The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2016
OBAMA SET TO RELEASE GUANTANAMO CLOSURE PLAN

The Pentagon is expected to send Congress a plan today for the closing of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. The new plan will reportedly estimate the cost of operations and facility upgrades for prisons on U.S. soil to hold the remaining detainees currently at Guantanamo. Potential locations for the relocation include military prisons in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and Charleston, South Carolina and a federal prison in Florence, Colorado. New York Times, Reuters, Foreign Policy, CNN

Related:
Miami Herald: Attorneys joust over right of public to vanished, open-court Guantánamo testimony
Guardian: Obama's last Guantánamo closure plan does not name new sites for detainees
The Hill: GOP senators vow to fight Obama's Gitmo closure plan
Associated Press: What to do if US begins capturing more suspected terrorists?
WIKILEAKS SAYS NSA SPIED ON ISRAELI-ITALIAN COMMUNICATIONS
Classified documents published by WikiLeaks on Tuesday indicate that the NSA spied on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as they discussed how to improve Israel’s relationship with the United States. The leaked documents include intelligence reports from 2007 to 2010 and also disclose details of NSA attempts to monitor diplomatic exchanges during the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. The Intercept

Related:
The Independent: Julian Assange: Swedish lawyers ask court to overturn arrest warrant against Wikileaks founder

San Bernardino Phone: The Department of Justice and Apple continued their exchange of statements on Monday, as Apple CEO Tim Cook told employees that the issue “is about much more than a single phone or a single investigation” and that it could set a precedent that “threatens everyone’s civil liberties.” FBI Director James Comey wrote in a statement posted on Lawfare late Sunday that the government is not asking for a “master key” and for both sides to “take a deep breath.” Lawfare, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal

Related:
Wall Street Journal: How the U.S. Fights Encryption—and Also Helps Develop It
Reuters: Trump calls for boycott until Apple unlocks shooter's phone
The Intercept: FBI Says Apple Court Order Is Narrow, But Other Law Enforcers Hungry to Exploit It
The Verge: More than half of Americans think Apple should comply with FBI, finds Pew survey

American Prisoner in Iran: An American held prisoner by Iran reportedly ended his hunger strike on Monday. Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American, was arrested last October while visiting family in Iran. The Iranian government has not announced any charges against Namazi and has denied him access to his attorney. Reuters, The Hill


UNITED STATES AND RUSSIA AGREE TO SYRIAN CEASEFIRE TIMELINE
The United States and Russia have agreed to a new “partial” ceasefire plan that will take effect on Saturday. The agreement excludes airstrikes against the Islamic State, the Nusra Front, or any other groups designated as terrorist organizations by the UN Security Council. The two countries agreed to establish an information-sharing channel of communication in order to monitor compliance and resolve problems with the ceasefire. The announcement came after President Obama spoke on the phone with Vladimir Putin on Monday. Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press

Related:
The New Yorker: A Ceasefire in Syria?
The Hill: Obama, Putin huddle on Syria ceasefire
CNN: Partial truce in Syria to start at midnight Friday, Putin says
NPR: Syrian President Says He Would Pursue 'Terrorists,' Even With A Truce
Quartz: Here are Obama’s options if the Syria peace deal fails (and it probably will)

Yemen: Al Qaeda militants are reportedly fighting on the same side as a Saudi Arabian-led coalition in the battle for the city of Taiz, according to a report by the BBC. A documentary filmmaker witnessed jihadist militants, supposedly members of Ansar al-Sharia, an Al Qaeda affiliate, being supported by UAE soldiers in a visit to the frontline outside of Taiz last year. The Saudi-led coalition denies cooperating with Sunni extremists in fighting Houthi rebels. BBC News

Related:
Vice News: Sniper Rifles From the US and Canada Ended Up in Yemen's War
The National: Militants kill two senior security officials in Aden

Iraq: Missing radioactive material was recovered by Iraqi authorities after it was discovered by a passer-by dumped near a gas station in the southern town of Zubair on Sunday. The material was undamaged, with no signs or danger of radiation contamination. The material went missing from an oilfield company facility last November and security officials had grown concerned that it could be acquired by ISIS for use in a weapon. Reuters
 

United Kingdom: Referrals to a British government anti-radicalization program more than doubled over the last year, according to figures released on Monday by the National Police Chiefs Council under a Freedom of Information request. Referrals to the “early intervention” program, called the Channel initiative, increased to more than 3,800 cases, 2,629 of which were related to Islamist extremism. The program was put in place after the July 2005 bombings in London to identify children who may be vulnerable to recruitment by extremist groups. BBC News, Yahoo News

Italy: The Italian government has agreed to allow U.S. drones to fly out of an American base in Sicily to launch strikes against ISIS in Libya. An Italian defense official confirmed the agreement on Monday which came after over a year of negotiations. Wall Street Journal, Guardian

Russia: On Monday, Russian officials asked for permission to fly surveillance aircraft equipped with high-resolution digital cameras over the United States. The Open Skies Treaty, signed by both the United States and Russia, allows for unarmed observation flights to help monitor arms control agreements and promote transparency about military activity. However, senior American intelligence and military officials are concerned that the new high-tech equipment and changes to Russian flight paths may violate the spirit of the treaty. The Obama administration must decide in the next four months whether to object to the request. New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press
TOP OP-EDS
Preparing for Apocalypse in San Bernardino: “Why did the attack happen? Farook and Malik did not make a martyr video or leave a manifesto,” writes William Finnegan in The New Yorker. “There had been no displays of anger, no indication. Only growing piety.”

The right way to close Guantánamo: “Overriding the U.S. transfer ban would be a catastrophic decision, but the president doesn’t need to use an executive action in order to close Guantánamo,” writes Ken Gude on Politico. “He has the unilateral authority to shut down the prison without Congress changing the law. Here’s how.”

The Moral Hazard Of The Fight Against The Islamic State in Iraq: “How do the United States and others achieve victory against Islamic State without empowering sectarian actors who will seek to poison the reconciliation that Iraq needs to hang together?,” writes Craig Whiteside on War On The Rocks. “Could the United States and its allies destroy the Islamic State yet end up with an even worse human security situation in the aftermath?”
EDITOR'S PICK

SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: A Ceasefire for Some in Syria

ANNOUNCEMENTS
The Center on National Security at Fordham Law will host “Iran in Context” with Laura Secor and Hooman Majd TODAY, February 23, 2016. To RSVP, click here.




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