The Soufan Group Morning Brief



The U.S. military transferred 37-year-old Abdel Malik Wahab al Rahabi, a suspected Osama bin Laden bodyguard, to Montenegro on Wednesday as part of an expected new round of releases from Guantanamo. The Yemeni national was cleared for transfer by the Periodic Review board in 2014. He has never been charged with a crime. Al Rahabi arrived at Guantanamo over 14 years ago on the day it opened on January 11, 2002 and was one of the twenty detainees photographed in the iconic image of the first prisoners arriving at the prison in orange jumpsuits. He will reportedly be reunited with his wife and a daughter he has never met. There are now 79 detainees remaining at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. ABC, Reuters, Miami Herald

Two Air Force psychologists who helped design the CIA’s brutal post 9/11 interrogation program admitted they used waterboarding and other harsh tactics against detainees, yet denied allegations by the ACLU of torture and war crimes. The lawyers for James Elmer Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen wrote that the two “defendants deny that they committed torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, non-consensual human experimentation and/or war crimes.” AP, CNN

Surveillance: The U.S. Senate voted on Wednesday against a Republican-backed proposal to expand the FBI’s surveillance powers in the aftermath of the Orlando nightclub shooting. The proposal would have allowed the FBI to use tools known as “national security letters” to obtain citizens’ internet records and other online data without a search warrant during terrorism investigations. The legislation would have also made permanent the PATRIOT Act’s “lone-wolf” provision, which allows intelligence officials to monitor terrorism suspects who are not connected to foreign organizations. Reuters, Politico

Gun control: House Democrats staged a sit-in on the House floor on Wednesday evening, demanding a vote on gun control legislation before Congress went to recess. Members stayed in the House chamber until 3:00am when Speaker Paul Ryan called a vote, and then passed a separate appropriations bill that includes a controversial $1.1 billion plan to combat the Zika virus. Ryan then adjourned the session without bringing a vote on gun control legislation. New York Times, The Hill

Orlando shooting: A man who claims to have been Orlando shooter Omar Mateen’s gay lover says Mateen specifically targeted gay Latinos in the attack. The man, only referred to as “Miguel,” said in an interview with Univision that he had been in a sexual relationship with Mateen for two months after meeting him on the gay dating app Grindr. Vox, CBS

Video surveillance inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando shows Omar Mateen firing at people who were already wounded, according to officials who reviewed the recordings. One official said Mateen “was making sure anybody who was shot was dead.” The video of the attack is a key piece of evidence as officials investigate what happened in the early morning shooting. Washington Post

New York Times: After Orlando, Questions Over Effectiveness of Terrorism Watch Lists

Some experts and U.S. officials are warning that as ISIS loses territory in Iraq and Syria as the result of  U.S.-backed military operations, the group may turn to less conventional military tactics and strike soft targets in the United States and Europe. Some believe that ISIS may gain legitimacy even in defeat in the eyes of displaced Sunnis, as many of the forces fighting the group consist of Shiite and Kurdish fighters. Reuters

CNN: David Petraeus: ISIS is on its way to defeat but terrorism threat persists
New York Times: A Tour of Falluja Reveals Grim Remnants of Life Under ISIS

Syria: Norway’s Parliament approved the deployment of around 60 soldiers to join coalition forces in the fight against ISIS. The Norwegian troops will provide training, advice, and operational support for Syrian groups fighting ISIS. AP

Nigeria: Thousands of Boko Haram victims rescued from the group months ago are at risk of starvation, according to the aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF). According to MSF, 24,000 displaced people are on the verge of starvation in the city of Bama in northeastern Nigeria. Washington Post

Somalia: The Somali army killed eight al-Shabab militants on Wednesday in central Somalia. Somali troops recovered “dangerous weapons”and munitions during an operation around the town of Masagawa in the Galgaduud region. One Somali soldier died in the attack. VOA

North Korea: North Korean state media claimed on Wednesday that the test-launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile was a success. North Korea said that the missile accurately reached a test target 250 miles away and reached a new altitude higher than 800 miles. The tested Musudan missiles have the range to reach U.S. military bases in the Pacific. New York Times

Iran: Boeing said on Tuesday that it had taken a step toward the sale of commercial airplanes to Iran. The company said it had signed a “memorandum of agreement” with Iran Air, Iran’s national carrier, “expressing the airline’s intent to purchase Boeing commercial passenger airplanes.” Any final deal negotiated between Boeing and Iran will require approval from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which is responsible for enforcing remaining sanctions on Iran. New York Times
Defeating ISIS on the Digital Battlefield: “This virtual phase of the war is going to require a massive intelligence effort based on a deep capability to look into real-time human behavior in the digital world: what people are saying on social media, what people are browsing on the web, where people go, what they buy, who they chat with,” write R. James Woolsey and Chip Register in the Wall Street Journal. “We need a more formalized public-private partnership with the focus of the Manhattan Project and the funding of the Mercury and Apollo space programs to study the issue, map out capabilities, assign responsibilities, guide development and allocate resources.”

The False Lure of Military Intervention in Syria: The situation in Syria “deeply frustrates many American diplomats. But describing the crisis is not the same as having a workable and rational alternative strategy,” writes The New York Times in an editorial. “There have never been good options in Syria, and the situation is getting worse. But no one has yet made a persuasive case that direct American military involvement against Mr. Assad is the answer.”

Obama’s generals want more U.S. troops in Iraq: “Military leaders directing operations against the terrorists in Iraq are readying requests for more troops and equipment they feel are needed to solidify and quicken progress toward defeating the Islamic State,” writes Josh Rogin in the Washington Post. “If Obama decides not to fulfill the generals’ wish for more resources in Iraq, he may preserve his personal legacy by keeping troop levels low. But that comes at the cost of the Iraqis and U.S. security, and it will only pass on those tough calls to whoever succeeds him.”

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: Russia’s Dangerous Game in Syria

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