The Soufan Group Morning Brief



The Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear the case against several high-ranking George W. Bush administration officials over whether they should be held liable for policies adopted after the 9/11 attacks. The case began as a class action lawsuit filed by immigrants, many of whom are Muslim, over policies and practices that led to the detention and mistreatment of hundreds of people at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. The plaintiffs said they had been subjected to beatings, humiliating searches, and other abuses in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. In 2003, the Justice Department’s Inspector General issued reports saying the government had made little or no effort to distinguish between genuine suspects and Muslim immigrants with minor visa violations. The defendants in the case include former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former FBI Director Robert Mueller. New York Times, Politico

The Chicago-based company Geofeedia has reportedly developed and deployed a tool that uses text, photos, and videos gathered from social media sites to assist law enforcement surveillance of protesters, according to civil liberties activists. The tool, which has reportedly been used by more than 500 clients, allows users to search for social media content in a specific location, rather than just searching by keywords or hashtags. This enables law enforcement to more easily determine a precise location, according to an email obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU claims that the tool is being used to specifically target minority protesters. Facebook and Twitter have responded to the ACLU report, saying they will cut off Geofeedia’s access to their data. New York Times, The Hill, Washington Post

Radicalization: A secret FBI study found that anger over U.S. military operations overseas was the most commonly cited motivation for suspects involved in cases of homegrown terrorism. The 2012 study conducted by the FBI’s counterterrorism division did not identify any coherent pattern of radicalization and concluded that it was nearly impossible to predict future violent acts, according to a report by The Intercept. The Intercept

Cybersecurity: President Obama is reportedly weighing a “proportional” response to Russia’s efforts to interfere with the November U.S. election, the White House said Tuesday. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said “the president has talked before about the significant capabilities that the U.S. government has to both defend our systems in the United States but also carry out offensive operations in other countries,” and that “there are a range of responses that are available to the president, and he will consider a response that is proportional.” New York Times

New York Times: John Podesta Says Russian Spies Hacked His Emails to Sway Election

Drones: Over the last month, ISIS has attempted to use small drones strapped with explosives to launch attacks on Kurdish and Arab opposition forces. The Pentagon has reportedly requested an additional $20 million from Congress to study and address the problem of remote-controlled drones on the battlefield. There have been three attacks with such devices, the most recent killing two Kurdish fighters as they took the device apart after shooting it down. New York Times, Washington Post

Gitmo: On Tuesday, Uruguay’s government offered to bring the family of a former Guantanamo prisoner to the country to meet his hunger strike demand of reuniting with his family. Syrian national Abu Wa’el Dhiab has been on a hunger strike for more than two months demanding to leave Uruguay to join his wife and children in Turkey. Uruguay’s foreign ministry said in a letter that the visas to bring Dhiab’s family have been approved and that they will be provided a place to live. Miami Herald, AP

More Gitmo: An alleged accomplice in the 9/11 attacks will undergo surgery this week to repair damage from the alleged sodomy that he said he was subjected to at CIA black sites. Mustafa al Hawsawi, 48, was captured in Pakistan in 2003 along with the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Hawsawi has reportedly experienced bleeding for over a decade since his mistreatment. He is suspected of helping provide the 9/11 hijackers with cash, western clothing, and credit cards. Miami Herald

Gunmen disguised as police officers attacked a Shiite shrine in Kabul on Tuesday, killing at least 14 people and wounding dozens of others. The attack on the Kart-e-Sakhi shrine in western Kabul occurred on the eve of the Shiite holiday Ashura while hundreds of worshipers were visiting the shrine. New York Times

Syria: Airstrikes against rebel-held areas of northern Aleppo killed at least 14 people on Tuesday. The shelling of a government-held neighborhood killed at least six people, including children, at a school in southern Syria. AP

Yemen: The Defense Department is looking into retaliatory measures in response to the two missiles fired at a U.S. Navy destroyer off the coast of Yemen, according to a Pentagon spokesman. The United States is still investigating whether Iranian-backed Houthi rebels were responsible for the failed attack on the U.S. ship. The Hill, Reuters

Germany: On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved the deployment of additional German troops to Turkey to help operate NATO surveillance aircraft in the fight against ISIS, according to government sources. Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft will be used out of Konya air base in southern Turkey for use in reconnaissance support of airstrikes against ISIS targets. Reuters

ISIS recruitment: A report by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) shows that criminal and terrorist networks across Europe are merging to form a “crime-terror nexus.” The report found that more than half of ISIS fighters had criminal histories and were previously known to the police. The Independent, Washington Post

France: Lawyers defending Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam have resigned from the case, after their client has repeatedly refused to talk. Defense attorneys Frank Berton and Sven Mary told reporters that their client no longer wants legal representation and is refusing to cooperate with investigators. Reuters
Why Afghan refugees are facing a humanitarian catastrophe: “Hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees in Europe, Pakistan and Iran are being forced to return home to Afghanistan by the European Union, UN agencies and governments in the region,” writes Ahmed Rashid on “An unprecedented humanitarian crisis is likely to be the result as the refugees - many of them destitute - return to what is effectively a countrywide war zone, with the Taliban attacking half a dozen provinces. Moreover, the country's severe winter months are approaching, when essential supplies are even harder to obtain. The government in Kabul does not have the resources to help these refugees or resettle them as it focuses on the war, defending major cities and paying for the army's upkeep.”

Putin in Syria: Chechnya All Over Again: “The difference between Aleppo now and Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, at the turn of the millennium is that Western leaders are at least trying to save the Syrians trapped in the besieged city,” writes Oliver Bullough in The New York Times. “Otherwise, the picture is broadly the same. Mr. Putin knows now, like he knew then, that he and his proxies can’t win on the ground, so they are trying to solve their problem from the air. Where infantry won’t go, he’s dropping explosives.”

Congress' Mistake: How the 9/11 Bill Will Hurt U.S. Foreign Relations: “Of course, the decision was not a simple a cost-benefit analysis. There were political factors at play. In addition to sharing the utmost sympathy for the families of victims, it would be politically awkward in the extreme to be seen as voting against 9/11 victims’ families, which is why Obama, who does not face reelection, could veto the bill,” writes Mattie Wheeler on Foreign Affairs. “However, before any modification takes place, Congress and the American public need to acknowledge the serious issues within JASTA in its current form.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Russia and Turkey’s Strategic Rapprochement

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