The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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THURSDAY, MARCH 17, 2016
SYRIAN REBEL SPY CHIEF CLAIMS THE CIA IGNORED ISIS INTEL

The “spymaster” of the Free Syrian Army rebel group has accused the CIA of failing to act on intelligence he shared about ISIS. Speaking to reporters, the spy chief, referred to only as “M,” said his intelligence network had gathered and shared substantial and detailed information about ISIS to the CIA as early as 2013. The intelligence reportedly included GPS coordinates, telephone numbers, maps, and computer IP addresses. One piece of information included a detailed map of an ISIS training camp for foreign fighters in the northern Syrian province of Latakia. International Business Times, The Telegraph

Related:
NBC News: American ISIS Fighter a 'Gold Mine' for US Intelligence
CNN: Military intel identifies 'thickest' ISIS stronghold in Iraq
The Hill: Kerry will miss deadline to label ISIS violence 'genocide'
SUPREME COURT NOMINEE HAS MIXED RECORD ON GUANTANAMO
President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland once sided with the Bush administration as part of a panel of judges in 2003 that found that Guantanamo inmates cannot seek judicial review in civilian courts, a ruling that was later rejected by the Supreme Court. However, Garland ruled against the administration in 2008 when he rejected the government’s justification for detaining a Chinese Uighur as an “enemy combatant.” The decision “was a substantial blow to the [Bush] administration,” according to Wells Dixon, a lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Huffington Post, U.S. World & News Report

Related:
Politico: Merrick Garland known as moderate and politically connected judge
TIME: What to Know About Merrick Garland, President Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee
Bloomberg: Obama's Choice of Garland for Court Tests Republican Obstruction
New York Times: Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court

Gitmo: On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee marked up a bill that would reportedly prevent the return of Guantanamo Bay to Cuba. A partisan debate followed about prohibiting the “modification, abrogation, abandonment, or other related actions” over U.S. control of the base. Courthouse News Service

ISIS in Ohio: 39-year-old Amir Said Rahman Al-Ghazi pleaded guilty to charges of providing material support to ISIS on Wednesday. Al-Gazhi, who changed his name from Robert McCollum, was arrested last June after he attempted to purchase an AK-47 from an undercover FBI agent. He also allegedly pledged support to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and “made multiple statements trying to persuade others” to join ISIS via social media. In addition, he faces charges related to firearms and narcotics violations. Voice of America, The Hill

Refugees: Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson recognized the risks of admitting refugees from Syria, saying an increase in refugees from the war-torn country into the United States could pose a national security threat. Speaking in front of the House Homeland Security Committee, Johnson said that “the refugee flow coming out of Iraq and Syria represents a potential opportunity for terrorist organizations.” However, Johnson assured the committee that his department had taken steps to enhance the vetting process for refugees. The Hill

NSA: The government official who ran the NSA’s investigation into Edward Snowden’s 2013 leaks says he believes that more information may emerge about the agency’s surveillance programs. Speaking with NPR, Deputy Director Richard Ledgett said that he thinks “there are still some other shoes to drop,” but that “the amount that matters from a technical capabilities sense has decreased” in the nearly three years since the leaks occurred. NPR


TWO FEMALE SUICIDE BOMBERS KILL 22 AT NIGERIAN MOSQUE
Two female suicide bombers attacked a mosque in the city of Maiduguri in northeast Nigeria early Wednesday morning, killing 22 people and wounding at least 18 others. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attack resembles others carried out by Boko Haram. Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, has been the frequent target of attacks by the extremist group over the last seven years. Reuters, New York Times

Syria: Kurdish political parties are developing a plan to declare a federal region in northern Syria, according to statements by representatives on Wednesday. They said their goal was to formalize the semi-autonomous zone they have carved out during the now five-year-old conflict in Syria. A spokesman for the the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or P.Y.D., said that “federalism is going to save the unity of a whole Syria.” New York Times

Pakistan: A bomb destroyed a bus carrying government employees on their way to work in the Pakistani city of Peshawar on Wednesday, killing at least 16 people and at wounding 53 others. Lashkar-i-Islam claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in retaliation for death sentences given to 13 men convicted on terrorism charges. The attacker reportedly boarded the bus just long enough to place the bomb, which was set on a timer and hidden in a piece of luggage. New York Times, BBC News


Turkey: The Turkish government is attempting to broaden the definition of a “terror crime” to include those who use the media to support or praise acts of violence, according to a senior official. The news comes after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that the country’s counterterrorism laws should be widened further in the wake of a deadly bombing in downtown Ankara. Turkey’s counterterrorism laws are already seen as invasive and have been met with criticism from rights groups and activists. Guardian

Related:
New York Times: E.U. Aims to Revise Proposed Migrants Deal With Turkey
Wall Street Journal: Turkey Struggles to Fight War on Two Fronts

Belgium: On Wednesday, Belgian prosecutors said that the man killed in Tuesday’s counterterrorism raid against suspects believed to be connected to last November’s Paris attacks was an Algerian national with possible links to radical Islam. 35-year-old Mohamed Belkaid was reportedly living in Belgium illegally. After the raid and subsequent shootout, Belgian police found an ISIS flag while searching the residence. New York Times, CNN

Related:
Guardian: Radicalisation in Molenbeek: 'People call me the mother of a terrorist'
TOP OP-EDS
How the FBI's assault on security provoked a backlash: “The FBI’s primary case against Apple was once considered about as sympathetic for the government as it gets: the original phone in question belonged to one of the deceased San Bernardino terrorists, and was owned by a city which had already given permission to break into it,” writes Trevor Timm on the Guardian. “But thankfully, the public now realizes that this case is about much more than just ‘one phone.’ ”

Evolution of an Insurgency: How Syria Was Radicalized: “For many years prior to 2011, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had maintained a consistently flirtatious relationship with Sunni jihadists,” writes Charles Lister in Foreign Affairs. “The Assad regime’s strategy of nurturing Sunni jihadist militants before eventually exporting them saw itself replicated in Lebanon, when the beginnings of the U.S. surge in Iraq pushed jihadists back into Syria.”

A Homegrown Solution to Terror in West Africa: “Preventing small bands of suicidal fanatics with Kalashnikovs from shooting up hotels is a tall order for any government. So Ivory Coast will need outside help as it responds to last Sunday's slaughter at a seaside resort favored by expatriates,” writes The Editorial Board at Bloomberg View. “But a lasting solution to the regional threat of terrorism depends more on cooperation among West African nations than on the U.S. or France.”
EDITOR'S PICK

SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Al-Qaeda and the Kurds See a Changing Syria

ANNOUNCEMENTS
The Center on National Security at Fordham Law will host a full-day conference “Hindsight: Reflections on 15 years of The War On Terror” on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. To RSVP, click here.

The Center on National Security at Fordham Law is seeking an intern to start immediately and work until July 2016. To apply, click here.




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