The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2016
OBAMA UNVEILS GUANTANAMO CLOSURE PLAN

On Tuesday, President Obama announced his plan for the closing of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay saying he did not “want to pass this problem on to the next president.” In his remarks at the White House, Obama outlined four main points in the plan: the release of detainees who have already been cleared to leave the prison, an increase in the frequency of Periodic Review Boards to determine which other detainees can be released, the relocation of remaining detainees to federal or military prisons in the United States, and reforms to military commissions. The plan did not include many specifics, nor did it identify which potential facilities would be chosen to house the remaining Guantanamo detainees. The plan estimates “up to $1.7 billion in net savings over 20 years” compared to keeping Guantanamo open. New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal

Related:
WNYC: Brian Lehrer interviews Karen Greenberg on Obama's plan to close Gitmo
Miami Herald: 10 highlights from Guantánamo closure plan
New York Times: How Will Obama’s Plan to Close Guantánamo Work?
The Hill: Clinton backs Obama's Gitmo plan
Quartz: All the times Obama has said he’s going to close Guantanamo Bay
Vox: The fatal flaw in Obama’s plan to close Guantanamo Bay
The Atlantic: Obama’s Last Guantanamo Pitch to Congress
Huffington Post: Obama's Plan To Close Guantanamo Angers Both Republicans And Human Rights Groups
GOVERNMENT ASKED APPLE TO UNLOCK ADDITIONAL PHONES
The Justice Department has reportedly asked Apple to unlock iPhones in at least seven other previous federal prosecutions, according to a letter released to the public in court on Tuesday. The letter did not describe the crimes involved in the other cases, but they appear to include less high-profile crimes such as drug trafficking, rather than terrorism investigations. New York Times, Guardian, Associated Press

Related:
Bloomberg: Bill Gates ‘Disappointed’ by Reports He Backs FBI Over Apple
Washington Post: Where tech leaders stand on the Apple vs. FBI debate
Reuters: Democratic lawmaker asks FBI director to withdraw Apple unlocking case
Wall Street Journal: Apple’s Evolution Into a Privacy Hard-Liner

TSA: A congressional committee has started an investigation against TSA officials who allegedly received performance bonuses despite ignoring warnings of security lapses. The House Oversight Committee will review TSA documents related to the performance bonuses, which awarded some officials up to $70,000. New York Times, The Hill

Drones: The Obama administration has made “little progress” in establishing a clear and coherent drone strike policy over the last year and a half, according to a report published by the Stimson Center. The “report card” on the government’s policy is critical of the lack of changes made since Obama’s May 2013 speech calling for “clear guidelines, oversight and accountability” on the use of lethal force. Washington Post

Refugee visas: The Department of Homeland Security is creating tools to more closely examine social media accounts of visa applicants applying as asylum seekers and refugees for connections to terrorist groups, according to a report in The New York Times. Republican lawmakers in Congress have proposed several bills which would require the government to examine all public records including social media sites. Congress has yet to vote on the bills, but Democrats have also expressed support for similar initiatives on social media monitoring. New York Times

Related:
The Hill: House passes bills to rein in terrorist travel

TRUMP WINS NEVADA CAUCUS
Donald Trump won the Nevada Republican Caucus on Tuesday, earning 45.9 percent of the vote. Marco Rubio came in second with 23.9 percent of the vote, while Ted Cruz finished third with 21.4 percent. This is Trump’s third victory in a row following the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Politico

Related:
CNN: Anger, yearning for outsiders drives Nevada GOP electorate
NPR: Donald Trump Takes The Jackpot In Nevada Caucuses
The Atlantic: It's Trump's Race to Lose
The Daily Beast: Did Nevada Just Kill Ted Cruz?
Quartz: Donald Trump easily won Nevada’s Republican caucus, but the real battle is for second place


ISIS ATTACKS SECURITY FACILITY IN LIBYA
ISIS militants briefly took control of the security headquarters of the city of Sabratha, the location of last week’s U.S. airstrikes. ISIS militants reportedly killed and beheaded 12 security officers before being turned back from the site. Associated Press

Libya: Troops loyal to the internationally-backed Libyan government retook major areas of Benghazi on Monday. Army units, backed by civilian fighters beat back Islamic militants who had controlled the key districts of al-Laithi. Associated Press

Syria: The UN found evidence of deliberate attempts by government forces to destroy medical facilities and deny food aid to civilians in rebel held towns. In a report released Monday, The United Nations Commission of Inquiry asserted that “war crimes are rampant” by government forces as well as armed groups. New York Times, Reuters, Voice of America

Related:
Reuters: Islamic State tightens grip on Syrian government road to Aleppo
Washington Post: This highly advanced U.S.-made anti-tank missile could now be on Syria’s frontlines
New York Times: Truce, Cease-fire and Armistice: The Legal Nuances
Wall Street Journal: Pentagon, CIA Chiefs Don’t Think Russia Will Abide by Syria Cease-Fire
Associated Press: Syrian president receives phone call from Russia's Putin
CNN: Will Saudi Arabia be sucked into Syria?

Afghanistan: The Afghan government is expected to resume talks with the Taliban next week. After a meeting in Kabul on Tuesday, government officials from Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and the United States issued a joint statement to invite “all Taliban and other groups” to travel to Pakistan to participate in the talks. Washington Post, Reuters


Spain: Spanish and Moroccan police arrested four members of a suspected terrorist cell linked to ISIS on Tuesday, including one who was reportedly a former Guantanamo Bay detainee. Three of the suspects were arrested in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in North Africa bordered by Morocco, while another was arrested in a Moroccan town near Melilla, another Spanish enclave. The former Guantanamo detainee was not named and had reportedly been returned to Spain in 2004. Associated Press, Yahoo News

Australia: A woman suspected of planning with her husband to commit a terrorist attack in Sydney was arrested and charged on terrorism offenses on Tuesday. 18-year-old Alo-Bridget Namoa was charged with recklessly possessing an item connected to a terrorist act and recklessly collecting documents connected to a terrorist act. A prosecutor in the case said that “there is a concern she is a supporter of ISIS.” The Daily Telegraph, Guardian
TOP OP-EDS
Congress should build on President Obama’s plan to close Guantanamo: “Part of the resistance to closing Guantanamo comes from Republicans who insist that it would be too dangerous to hold al-Qaeda militants anywhere in the United States. This is unserious,” writes the Editorial Board of The Washington Post. “The Obama administration has made a practice of transferring al-Qaeda suspects to the federal court system for prosecution, with good results.”

Guantanamo at Bay: The closing of the prison at Guantanamo bay is “not going to happen—at least not if Mr. Obama follows the law,” writes Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal. “It’s easy to call for Gitmo’s closure in the abstract. It’s harder to explain to voters why Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other killers may soon move into a prison near you.”

Beyond Syria’s Ceasefire, Activists Nervously Preparing for Post-War Politics: “When the collapse of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime finally arrives, Syrian civil society activists risk being largely unprepared for building and shaping a new democratic, rights-respecting political order,” writes Brian Dooley on Defense One. “It’s difficult in the middle of a revolution to imagine what might come afterwards.”

Where Islamic State Stumbles in Its War With Al-Qaeda: “Despite its apparent strength, “the Islamic State has had a difficult time establishing and retaining its new affiliates,” writes Eli Lake on Bloomberg View. “From Algeria to Afghanistan, its fledgling franchises have come under siege from local rivals and government forces.”
EDITOR'S PICK

SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Ebbs and Flows of the Islamic State
 




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