The Soufan Group Morning Brief


The Periodic Review Board at Guantanamo Bay has found the Palestinian detainee known as Abu Zubaydah too dangerous to release, raising the number of indefinite detainees, or “forever prisoners,” held  at the military prison to 28. Abu Zubaydah, whose real name is Zayn al Abdeen Mohammed al Hussein, is believed to be the first CIA prisoner subjected to aggressive “enhanced interrogation” techniques, after he was captured in Pakistan in 2002. In its decision, the review board cited Abu Zubaydah’s “past involvement in terrorist activity to include probably serving as one of Osama bin Laden’s most trusted facilitators,” and his long-term service as a “fundraiser for extremist causes.” He has been held at Guantanamo since 2006 and has never been charged with a crime. Miami Herald, AP
VICE News: “Forever prisoner:” Guantanamo parole board says Abu Zubaydah will never go free
Miami Herald: Alleged al-Qaida commander gets new Marine judge at Guantánamo war court
Courthouse News Service: Countdown From Infinity to Close Guantanamo Bay

Armed government protesters led by brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy were acquitted on Thursday of federal conspiracy and weapons charges related to last winter’s occupation and takeover of the federally owned Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters in southeastern Oregon. All seven defendants were acquitted of conspiracy to impede federal employees from discharging their duties and federal weapons charges after their lawyers argued that prosecutors did not prove that their clients had prevented federal workers from doing their jobs. The defendants argued that they were protesting government overreach and posed no threat to the public. New York Times, Wall Street Journal
NSA: On Thursday, federal prosecutors alleged that some of the documents stolen by former National Security Agency contractor Harold Martin included the names of covert U.S. intelligence officers. In a court filing, the Justice Department said “these officers operate under cover outside the United States, and putting the secrecy of their identities at risk by removing information about those identities from appropriate, secure storage not only endangers the lives and safety of those officers and the individuals with whom they work, but also risks exposure of American intelligence operations....Additionally, numerous intelligence sources and methods for highly sensitive intelligence operations would be rendered nearly useless should they fall into the wrong hands.” NBC, CBS, ABC
Politico: Feds: NSA contractor who hoarded classified info had names of covert U.S. officers
The Intercept: When CIA and NSA Workers Blow the Whistle, Congress Plays Deaf
CIA transparency: The CIA plans to publish online more than 11 million declassified documents, in an effort to make its library of old files more accessible to the public. The CIA Records Search Tool (CREST) is currently only accessible in person at an office of the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. The Hill

Iraqi forces have retaken 40 villages and towns from ISIS near Mosul since the operation to retake the city began last week, according to U.S. military officials. Iranian-backed Shiite paramilitary groups are preparing to launch an offensive against ISIS positions west of Mosul, a spokesman told state TV. The operation will target an area close to the Turkish border where a large number of ethnic Turkmen live, likely raising concerns in Turkey. New York Times, Reuters
NBC: Mosul Is Just the Beginning, and It Will Only Get Tougher: U.S. Commanders
ABC: What to Know About the Upcoming Offensive to Take Raqqa, de Facto Capital of ISIS
Daily Beast: U.S. Doesn’t Know Who Will Attack ISIS HQ
New York Times: Warning of ISIS Plots Against West, U.S. Plans Assault on Raqqa
CNN: General: Up to 900 ISIS fighters killed in battle for Mosul
Syria: Syrian rebels began a counterattack in Aleppo on Friday with the heavy shelling of government-held areas. Factions involved in the attack reportedly include groups under the Free Syrian Army as well as Jaish al-Fatah, an alliance of Islamist factions. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that insurgents had set off several suicide car bombs in western Aleppo. Reuters
Yemen: Saudi Arabia said on Friday that Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile toward the holy Muslim city of Mecca. Rebel media in Yemen said the missile targeted the international airport in Jeddah, but was “intercepted and destroyed” about 40 miles from Mecca. AP

Philippines: The ISIS-linked militant group Abu Sayyaf earned over $7.3 million from ransom kidnappings in the first six months of 2016, according to a Philippine government report. The previously confidential report said that government efforts against the group have slightly reduced its number of fighters, though the group remains capable of launching terrorist attacks. AP
Canada: A new report on radicalization finds that young Western women who turn to extremist groups often think they are doing it for humanitarian reasons. The new report, from the Council on the Status of Women and Montreal’s Centre for Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence (CPRLV), found that radicalized women are typically well-educated, well-integrated into society, and come from stable families. Montreal Gazette, CBC

On Thursday, Russia rejected the findings of a UN-led chemical weapons investigation that found Syrian forces had used chlorine bombs at least three times in the past two years. One Russian official said the investigation, run by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, was “full of contradictions and therefore, unconvincing,” and “cannot serve as accusatory conclusions for taking legal decisions.” New York Times
Reuters: Most Republicans believe Russia is meddling in U.S. election: Reuters/Ipsos poll
China steps in to protect its Pakistan project: “Beijing is growing increasingly frustrated on a number of fronts at a time when Islamabad faces increasing international and regional pressure for continuing to host militant groups and is having to depend on China’s sole support in international groupings such as the UN,” writes Ahmed Rashid in the Financial Times. “Continued instability, lack of regional co-operation and terrorism could endanger the future of [China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.]. Beijing cannot indefinitely rescue Pakistan at international and regional forums and how it handles this cauldron of long-running disputes will determine the success of the ambitious project.”
As ISIS suffers in its heartland, South Asia is ripe for its rise: “With the ISIS heartland in Iraq and Syria imploding, its support groups in the periphery, as well as rival groups such as al Qaeda, are gathering momentum,” writes Rohan Gunaratna for CNN. “But, as it suffers in its heartland, it is very likely that ISIS will grow in size, strength and influence in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Pakistan’s Terrorists Are Smarter Than Its Government: “It would be unfair to judge the coffins of dozens of young cadets in Quetta as evidence of the utter failure of those hopes. But the cries of mourning come from a series of failures: operational, tactical, and strategic,” writes Mosharraf Zaidi on Foreign Policy. “If Pakistani decision-makers, especially the all-powerful army and intelligence chiefs, don’t soberly examine these failures, the only long-term outcome will be utter defeat at the hands of Pakistan’s inability to assess and eliminate threats to the nation.”
No Westphalia for the Middle East: Why Such a Framework Would Fail: “Had the Middle East been able to secularize its politics, homogenize its polities, internalize its differences, and externalize its rivalries as Europe did in the seventeenth century, it certainly would have been a more peaceful place,” writes Selim Can Sazak on Foreign Affairs. “But the reason why this did not happen—and why the Westphalian order, which emerged not as a cause but as a consequence of these transformations, cannot address the root causes of the Middle East’s problems—is that there is a vital difference between Europe then and the Middle East today: colonialism.”

Reuters: Is the U.S. at war? Sorry, that’s classified
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Importance of a Costly Islamic State Loss

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