The Soufan Group Morning Brief



Attorney General Loretta Lynch is opposing a White House-backed proposal that would allow Guantanamo detainees to plead guilty to terrorism charges via videoconference, according to senior administration officials. Lynch has reportedly intervened twice in the last three months to block efforts to advance the issue, claiming the policy would violate long-established rules of criminal justice procedure. One official said “it’s been a fierce interagency tussle,” over the videoconferencing proposal. Lynch’s opposition to the proposal would hamper President Obama’s efforts to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. Reuters

The Week: Attorney General Lynch reportedly blocked Obama's latest plan to close Guantanamo

A nonprofit group, the Counter Extremism Project, claims to have developed a new tool that would enable Internet companies to instantly detect terrorist-affiliated images and videos and remove them from their platforms. White House officials expressed support for the initiative, which aims to cleanse sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, of ISIS propaganda made to inspire and recruit new supporters. However, several social-media companies are wary of the tool, over concerns about its effectiveness, potential compliance issues, and freedom of speech. Similarly, a new study published last Thursday in the journal Science uses social media data to attempt to predict the rise of terrorist organizations and predict potential attacks. Washington Post, New York Times

New York Times: How Do You Stop a Future Terrorist When the Only Evidence Is a Thought?

Orlando shooting: A former friend of Orlando shooter Omar Mateen claims he warned the FBI about his radical views two years ago. Mohammad Malik said he saw a “red flag” when Mateen told him that he had been listening to recordings of Anwar al-Awlaki. Malik said that “the fact that this person was a Muslim, and also that he was a Muslim from my community and somebody that I knew was very, very, very disturbing.” NBC, CBS

State Department dissent: Secretary of State John Kerry met with a group of State Department officials that signed a “dissent channel” memo opposing the administration’s policy against the Assad regime in Syria. The eight mid-level officials who authored the dissent memo met with Kerry for about a half hour on Tuesday for a “collegial discussion” about the Syria policy. Several participants said that Kerry was careful to never explicitly agree with or back their position, but expressed respect and understanding for their concerns. New York Times, The Hill

Drones: The U.S. Army has identified a “critical gap” in its ability to combat the use of small enemy drones from confusing radar systems, disrupting larger aircraft, or detonating when they reach a target, according to officials. Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel B. Allyn said on Tuesday that the Army must develop the capability to prevent single drones from carrying out surveillance and reconnaissance against the United States. Washington Post

The White House released new regulations on Tuesday for the commercial use of drones. The Federal Aviation Administration regulations aim at preventing small unmanned aircraft from colliding with other aircraft and people on the ground. Washington Post, Financial Times

Gitmo: The Periodic Review Board convened on Tuesday to consider the case of 48-year-old Russian national Ravil Mingazov. Mingazov, who has been held at Guantanamo since 2002, is accused of fighting alongside the ethnic Tatar Jama’at group in Afghanistan in 2001 and receiving training on how to make explosives and chemical grenades. Human Rights First, Courthouse News Service

ISIS in California: A federal jury in California convicted Nader Elhuzayel, 25, and Muhanad Badawi, 24, on terrorism charges on Tuesday. Elhuzayel was found guilty of attempting to provide material support to the ISIS and Badawi was convicted of aiding and abetting the attempt to provide material support, after Elhuzayel attempted to leave the country to join ISIS in the Middle East. LA Times, Reuters

CIA: In the days after the San Bernardino shooting last December, CIA Deputy Director David S. Cohen convened a meeting to discuss Islamophobia. Those present at the meeting said that Cohen mentioned a “zero tolerance” policy about attempts to marginalize Muslim employees. Washington Post

ISIS militants killed at least 34 Libyan pro-government fighters during clashes near the city of Sirte on Tuesday. The fighting to retake the ISIS-held city continued as 29 others were killed in an ISIS bombing in the town of Garabulli near the Libyan capital, Tripoli. AFP

Jordan: Jordanian authorities closed the country’s entry points for Syrian refugees on Tuesday after a suicide bomber killed four Jordanian soldiers, a police officer, and a civil defense officer in a car bomb along the border. A government spokesperson said “we are also not building nor expanding any existing refugee camps and we call upon the international community to understand our sovereign measures and our need to take this measure in order to maintain our security and stability.” New York Times

France: A new poll found that more than one third of French adults support the use of torture in “exceptional circumstances” against terror suspects. The poll, commissioned by the French human rights group Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture, showed a significant rise in the public support of torture compared to a Amnesty International poll from 2000, which found 25 percent responded similarly. Washington Post

North Korea: South Korean officials said that North Korea test-fired two ballistic missiles early Wednesday morning. Although the test-launch of two intermediate-range Musudan missiles failed, one missile reached an altitude of 1,000 km, a sign of progress for the country’s ballistic missile program. Reuters, CNN

Belgium: Belgian police arrested a man wearing a fake explosive belt outside a central Brussels shopping center on Tuesday. Police said the man claimed to have been abducted and that his “suicide belt” would be detonated remotely. Guardian, BBC
The Obama Legal Team and the Lawfulness of Attacking Assad: “The Obama legal team was squirming about the proposed strike’s legal basis as a matter of international law, and therefore that the dissenting State Department officials look clueless for not even bringing up the question of how their proposal would be lawful,” writes Charlie Savage on Lawfare. “But I think the legal team was a lot more confident that such a unilateral strike would be lawful as a matter of domestic Constitutional law. And, interestingly, I think that Obama himself ended up taking a more limited view of his authority than his interagency legal advisers did.”

Why the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mansour won’t bring peace to Afghanistan: “The idea that the Taliban’s fragmentation and internal weakness will drive it to the negotiating table or to military defeat is far from guaranteed. In fact, internal divisions may actually cause the Taliban to become more aggressive on the battlefield and less likely to come to the negotiating table,” writes Vanda Felbab-Brown on Vox. “Even more important, though, deep and potentially debilitating political problems in Afghanistan persist. And unless they are fixed, any reconciliation that future negotiations with the Taliban may eventually bring will still not produce a lasting peace in Afghanistan.”

Iraq’s Flawed Liberation of Fallujah: “The United States needs to recognize that the jihadi problem is not going away. Defeating it will require a sustained commitment by an international coalition — specifically one that includes Muslim nations — to stop the cancer from growing,” writes Anthony E. Deane on Foreign Policy. “This is what happened on the micro-level in Ramadi in 2006 and 2007. Establishing a similar project across Iraq will take years — just as stabilizing Germany, Japan, Italy, and South Korea in the 20th century took decades.”

Out Now: Karen Greenberg's newest book, Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State, is the definitive account of how America's War on Terror sparked a decade-long assault on the rule of law, weakening our courts and our Constitution in the name of national security.

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Security Implications of Brexit

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