The Soufan Group Morning Brief


A Brooklyn man who allegedly tried to join ISIS and later was recorded telling an informer that ISIS wanted to stage an attack in Times Square similar to the one that killed 86 people in Nice, France, last summer was arrested in New York on Monday. In a complaint unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn, authorities charged Mohamed Rafik Naji, 37, with attempting to provide material support to ISIS. Authorities say Naji, an Uber driver who was born in Yemen and is a legal U.S. resident, traveled to Turkey and Yemen last year and attempted unsuccessfully to join ISIS. According to court papers, he also expressed his support for the terrorist organization on his Facebook page, which included a photo of an ISIS flag, videos of jihadists, and a YouTube link of an ISIS spokesman exhorting attacks on Western targets. He also allegedly sent emails to his wife from Yemen that suggested he may have joined ISIS’s ranks.
According to the complaint, Naji is accused of having communicated privately with an unidentified confidential source who is paid for information he provides to law enforcement and first made contact with Naji through Facebook. Naji allegedly told the informer in a recorded conversation about ISIS’s desire to attack Times Square with a garbage truck, similar to the attack in Nice in July. “They want an operation in Times Square, reconnaissance group already put out a scene,” he said, according to the complaint. Susan Kellman, Naji’s lawyer, said her client was “in shock.” She added that his recorded comments might have been taken out of context. “We don’t know if he actually said those things or if they were fed to him by a confidential source,” she said. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News, NBC News
Two new names have emerged as possible candidates for Department of Homeland Security secretary under President-elect Donald Trump, including a retired Marine general who clashed with the Obama administration over women in combat and over plans to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, who retired this year as chief of U.S. Southern Command, is under consideration for the post, people close to the transition tell the Washington Post. Also under consideration is Frances Townsend, a top homeland security and counterterrorism official in the George W. Bush administration. Washington Post
Trump’s focus on retired generals, including retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, who is being touted as a possible secretary of defense, is beginning to worry national security experts and even other retired generals, according to the New York Times. Those sources say that if Trump “stacks critical jobs purely with warriors, it could lead to an undue emphasis on military force in American foreign policy.” New York Times
Washington Post: Trump Gets a National Security Tutorial
ISIS suit rejected: A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit that accused President Obama of waging an illegal war against ISIS. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the plaintiff — an Army captain who was, until recently, deployed to Kuwait —lacked the standing to bring the case. New York Times
Secret CIA prison trip: The Bureau of Prisons has admitted for the first time that two of its officials traveled 14 years ago to a secret CIA detention site in Afghanistan, where they provided training to staff. The admission came Thursday in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, which sued in April after the Bureau of Prisons denied having any record of involvement with the detention site, known as the Salt Pit. CBS News
Terror financing and Thanksgiving: An American food producer that counts Butterball turkeys among its brands has done millions of dollars of business in Africa with a company blacklisted by U.S. authorities for supporting terror, according to the Wall Street Journal.
JFK scare in August: A joint New York State and federal investigation into how false reports of gunfire at JFK Airport in August led to mass panic found security protocols seriously lacking, with poor coordination between agencies and widely divergent levels of training for security personnel exacerbating the chaos. New York Times

The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert Monday urging Americans to exercise caution at holiday festivals and outdoor markets in Europe in the coming weeks, a day after French security services thwarted an ISIS-linked plot. Seven people were arrested yesterday in Strasbourg and Marseille, and investigators say that they believe the suspects were being directed by a terrorist operative inside Syria linked to ISIS. The seven men are French, Moroccan, and Afghan between the ages of 29 and 37 years old. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said six of them hadn’t been known to intelligence services. CNN, CBS News, Independent

ISIS militants have used chemical weapons, including chlorine and sulfur mustard agents, at least 52 times on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq since 2014, according to a new independent analysis by the IHS Conflict Monitor, a London-based intelligence collection and analysis service. More than one-third of those chemical attacks have come in and around Mosul, the ISIS stronghold in northern Iraq. New York Times
Why Trump’s proposed targeting of Muslims would be unconstitutional: “When executive action is challenged as targeting religion, the critical question is intent: If the government can be shown to have intentionally targeted a religious group, its actions violate the Free Exercise Clause,” writes David Cole in “The law need not name the religion by name. It is enough to show that an anti-religious intent was at play.”
Get ready for the most violent detente ever: “Trump and Putin want to reset U.S.-Russian relations on the basis of a shared worldview,” write Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes in Foreign Policy. “But that might just increase the chances of a conflict.”
Bannon’s national security risk: “There is a clear national security vector that is being ignored in all of this, and I am not simply referring to the security concerns rightly but generically associated with hate-mongering,” writes Jane Chong in Lawfare. “Among other things, Brietbart systematically dismisses any attempt to recognize right-wing terrorism and extremism as a real problem in this country. It has long derided ‘this so-called terror threat’ as a nonsense invention of the Department of Homeland Security….The idea that the mastermind behind this project will now serve as our commander-in-chief’s right-hand strategist creates a genuine security predicament.”
What Germany can learn from the U.S. on counterterrorism: “Germany’s largest handicap in dealing with terrorism is the skepticism with which it views data collection and intelligence sharing,” writes Martha Simms in the National Interest. “Memories of the Gestapo, Hitler’s powerful secret police during WWII, haven’t faded, but the concern is that Germany’s emphasis on privacy has less to do with history and culture and more to do with political considerations.”
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: APEC’s Shifting Landscape

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