The Soufan Group Morning Brief



The Obama administration has formally accused the Russian government of hacking and releasing stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee, as well as other institutions and prominent individuals. A statement from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and the Department of Homeland Security on Friday said that “the U.S. Intelligence Community is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations,” and that the leaked emails published “are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.” The statement did not name Vladimir Putin by name but said that “we believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” New York Times, Washington Post

On Friday, WikiLeaks published over 4,000 hacked emails it says are from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claims the emails focus on Podesta’s “communications relating to nuclear energy, and media handling over donations to the Clinton Foundation from mining and nuclear interests.” The Hill, New York Times

The Hill: WikiLeaks releases alleged Podesta emails

Terrorism case in Arizona: An Arizona man accused of planning a terrorist attack on a motor vehicle office in Phoenix agreed to a plea deal on Monday. Mahin Khan, 18, pleaded guilty to terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism, and conspiracy to commit misconduct involving weapons, according to officials. Under the plea deal Khan will serve at least seven years in prison, and after release will have internet and travel restrictions, and be subject to mental health exams. AP, Reuters

Federal Judge retirement: Judge Kevin Thomas Duffy has retired from his seat at the Federal District Court in Manhattan after nearly 44 years. Duffy, 83, is best known for presiding over three federal terrorism trials -- two from the 1993 World Trade Center attack, and a third involving the 1995 Manila plot to blow up passenger airplanes over the Pacific. Karen J. Greenberg, Director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law, said Duffy confronted issues like foreign evidence collection and defense allegations of torture, “the very issues that would trouble prosecutors and defense attorneys and future judges in the terrorism trials after Sept. 11.” New York Times

ISIS’s propaganda operations have significantly declined in number as the group has faced increasing military pressure from the U.S.-led coalition in Syria and Iraq, according to a study from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. The study found that ISIS’s propaganda output dropped from over 700 media items per month in August 2015 to under 200 per month in August 2016. Researchers also found that the group’s publications and social media posts have shifted away from portraying a functional state under its control. New York Times

Yemen: On Sunday night, two missiles were fired from rebel-held territory towards a U.S. Navy destroyer off the coast of Yemen. The USS Mason was not hit, as the missiles splashed down in the water before reaching the U.S. ship. Washington Post

The Hill: Graham urges Obama to retaliate after missiles fired at US Navy ship
New York Times: U.N. Chief Condemns Airstrike on Yemeni Funeral and Dismisses Saudi Denials

Libya: New documents show how ISIS fighters in Libya prepared to establish a functioning state based in the coastal city of Sirte. The notebook of Abu Bakr, a likely ISIS foreign fighter, among other documents left behind as U.S.-backed Libyan forces pushed back ISIS fighters, describes the closure of schools, restrictions on social life, and the group’s training and recruitment of new members, many of them foreigners. Wall Street Journal

Afghanistan: A suicide car bomb killed at least 14 people in the city of Lashkar Gah on Monday. The attack targeted a police base in the capital of southern Helmand province hours after the Taliban launched a major assault on the city. VOA

Syria: Secretary of State John Kerry called for a war crimes investigation of the air and bombing campaign by Russia and the Syrian government, charging that they continue to intentionally target hospitals and other civilian targets. Kerry said Russia and the Assad-regime’s bombing campaign “is a targeted strategy to terrorize civilians.” New York Times

Germany: The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency (BfV) said that a Syrian suspect who was arrested on Monday had been building a explosive device and was likely planning an attack on the Berlin airport. Hans-Georg Maassen said that intelligence leads suggested in early September that ISIS was planning an attack on Germany’s transportation infrastructure. Investigators said they had found “some 1.5 kilograms of an extremely dangerous explosive” in the apartment of the suspect, 22-year old Syrian refugee Jaber al-Bakr. LA Times, Reuters

Russia: Russia has deployed nuclear-capable missiles in its western region of Kaliningrad, which borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania. Poland said the move was of “highest concern” and that it was monitoring the situation. BBC
The ‘guinea pig’ for U.S. torture is languishing at Guantanamo: “Zubaydah was the “guinea pig” of the CIA torture program. He was the first prisoner sent to a secret CIA “black site,” the first to have his interrogation “enhanced ” and the only prisoner subjected to all of the CIA’s approved techniques, as well as many that were not authorized,” write Amanda L. Jacobsen and Joseph Margulies in the Washington Post. “The chasm between myth and reality explains much about what has happened since his arrest in March 2002. The United States has cast him into limbo. He has never been charged with a violation of U.S. law, military or civilian, and apparently never will be formally charged. Instead, he languishes at Guantanamo. After years in secret prisons around the world, he remains incommunicado, with no prospect of trial.

What's Really At Stake in the Syria Debate: “The air of surreality and endless repetition around much of the Syria debate emanates from the mismatch between stated and actual goals. In fact, both advocates and critics of these interventionist ideas generally understand that the limited measures being proposed have virtually no chance of changing the strategic trajectory of the war,” writes Marc Lynch on War on the Rocks. “The real argument is not over saving lives or even about removing the Assad regime, as laudable as such goals might be.  It is over the extent to which the United States should be involved in the war, regardless of whether or how the war ends.”

Washington Should Stop Militarizing the Pacific: “President Obama’s ‘pivot’ to Asia — which includes doubling down on Washington’s already-robust military presence in the region — further stokes the potential for conflict between China and the United States,” write Nicholas Borroz and Hunter Marston in The New York Times. “If the United States wants to avoid strife in Asia, it should resist antagonizing China by encircling it with ever more military partners and bases.”

Trump is (mostly) wrong on Mosul: “In fact, the United States and its regional allies haven’t been above deception when it comes to indicating where they aim to attack next,” writes Peter Apps for Reuters. “It would be almost impossible to prepare for such a major assault in secret. Suggesting the battle is coming, however, is also a central part of the strategy.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Moscow’s Meddling in U.S. Elections

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