The Soufan Group Morning Brief

The Morning Brief will return Wednesday, December 28th. Happy holidays!
As the manhunt continued for a Tunisian man wanted in connection with Monday’s deadly truck attack on a popular Berlin Christmas market, details emerged about Germany’s failed attempt to deport the suspect -- and about his links to radical Islamists. The identity papers for Anis Amri, who reportedly turns 24 today, were reportedly found in the cab of the truck used in the attack during a second search of the vehicle. German officials acknowledged that Amri was known to have links to a radical Salafist preacher and had been in their custody pending deportation proceedings after being caught with fake papers. He was freed, even though he was considered potentially dangerous, because he lacked documentation proving he was from Tunisia, which refused to recognize him as a citizen.

According to the New York Times, Amri also appeared on the radar of United States agencies. He had done online research on how to make explosive devices and had communicated with ISIS at least once, via Telegram Messenger, according to U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He was also on a U.S. no-fly list.

The revelations about Amri’s background have set off a political furor in Germany, with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s migrant policy coming in for severe criticism. Amri reportedly entered Germany from Italy in July of last year. He was placed under surveillance from March to September on suspicion of plotting an attack, and Berlin authorities continued to monitor him until the inquiry was closed.

Amri remains on the run with a reward of 100,000 euros for information leading to his arrest. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BBC News, Financial Times, Guardian, Deutsche Welle
Der Spiegel: German Jihadist Says ISIS Is Recruiting for Attacks in Germany
Wall Street Journal: Germany Ill-Prepared for Terror Fight, Critics Say
Foreign Policy: Berlin’s Zero Hour Is Also Angela Merkel’s
Guardian: After Berlin, Merkel’s Open Door to Migrants Might Slam Shut
Guardian: Europe’s Lack of Strong Leadership Leaves It Vulnerable to Terrorism
President-elect Donald Trump appeared to suggest on Wednesday that the attack this week on a Berlin Christmas market had vindicated his controversial proposal during the campaign to bar Muslims from entering the United States. “You know my plans,” Mr. Trump said to reporters who asked whether the attack would cause him to re-evaluate his proposals to create a Muslim registry or to stop Muslim immigration to the U.S. “All along, I’ve been proven to be right. One hundred percent correct,” Trump said. New York Times, Washington Post

A military judge at Guantanamo has ruled that the news media may not watch pretrial testimony in the 9/11 attacks capital case. At issue was pretrial testimony sometime next year at Guantanamo from Lee Hanson, 83, who lost his son, daughter in law, and granddaughter in the 9/11 attacks. Judge James Pohl has ruled that alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his four co-defendants may watch the testimony in a closed court. But he has barred news organizations from observing the testimony, ruling that military commission rules have “no language indicating such depositions are ordinarily open to the public.” Miami Herald

Guantanamo detention challenge: Lawyers for Guantanamo detainee Moath al-Alwi, who has been in U.S. custody since 2001, appeared before a military judge at the prison this week to argue that al-Alwi’s detention is illegal given the vastly different nature of the conflict in Afghanistan today compared to 2001. BuzzFeed

Taliban militants attacked the Kabul home of a prominent Afghan lawmaker on Wednesday, killing at least eight people in an overnight assault that lasted nearly 10 hours. Security forces managed to rescue Mir Wali Khan, who represents Helmand province, from his house in western Kabul after the gunmen attacked. But two of his young grandchildren were killed, along with other relatives and security guards. The Taliban claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack, saying they had targeted an important security meeting that was under way at the house. Wall Street Journal, New York Times, BBC News

Europe’s highest court ruled Wednesday that Britain’s new sweeping surveillance law, known as the Snooper’s Charter, is illegal, handing a major victory to civil liberties campaigners. The law, passed last month, is one of the most extensive in the Western world, and requires internet and phone companies to keep the records of every call made, eveny online message sent, and every website visited by customers for 12 months. Government organizations would then be able to access these records, sometimes without a warrant. But the European Court of Justice ruled that “general and indiscriminate retention” of emails and electronic communications by governments is illegal, in a ruling that also struck down a recent surveillance law in Sweden.

It is unclear what happens next for the UK law. Since the ruling was made before the formal “Brexit” withdrawal process has started, it will remain legally binding. Guardian, Los Angeles Times, UPI
Trump’s reckless pick of ambassador is a gift to Israel’s radical right: “Trump’s choice of ambassador is a drastic intrusion into Israeli politics on the side of a radical, anti-democratic fringe,” writes Gershom Gorenberg in the Washington Post. “The pick signals that Washington is abandoning the goal of a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on two states. It signals American assent, even support, for permanent denial of basic rights to Palestinians. In parallel, it undermines moderate Palestinians and empowers extremists.”

Trump and ISIS - bosom enemies? “Donald Trump and ISIS are sworn enemies. Yet the two have unwittingly boosted each other’s fortunes,” writes Indira Lakshmanan in the Boston Globe. “Trump’s clash of civilizations plays into violent extremists’ hands by letting them terrorize Americans’ collective psyche and proving ISIS’ case that there’s an irreconcilable West-versus-Islam divide.”

Michael Flynn’s Pakistan problem: “The incoming national security advisor allegedly shared classified intel with Pakistan’s notoriously compromised security services,” writes Michael Kugelman in Foreign Policy. “What does that mean for Trump’s ‘AfPak’ policy?”

Is the United States Prepared? Zero Days, Cyber Wars, and the Russian Hack
Thursday, January 5, 2017 at 6pm

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief

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