The Soufan Group Morning Brief


TUESDAY, MAY 24, 2016

The White House did not inform Pakistan about the U.S. drone strike that killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour on Saturday, according to a senior Obama administration official. The attack occurred in the southwestern Baluchistan Province, which was previously considered off-limits to U.S. drones. On Monday, Pakistan summoned U.S. Ambassador David Hale in protest of the move and claimed that its sovereignty had been violated. President Obama reportedly approved the drone strike on Pakistani soil because Mansour had been planning new attacks on American targets in Kabul. New York Times, Wall Street Journal

Financial Times: Death of the Taliban chief starts a dangerous power struggle
The Hill: Ryan: Airstrike of Taliban leader a reminder we're at war
Lawfare: Mullah Mansour as a "Continuous" Threat: Was the AUMF Strictly Necessary?
Reuters: U.S. says late Taliban leader was planning attacks on Americans

The U.S. military is seeking permission from the White House to use American aircraft in offensive missions to counter an expected surge in Taliban fighting this summer, according to U.S. officials. Under the current rules of engagement, the U.S. military is only permitted to strike Taliban targets when U.S. or coalition forces are threatened, when the Taliban provides direct support to Al Qaeda, or when the Taliban pose a “strategic threat” to Afghan security forces. Wall Street Journal

Whistleblowers: Former Pentagon Assistant Inspector General John Crane is claiming that the U.S. government failed to protect whistleblowers. Crane alleges that his colleagues at the Inspector General’s office revealed the identity of former NSA official and whistleblower Thomas Drake, who brought concerns over wasteful practices at the NSA. DefenseOne, The Intercept, Guardian

28 Pages: Former Senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who served as a co-chairman of the 2002 congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks, is concerned about delays in declassifying 28 pages of the inquiry report which some believe link Saudi Arabia to the attacks. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reportedly suggested to Graham that the decision about 28 pages may be left to Congress, adding complexity and further politics into the process. New York Times

Airport Security: TSA intelligence chief Kelly Hoggan has been replaced, according to a memo to TSA staff on Monday. Hoggan, the assistant administrator for the Office of Security Operations, faced sharp criticism and allegations of mismanagement during a congressional hearing on May 12. Hoggan received $90,000 in bonuses despite lapses in security and a decline in performance, according to a leaked report from the Department of Homeland Security. New York Times, Washington Post, CNN

Clinton, Bush Hacker: The Romanian hacker who claimed to have accessed Hillary Clinton’s private email server and private photographs belonging to President George W. Bush is expected to plead guilty in U.S. District court in Virginia on Wednesday. 44-year-old Marcel Lehel Lazar faces charges including cyber-stalking, aggravated identity theft, and unauthorized access of a protected computer. Lazar was recently extradited to the United States from Romania, where he had been serving a prison sentence for hacking. Washington Post, CNN

A series of ISIS suicide attacks killed at least 140 people and wounded more than 200 others in the cities of Jableh and Tartous on the Mediterranean coast on Monday. The attacks were the first of their kind in the territory, which is home to President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite minority and hosts Russian military bases. Reuters, NBC

ISIS: The fourth and final member of the ISIS jailer group known as the “Beatles,” which included the Briton known as Jihadi John, was identified on Monday. 27-year-old British national El Shafee Elsheikh traveled to Syria in 2012 and supervised the torture and killing of Western hostages. Elsheikh’s family said he is still alive and living in Syria. Washington Post

Nigeria: A Nigerian woman told reporters that she had been kidnapped and drugged by Boko Haram militants who planned to use her as a suicide bomber. 30-year-old Khadija Ibrahim was able to escape her captors when the car in which she was abducted overheated and broke down. The incident highlights Boko Haram’s frequent use of young women as suicide bombers. BBC News

India: Three police officers were shot and killed by gunmen in two separate attacks on Monday in Srinagar, India, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir State. The militant group Hizbul Mujahedeen took responsibility for the attacks. New York Times

Tunisia: The moderate leader of Tunisia’s main Islamic political party, Ennahda, was reelected on Monday. Rachid Ghannouchi, a formerly exiled Islamic thinker, ran on a platform to move the party away from its Islamist roots and keep the country committed to democratic reform since the 2011 revolution. New York Times
How Islamophobia Helps ISIS and Breeds Extremism: “If a Republican is elected president of the United States and Islamophobia continues to escalate, the post-Obama era is going to be a very challenging one,” writes Ehsan Ahrari in the Huffington Post. “A Republican president may be too eager to deploy ground troops to both Iraq and Syria in order to ‘wipe out’ ISIS. While ISIS is not likely to be wiped out, the ensuing destruction of the Levant will become a place for further mushrooming of a transformed and potentially more vile version of ISIS.”

End the Imperial Presidency Before It's Too Late: “The Bush Administration aggressively moved to expand executive power, drawing on the dubious legal maneuvering of David Addington, John Yoo, and their enablers. Starting in 2005, the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, would repeatedly insist that Bush’s assertions of executive power violated the Constitution,” writes Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic. “Nonetheless, Obama inherited a newly powerful executive branch, just as Cheney had hoped. And rather than dismantle it, Obama spent two terms lending the imprimatur of centrist, establishment bipartisanship to Cheney’s vision. Now, Donald Trump is coming.”

Hit the Taliban Harder: “The death by drone over the weekend of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour is a welcome event in what used to be called the war on terror, and all the more so if it represents a change in President Obama’s military tactics in Afghanistan,” writes the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal. “Mr. Obama needs to escalate U.S. bombing to prevent Taliban gains that could leave his successor with another security crisis to clean up.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Attacks Amid Setbacks for 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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