The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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TUESDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2016
WHITE HOUSE RELEASES REPORT ON USE OF FORCE RULES

The Obama administration on Monday released a lengthy report detailing its policies governing the use of force -- outlining and defending executive actions that Obama has taken over the past eight years, listing rules for lethal drones and terrorist detention, and describing the international and domestic law that undergirds certain policies. The first-of-its-kind report was widely seen as a defense of Obama’s counterterrorism record, but also as a helpful guide or framework for the incoming Trump administration.
 
According to the Washington Post, “though some of the procedures the report outlines are based on court decisions and legislation, many come from executive orders that the next president is free to amend or override. For instance, the rules on the use of interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding and other methods that have been deemed torture, are a combination of legal interpretations and legislation as well as military and presidential directives.” Washington Post, The Hill, Associated Press, JustSecurity
TERRORISM CONVICTION INVOLVING SECRET WIRETAPPING IS HELD UP ON APPEAL
A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Monday upheld the 2013 conviction of a Somali-American man for trying to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Ore., rejecting his lawyers’ argument that the government had unconstitutionally intercepted his emails without a warrant. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also upheld the government’s use of emails in Mohaumud’s case that were gathered without a warrant under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. The ruling also rejected an entrapment argument raised by lawyers for Mohamed Osman Mohamud.
 
“Many young people think and say alarming things that they later disavow, and we will never know if Mohamud — a young man with promise — would have carried out a mass attack absent the FBI’s involvement,” Judge John B. Owens wrote for the panel. But, he went on, some such people “take the next step, leading to horrific consequences.” Mohamud was sentenced to 30 years in prison. New York Times, Ars Technica
 
GUANTANAMO JUDGE CONTINUES 9/11 PRETRIAL HEARINGS DESPITE DEFENDANT IN RECOVERY
Army Col. James L. Pohl, who is presiding over pre-trial hearings in the 9/11 case at Guantanamo this week, said Monday that a 9/11 defendant was well enough to attend court proceedings, over the strenuous objections of the defendant’s lawyer. Lawyers for Saudi detainee Mustafa al Hawsawi, 48, say their client is recovering from surgery to repair a fissure in Hawsawi’s anus that is related to mistreatment of his rectum in CIA custody. But an Army doctor who testified anonymously Monday said Hawsawi was treated for hemorrhoids in outpatient-style surgery at the base hospital in October, and the the judge found insufficient evidence that the Saudi was in too much pain seven weeks after the procedure to work with his legal team. Miami Herald, Associated Press
 
REPORT: PENTAGON BURIES $125 BILLION IN BUREAUCRATIC WASTE
The Pentagon reportedly buried an internal 2015 study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, the Washington Post reports. Pentagon leaders requested the study to find inefficiencies in its back-office bureaucracy. But after the audit found far more waste than anticipated, defense officials had it quashed. Washington Post
 
TECH FIRMS TEAM UP TO CREATE DATABASE OF ‘TERRORIST CONTENT’
The biggest social networks in the U.S. are working together to build a database of photos and videos used to recruit people into terrorism, the companies said this week. Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and Google’s YouTube will create a shared database that identifies terrorism-related images via a unique digital fingerprint. By having access to this group database of identifiers, the companies believe they can more efficiently flag and potentially remove offending content if users attempt to publish it on their online services. The Verge, Fortune
 
FBI INVESTIGATES THREAT AGAINST L.A. METRO STATION
Security has been increased at transit stations across Los Angeles County after the FBI received an anonymous phone call on Monday threatening the Metro Red Line station in Universal City. An anonymous man called into an unidentified overseas tip line and warned of a potential attack on Tuesday, according to reports. Authorities declined to name the foreign government that runs the tip line but did say the warning was delivered in English. Los Angeles Times, The Week, USA Today
 
Other than ISIS: A new study by George Washington’s Program on Extremism has found that nearly half of the suspects charged with terrorism offenses in the U.S. since the Syrian civil war began five years ago have not associated themselves with ISIS but with the group’s bitter rivals such as al Qaeda or embraced the broader jihadist ideology. ABC News
 
Bergdahl asks for pardon: Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the former captive in Afghanistan who was swapped in 2014 for five Taliban detainees, has asked President Obama to pardon him before President-elect Donald Trump takes office. Trump has called Bergdahl “a no-good traitor who should have been executed.” New York Times
 
‘Dump Flynn’ initiative: More than 50 progressive and nonprofit groups, including MoveOn and J Street, have signed a joint letter asking President-elect Donald Trump to dump Michael Flynn as his national security adviser, citing past Islamophobic statements Flynn has made and anti-Muslim conspiracy theories he has peddled. CNN
Related:
Washington Post: Flynn and His Son Are Among Those Pushing Clinton Conspiracy Theory
 
Judge Sand obituary: Judge Leonard Sand, the New York federal judge who oversaw the trial of four men who were convicted of conspiring in the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in East Africa, has died. He was 88. New York Times
 

U.S. TRIES TO MAINTAIN FRAGILE ANTI-ISIS COALITION IN IRAQ
A fragile alliance between the Kurdish fighters and Iraq’s military has made significant progress against ISIS militants in Iraq in recent weeks, but the Obama administration is now struggling to maintain the coalition in the midst of a budget battle in Iraq’s government and uncertainty over the policies of the incoming Trump administration. Wall Street Journal
 
Syria: Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said Monday that Russia would start talks with the United States this week on a deal for insurgents holed up in the Syrian city of Aleppo to leave, and that any who refused would be regarded as terrorists subject to deadly assault. New York Times
 
Somalia: Somali security forces reportedly clashed with ISIS militants over the weekend, killing seven ISIS-linked fighters. A faction of al Shabab claimed allegiance to ISIS last year. Newsweek
 
Afghanistan: Speaking at an international conference in India, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that Taliban militants would not last a month if they lost their sanctuary in neighboring Pakistan, suggesting tensions between the two countries are on the rise. Reuters
 

Saudi Arabia: Fifteen Saudi Shiites have been sentenced to death for allegedly spying for Iran. BBC News
TOP OP-EDS
How the war ends in Syria: “The civil war in Syria is over. Now it is time to stop the fighting,” writes Peter Galbraith in the New York Times. “There is an absolutely counterproductive idea favored by Washington’s foreign policy elites of both parties...for providing additional military support to the moderate Syrian opposition. Such aid cannot possibly now change the trajectory of the war, but will certainly get more people killed.”
 
How Trump can avoid his predecessors’ Iran mistakes: “The first lesson is that Iran should be treated as a unitary nation-state and not a collection of hard-liners and moderates that American policy can manipulate to its advantage,” writes Ray Takeyh in Politico. “The entire notion of Iranian factionalism must be reconsidered in the aftermath of the 2009 revolt.”
 
The limits of air power when fighting ISIS: “For air strikes to be effective, certain preconditions must be met,” writes Daniel Byman in Lawfare. “Bombers need bases near the conflict zone and access to the battlefield. True, some systems can fly bombing runs all the way from the United States. But to maintain a sustained battlefield presence, aircraft must be able to get to and from the conflict zone quickly and easily….Nor does air power address the biggest long-term challenges in fighting the Islamic State: governance.”
EDITOR'S PICK

SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: A Blow to Diplomacy for Aleppo




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