The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2016
ACLU AND YAHOO PRESS FISA COURT TO RELEASE SECRET SURVEILLANCE DECISIONS

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion before the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court asking it to declassify at least 23 legal decisions that approved the government’s surveillance activities, including a court order compelling Yahoo to allow the government to scan its users’ incoming email messages. In a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Yahoo asked for the government to declassify the court order and “make a sufficiently detailed public and contextual comment to clarify the alleged facts and circumstances.” Reuters, Guardian

Related:
The Verge: Yahoo wants the US to explain its email surveillance order
The Intercept: ACLU Wants 23 Secret Surveillance Laws Made Public

DATA STOLEN FROM NSA POSSIBLY INCLUDED TOP SECRET HACKING TOOLS
Investigators have found that documents in possession of NSA contractor Harold Martin include top secret hacking tools that have since been offered for sale online. Martin was arrested in August on charges of theft of government property and mishandling of classified information. Investigators are reportedly looking for links between Martin’s home computers and code posted online for auction by the group Shadow Brokers. New York Times

California terror case: On Wednesday, a former California college student was sentenced to 30 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release for attempting to aid ISIS. Muhanad Badawi, 25, was convicted earlier this year of conspiracy to aid a foreign terrorist organization and other crimes after he assisted another ISIS supporter in his plans to leave the country to join ISIS in Syria. AP


KURDISH FORCES OPEN NORTHERN FRONT IN MOSUL OFFENSIVE
Kurdish forces opened a new front in the military campaign to retake Mosul on Thursday, as thousands of Peshmerga fighters began to attack from north of the city. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Thursday that “the forces are pushing towards the town more quickly than we thought and more quickly than we had programmed.” New York Times, Reuters

Related:
CBS: U.S. general: Apache helicopters on attack against ISIS in Iraq
AP: As caliphate dreams evaporate, ISIS hard up for cash
Washington Post: Iraq’s U.S.-trained counterterrorism troops join the attack on Mosul

Syria: The Syrian military said on Thursday that a ceasefire has begun to allow people to leave besieged areas of eastern Aleppo. Rebels have said that the brief pause in shelling is part of a psychological campaign to force a surrender. The United Nations has criticised unilateral ceasefires, saying they are not helpful unless the Syrian government also grants access to humanitarian assistance for civilians who do not want to flee. New York Times, Reuters

Yemen: Iran has reportedly increased its weapons transfers to Houthi rebels in Yemen, according to U.S., Western, and Iranian officials. Much of the weapons smuggling activity has reportedly occurred through Oman, via land routes through the porous borders between the two countries. The move is likely to exacerbate and prolong the nearly two year conflict in Yemen. Reuters
Related:
The Hill: US general suspects Iran in Yemen missile launches


North Korea: On Thursday, North Korea test-fired a missile that failed almost immediately after launch, according to U.S. and South Korean military officials. The launch came shortly after the United States and South Korea agreed to enhance military and diplomatic efforts to counter North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Reuters
Related:
The Hill: US pledges to do all it can to fight 'grave threat' of nuclear North Korea

Indonesia: A suspected ISIS member stabbed and wounded three Indonesian police on Thursday in a town on the outskirts of Jakarta. The attacker, who was shot and killed by police, also threw a pipe bomb which failed to explode. The man was reportedly a member of the group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, which supports ISIS. Reuters, Wall Street Journal
Related:
AP: Indonesia Militant Gets 10 Years Prison for Jakarta Attack


RUSSIAN HACKER ARRESTED IN PRAGUE WITH HELP FROM FBI
Czech police arrested a man believed to be a Russian hacker suspected of pursuing targets in the United States. The suspect was reportedly captured in a raid on a hotel in central Prague on October 5, with assistance from the FBI. New York Times
TOP OP-EDS
Instead of fighting terror, Prevent is creating a climate of fear: “Having spoken to more than 80 experts and individuals affected by the programme, my research found that Prevent was creating a climate of fear and a chilling effect on free expression,” writes Amrit Singh in the Guardian. “Conversations about terrorism are being driven underground, where they are less likely to be challenged.”

Don’t Blame ‘Wahhabism’ for Terrorism: “The word ‘Wahhabism’ has become a boogeyman in the West, deemed responsible for the radicalization of Muslims around the world. And since Wahhabism is a strain of Islam that has its origins in the Arabian Peninsula and is the dominant religious doctrine of Saudi Arabia, that country is often viewed as the prime culprit in the propagation of violent extremism,” writes Mohammed Alyahya in The New York Times. “This single-cause explanation distracts from the complex political, economic and psychological reasons people join terrorist groups. In doing so, it impedes our ability to effectively fight terrorism.”

Why Is Assange Helping Trump?: “Why would Assange want to do that? Some speculate that Assange, who has said he fears the death penalty were he ever to be extradited to the US, hopes he would be treated leniently by a Trump administration. Others suspect the heart of the matter is the Russian connection: Assange, like Trump, seems strikingly comfortable with Putin,” writes Jonathan Freedland in the New York Review of Books.
EDITOR'S PICK

SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Russia and Egypt’s Expanding Strategic Ties




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