CIA Director John Brennan said on Sunday that the 28 classified pages of the 9/11 Congressional inquiry, which some believe connect Saudi Arabia to the attacks, contain information that “was not corroborated, not vetted, and not deemed to be accurate.” Brennan told NBC’s “Meet The Press” that the pages were “kept out because of concerns about sensitive methods, investigative actions, and the investigation of 9/11 was still underway in 2002.” He added that the report gave “a very clear judgment that there was no evidence that ... Saudi government as an institution or Saudi officials or individuals had provided financial support to al Qaeda.” The Hill, Voice of America

The Pentagon investigation into a U.S. airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan found that the mistakes made in the incident did not amount to a war crime because they were not intentional. The Pentagon announced on Friday that it had disciplined 16 service members involved in last October’s attack which killed at least 30 people, including MSF medical staff and patients. Washington Post, Guardian

Vice News: US Claims Assault on MSF Afghan Hospital Isn't a War Crime Because It Was an Accident
The Atlantic: The Fallout From the Kunduz Airstrike

Gitmo: Army Col. James Pohl, the judge presiding over the 9/11 suspects’ legal proceedings, ruled that he will eventually lift his previous order prohibiting female guards from physically contacting the five defendants, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, while transporting them around the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. Pohl called comments made by Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford criticising the ban “entirely inappropriate,” claiming that the comments could create the appearance that the Pentagon was attempting to influence the court. Miami Herald, New York Times

Surveillance: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court did not deny a single U.S. government request for electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence reasons in 2015, according to a Justice Department document obtained by Reuters. The secretive court received 1,457 requests last year from the NSA and FBI to intercept communications such as phone calls and emails, none of which were denied. This continues a trend, as the court did not deny any of the 1,379 requests brought in 2014. Reuters, Guardian

The Atlantic: You Can't Escape Data Surveillance In America
The Verge: US surveillance court reportedly rejected zero spying requests last year

Countering ISIS: The U.S. military is attempting to choke off ISIS’s finances by depriving it of revenue sources and by destroying its money. At least four times in the past month, U.S. airstrikes have targeted major ISIS financial centers holding millions of U.S. currency, according to government officials. Cyber efforts against ISIS have reportedly been crucial in identifying the ISIS financial network and locating targets. NBC News

FBI vs. Apple: The FBI paid less than $1 million to unlock the phone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, according to several government sources. FBI Director James Comey had previously suggested that the government had spent the equivalent of his remaining salary, roughly $1.3 million, to hack into the iPhone. Reuters

CIA: On Sunday, the CIA commemorated the five-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden by “live tweeting” details of the operation in real time. The Agency released a series of tweets that followed the events leading up to the Special Forces raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Wall Street Journal, BBC, Newsweek

Hundreds of Iraqi protesters stormed into the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad on Saturday and entered the Parliament building, demanding an end to corruption. Most of the protesters were supporters of Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who on Sunday called for his followers to return home and leave the Green Zone. There were no reported casualties. The incident raises concerns over the growing influence of al-Sadr, who was notorious during the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and established one of the most prominent Shiite militias in Iraq, the Mahdi Army. Meanwhile two ISIS suicide bombers killed at least 32 people and wounded at least 75 others in the southern city of Samawa on Sunday. New York Times, Reuters

Yemen: The Yemeni government suspended direct peace talks with Houthi rebels in Kuwait on Sunday after Houthi militants took control of a military base north of the Yemeni capital Sanaa. Houthi militants killed several soldiers defending the Umaliqa base, who had reportedly refused to take sides in the conflict between the Iranian-backed Houthis and the Saudi-backed government. Reuters

Turkey: A car bomb in southern city of Gaziantep near the Syrian border killed two police officers and wounded at least 22 others on Sunday. The attack targeted a police station near the offices of several international aid organizations working on the conflict in Syria. No group initially claimed responsibility for the attack. New York Times

Philippines: Ten Indonesian sailors who had been held hostage for over a month were released on Sunday by the ISIS-linked militant group Abu Sayyaf. The ten men were kidnapped from their tugboat by Abu Sayyaf militants in the waters between Indonesia and the Philippines. The sailors were released due to increased pressure against the group by the Philippine military, according to government officials. New York Times, Wall Street Journal

Iran: Supporters of President Hassan Rouhani won more seats in parliamentary runoff elections on Saturday, according to Iranian state media. However, the moderate and reformist candidates failed to win enough seats to secure a majority. They secured 122 of the 290 seats, compared to 84 held by conservative hard-liners, and 82 won by independents, who are likely to side with Iran’s supreme leader on key issues. New York Times

Europe: European counterterrorism officials want more access to U.S.-based social media firms’ data in order to assist with terrorism investigations. Officials have complained about the process needed to obtain communications data from companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and WhatsApp. In many cases, U.S. law prohibits U.S. companies from sharing communications data with foreign law enforcement officials, unless approved through a diplomatic review process. Wall Street Journal
I Was the Voice-Over for Bin Laden: “I was 22 years old, and one day into an internship at the ABC program ‘Nightline,’ when the Sept. 11 attacks happened,” writes Nihar Patel in The New York Times. “One day, a news producer asked the office bullpen if anyone wanted to voice-over the English translation of Bin Laden’s latest ominous message. My hand shot up.”

Why Obama's 'cold peace' with Iran will turn hot: “The first great problem with Obama's rebalancing is that our Sunni allies will hedge against it in unpredictable ways, reducing stability in the region. Second, over the long run, that balance will inevitably collapse in favor of Iran,” writes Andrew L. Peek on The Hill. “And then we are in totally unknown territory: No single state has dominated the Persian Gulf since the advent of oil, and we have no idea how such a great power would behave.”

Leave Root Causes Aside—Destroy the ISIS ‘State’: “Defeating ISIS-as-state is not dependent upon solving Syria as a social, historical, cultural, religious, and governance project, let alone doing the same with Iraq. ISIS feeds on the conflicts in both countries and makes the situation in both worse,” writes James Jeffery on The Atlantic. “But it is possible to defeat ISIS as a ‘state’ and as a military-economic ‘power’—that is, deal with the truly threatening part— without having to solve the Syrian and Iraqi crises or eliminate ISIS as a set of terrorist cells or source of ideological inspiration.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Red Lines and Green Zones

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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