The Soufan Group Morning Brief


A Somali-born Ohio State University student drove a car into a crowd outside a classroom building Monday morning, then got out and slashed at people with a butcher knife, sending 11 people to the hospital in what authorities said was a planned assault. Police identified the attacker as 18-year-old Ohio State student Abdul Razak Ali Artan; he was shot and killed by a university police officer within a few minutes of the attack. The campus remained on lockdown for more than hour while police investigated.
Investigators are looking into whether the attack was an act of terrorism and continue to seek information on Artan, who is a permanent U.S. resident from Somalia. Just before the attack, Artan reportedly said in a Facebook post that he’d reached a “boiling point” and was “sick and tired” of seeing Muslims around the globe “killed and tortured,” law enforcement officials said. The post said the U.S. should stop “interfering” in the Muslim world and referenced “lone wolf” attacks.
Rep. Adam Schiff, of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that while the attack is still under investigation, it ‘‘bears all of the hallmarks of a terror attack carried out by someone who may have been self-radicalized.’’ Associated Press, NBC News, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, Financial Times, USA Today
Although President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to bring back waterboarding and other now-banned enhanced interrogation techniques, resuming those practices will not be easy, reports the New York Times. “Federal law, international pressure, and resistance from inside the CIA stand in his way. Even if he overcomes those obstacles, the toll of America’s agonizing treatment of captives has left a legacy of harm that will make it harder for Trump administration lawyers to justify resuming use of the tactics,” according to the NYT report.
“The entire legal landscape has changed,” said Daniel Jones, a former FBI analyst and the primary author of a 2014 Senate report that condemned so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. “The publicly known facts now are just too conclusive and widely known,” he added, “to call for a return to waterboarding.” Even lawyers and former senior officials who supported the interrogation program years ago now say the obstacles are too great. “Restarting this would be extraordinarily difficult,” said John Rizzo, who served as the CIA’s top lawyer during much of President George W. Bush’s administration. New York Times
Huffington Post: Justifying Torture: CIA Psychologist’s Book Defends His Role
Lawfare: Libertarian Panic, Unlawful Action, and the Trump Presidency
Just Security: Public Support of Torture Based on Prejudice
Petraeus meets with Trump: David Petraeus, the former top general and CIA director who is said to be a top contender for Secretary of State in a Trump administration, met with President-elect Donald Trump yesterday in New York for an hour. In a Twitter post after the meeting, Trump said, “Just met with General Petraeus — was very impressed!” New York Times
CNN: Why Petraeus Would Be a Smart Choice for Trump’s Secretary of State
Gun background checks: FBI gun background checks hit a one-day record high on Black Friday this year, breaking last year’s day-after-Thanksgiving record. New York Daily News

Syrian regime forces and their allies on Monday captured roughly a third of the opposition-controlled territory in the city of Aleppo, a major shift in the battle for a city that has largely been held by rebels since 2012. Observers said the advance of the Syrian forces could prove to be a turning point in the conflict, both militarily and psychologically, as thousands of people were sent fleeing for their lives under some of the heaviest shelling yet in the five-year-old civil war.
If Syrian forces are able to completely recapture Aleppo, it would give would give the government control of the country’s five largest cities and most of the more-populous west, leaving the rebel groups that are most focused on fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with only the northern province of Idlib and a few isolated pockets in the provinces of Aleppo and Homs and around the capital, Damascus. Wall Street Journal, New York Times
French aircraft struck and likely killed one of the most wanted senior al Qaeda operatives in southern Libya this month, U.S. officials say. This wouldn’t be the first time that the U.S. has believed that Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an elusive insurgent leader known as the “one-eyed terrorist,” has been killed in a strike. But officials say the latest strike was likely successful, based on the caliber of the intelligence. Wall Street Journal, Fox News
Targeting ISIS’s second in command: U.S. officials are speaking more openly about what they describe as an increasingly successful campaign to track and kill ISIS’s senior commanders, including 39-year-old Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, who was killed in an Aug. 30 missile strike near the northern Syrian town of al-Bab. Washington Post
Taliban finances: The Afghan Taliban are facing a cash crisis, a Taliban spokesman tells the Guardian, with donors unwilling to bankroll an insurgency whose victims are increasingly civilians rather than foreign troops. Guardian
A look into the mind of the 9/11 mastermind: “[Psychologist James] Mitchell is an American patriot who has been unjustly persecuted for his role in crafting an interrogation program that helped stop terrorist attacks and saved countless lives,” writes Marc Thiessen in the Washington Post. “He does not shy from the controversies and pulls no punches in describing the interrogations. If anything, readers may be surprised by the compassion he showed these mass murderers. But the real news in his book is what happened after enhanced interrogations ended and the terrorists began cooperating.”
The UK’s new mass surveillance law: “The United Kingdom’s Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority is not part of an agency tasked with fighting terrorism,” writes Scott Shackford in “They are a licensing body monitoring labor rules in the U.K.’s agriculture industries. Nevertheless, under a new mass surveillance law, high-ranking officials of this agency will have as much access to the private Internet information of British citizens as agencies that actually are tasked with fighting terrorism.”
How Russian propaganda really works in the West: “The only effective way to counteract Russian propaganda would be to do what RT and Sputnik do so well -- beam messages at the same target audience,” writes Leonid Bershidsky in Bloomberg View. “But democracies don't have that prerogative: Done openly, it would just look ridiculous; done surreptitiously, the risk of exposure is great and trust in democratic processes could be undermined.”
How Trump should handle national security: “President-elect Donald Trump, a man with no prior military or intelligence experience, has begun the process of forming his new administration,” writes Tom Wither in The Hill. “He now faces the daunting challenge of coming up to speed on the activities of the intelligence community, ongoing counter-terror and military operations around the world.”
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: An Attack at Ohio State

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