The Soufan Group Morning Brief

OCTOBER 6, 2016

The FBI secretly arrested a former NSA contractor in August, according to multiple reports, and authorities are investigating whether he stole and possibly disclosed highly classified computer code developed by the agency to hack into the networks of foreign governments, though there are no charges to that effect at this time.

Harold Martin, 51, a Navy veteran who did technology work for Booz Allen Hamilton and had a top secret security clearance, was arrested at his home in Maryland in August and has since been charged with theft of government property and unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials. According to U.S. officials familiar with the case, Martin is suspected of “hoarding” thousands of page of classified materials going back as far as a decade in his house and car, and the recent leak of NSA hacking tools online tipped investigators to what he was doing. He has not yet been charged with espionage or attempting to provide the information to a third party. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post

Law enforcement officials told the New York Times that the FBI remains unclear as to Martin’s motive or intentions, and that authorities are investigating the possibility that Martin had collected the files with no intention of passing them along, describing Martin as a “hoarder.” Other former intelligence officials suggested to the Daily Beast that Martin may have brought the material home to use as research for his PhD studies at the University of Maryland. New York Times, Daily Beast

Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who exposed classified government surveillance programs three years ago, took to Twitter to call the lack of espionage charges against Martin “noteworthy.” Politico

New York Times: A ‘Sad Case’ Suspect, Scared Pale as Police Swarmed His House
The Intercept: Neighbor Describes NSA Contractor’s Arrest: ‘I Thought the Third World War Started’
Bloomberg: NSA Contractor’s Arrest Renews Focus on Risk Posed by Insiders
Wall Street Journal: Booz Allen Faces More Fallout After NSA Contractor’s Arrest

An existing Yahoo system intended to scan for child pornography, spam, and malware helped the company fulfill a secret government order requiring it to scan all incoming emails for a computer “signature” tied to a state-sponsored terrorist organization, the New York Times reports. The system stored and made available to the FBI any message that contained the signature, according to the report, based on an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court last year. The collection is reportedly no longer active. New York Times
Reuters: Yahoo scan by U.S. fell under foreign spy law expiring next year: sources

Torture lawsuit: A federal judge ruled Tuesday that two former high-ranking CIA officials will be compelled to answer questions under oath about the agency’s brutal interrogations of terrorism suspects, as part of a lawsuit brought by the ACLU. The ruling would require Jose Rodriguez, who was the head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center after 9/11, and John Rizzo, the agency’s former acting general counsel, to submit to depositions. Washington Post

U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan identified: The U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan this week was a Green Beret from Maryland who was assigned to the Army’s 10th Special Forces Group, the Pentagon said late Wednesday. Staff Sgt. Adam Thomas was killed by an IED during an operation against ISIS. Washington Post

Guantanamo and Hurricane Matthew: The U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo weathered Hurricane Matthew with minimal damage and no loss of life, the military said Wednesday. Miami Herald

NSA and encryption: The NSA’s top lawyer said Wednesday that the intelligence agency had lost track of some suspected terrorists because of their use of encryption. But, Glenn Gerstell said at the Cambridge Cyber Summit at MIT, the NSA remains a “big supporter of encryption.” CNBC

Afghan government forces continued to fight back Taliban fighters in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz for a third day Wednesday, as insurgents have made repeated efforts to seize the strategic city. Insurgents launched a lightning offensive into the city Monday and surrounded key government buildings, planting the Taliban flag in the main city square. Since then, military officials say they have swept the city of Taliban fighters, though reports from residents suggest that some areas are still being contested. Wall Street Journal, USA Today

Aleppo and Iraqi militias: Iraqi militias that have fought alongside Iraqi forces at home against ISIS are pouring into Syria to reinforce the Syrian regime’s siege of Aleppo, complicating the tangled web of alliances the U.S. uses to fight ISIS in Iraq. Wall Street Journal

ISIS in Mosul: The Canadian general who directs the training of Iraqi security forces says the widely anticipated ousting of ISIS from its stronghold of Mosul in northern Iraq will likely transform the group into an even more dangerous and diffuse force. Associated Press

A 43-year-old former Belgian soldier stabbed two police officers in Brussels on Wednesday in an attack that investigators called a “potential terror attack.” The suspect was overpowered and shot in the leg by another officer who was also slightly injured in the attack; neither the suspect nor the officers have life-threatening injuries. Authorities identified the suspect only as Hicham D., a Belgian citizen, and said he had been discharged from the Belgian Army in 2009. Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Independent

United Nations: The Security Council unanimously backed Antonion Guterres, a former prime minister of Portugal, to be next Secretary-General. A formal Council vote will happen Thursday, after which Guterres will have his named submitted for a vote before the General Assembly, likely next week. New York Times, Wall Street Journal

Kenya: Al Shabab has claimed responsibility for a grenade attack in the eastern Kenyan town of Mandera that left six people dead Thursday. BBC News

Australia: A Sydney woman has been sentenced to eight months in prison for refusing to answer questions about a suspected terror plot. Guardian

Post-Snowden, the government still can’t protect whistleblowers: “In September, Edward Snowden’s supporters launched a publicity campaign to persuade the government to grant him a pardon,” said Jeff Stein in Newsweek. “One of their arguments is that the system is rigged against whistleblowers—which it is.”

Call it Daesh, Not ISIL or ISIS: President Obama doesn’t want to use the term “Islamic” terrorism because he says it validates what groups like ISIS want to do, said Zeba Khan in “The problem is that whatever his motivation, the term ISIL still validates the terrorists' claims in the exact way ‘Islamic’ terrorism does. So, what should President Obama call the group? The same thing most of our allies in the region -- and increasingly around the world -- call them: Daesh.”

Don’t intervene in Syria: “It is too late for the United States to wade deeper into the Syrian conflict without risking a major war, or, at best, looking feckless by failing to fully commit to confronting Russia and President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and then backing down,” said Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson in The New York Times. “The goal now should be reducing harm, saving lives and keeping prospects for a political deal alive.”

Afghanistan, the 15-year failure: “There is a perverse symmetry on display in Afghanistan right now,” said Steve Chapman in the Chicago Tribune. “Fifteen years ago, American warplanes bombed targets there, beginning an offensive against the Taliban government and al-Qaida precipitated by the 9/11 attacks. This week, they were in action once again.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Looming Assault on Mosul

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