The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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THURSDAY, MARCH 31, 2016
GUANTANAMO HUNGER STRIKER SET FOR TRANSFER AMONG OTHERS

The Pentagon has reportedly notified Congress that it plans to transfer about a dozen detainees out of Guantanamo Bay in the coming weeks. Included in the group of transfers is a Yemeni man who has been on a hunger strike since 2007. 37-year-old Yemeni Tariq Ba Odah has lost about half of his body weight since he began his hunger strike, dropping to as low as 74 pounds last year. Ba Odah has been held in Guantanamo since 2002 and has never been charged with a crime. Currently, 37 of the 91 remaining detainees at Guantanamo have been approved for repatriation or resettlement in another country. Washington Post, Reuters

Related:
Miami Herald: Another failure of justice at Gitmo

NEARLY TWO THIRDS OF AMERICANS SUPPORT TORTURE OF TERROR SUSPECTS
A new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that 63 percent of Americans believe that torture is justified under certain circumstances. Only 15 percent of respondents said that torture should never be used. The poll also indicated rising public fears of a terror attack on American soil, as 64 percent of respondents said they believed that it is “very or somewhat likely” that there will be a terrorist attack in the U.S. in the next six months. Reuters, Huffington Post

Related:
TIME: Poll: Two-Thirds of Americans Support Torturing Terror Suspects

FBI: The federal government has requested at least 63 court orders to compel either Apple or Google to assist the government in unlocking mobile devices, according to a statement by the ACLU. The cases in question date as far back as 2008, and call upon a 1789 law, the All Writs Act, to order the tech companies to assist in unlocking the devices. Wall Street Journal, ACLU

Also, the FBI on Wednesday agreed to help an Arkansas prosecutor unlock an iPhone and iPod in a murder trial, only days after the agency announced it had gained access to the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. It remains unclear if the FBI will use the same method as in the San Bernardino case to unlock the devices in Arkansas. Associated Press, Los Angeles Times

Related:
New Yorker: Lessons from Apple vs. the F.B.I.
Huffington Post: Apple v. the FBI: Is the Fight Over?

Sanctions: Treasury Secretary Jack Lew defended the government’s use of economic sanctions against Iran and other offenders on Wednesday. Speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Lew highlighted the effectiveness of sanctions yet warned about their overuse, which, he admitted, could erode the primacy of the U.S. Dollar and hurt U.S. business’ competitiveness. New York Times, The Hill


RUSSIA CONTINUES TO SHIP MILITARY EQUIPMENT INTO SYRIA
U.S. officials claim that Russia has left most of its warplanes in Syria and continues to ship military equipment into the country, despite President Vladimir Putin’s March 14 announcement of a Russian withdrawal. Approximately two-thirds of Russia’s aircraft remain in Syria, including all of its 18 helicopters originally deployed to the country. ABC News, Reuters

Related:
The Atlantic: The End of the Beginning in Syria
Associated Press: Syria's Assad rejects key opposition demand

Turkey: Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said on Wednesday that there is an ongoing “covert counterterrorism operation”  against an “active plot” in Turkey. Speaking to reporters, McCaul said that “we had six operatives taken into custody, ISIS operatives, from the caliphate, who basically have been talking about this imminent threat and plot.” The Hill

Related:
The Independent: Isis has ‘advanced plans to attack Jewish children’ in Turkey, intelligence sources say

Yemen: At least four suspected Al Qaeda militants were killed by what were thought to be U.S. drone strikes near a the southern city of Azen. Meanwhile, forces loyal to Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi took back a key district in the besieged city of Aden. Reuters


France: A suspected ISIS member who was arrested last week was charged with conspiring to commit terrorism on Wednesday. According to prosecutors 34-year-old French national Reda Kriket had been planning an “imminent attack.” Investigators found “an arsenal of weapons and explosives of an unprecedented size” inside Kriket’s apartment including the same kind of bomb-making materials used in the Brussels and Paris attacks. New York Times, ABC News, Wall Street Journal

Related:
CNN: The inside story of the Paris and Brussels attacks

Europe: On Wednesday, the Pentagon laid out its plan to increase U.S. military presence in Eastern Europe, in an effort to deter further Russian aggression in the region. The plans include repositioning of armored vehicles and tanks, “continuous troop rotations,” and training exercises along NATO’s eastern borders. Wall Street Journal, ABC News

Related:
The Hill: US Army to bulk up presence in Europe with armed brigades
 
TOP OP-EDS
Obama: How we can make our vision of a world without nuclear weapons a reality: “Of all the threats to global security and peace, the most dangerous is the proliferation and potential use of nuclear weapons,” writes President Barack Obama in The Washington Post. “Given the continued threat posed by organizations such as the terrorist group we call ISIL, or ISIS, we’ll also join allies and partners in reviewing our counterterrorism efforts, to prevent the world’s most dangerous networks from obtaining the world’s most dangerous weapons.”

Obama on What Trump and Cruz Get Wrong About Islam: “There is, of course, a legitimate critique to be made of President Obama’s rhetorical approach to terrorism. He is, in my view, so worried about activating panic, or xenophobia, that he will sometimes over-calibrate his remarks, erring on the side of Spockian rationality,” writes Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic. “But the lack of satisfying rhetoric on Obama’s part should not be confused for a lack of strategy. He is, after all, killing jihadists at a frenetic pace.”

The Little We Know About the Jihadists in Our Midst: “The conventional view is that homegrown terrorists are created through a process of “radicalization,” a conveyor belt that draws vulnerable individuals through several stages from religious belief to jihadist violence,” writes Kenan Malik in The New York Times. “Yet the evidence suggests that the concept is flawed and that such anti-jihadist measures are ineffective, even counterproductive...Many studies show, perhaps counterintuitively, that people are not usually led to jihadist groups by religious faith.”
EDITOR'S PICK

SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: What’s Next for the Islamic State?

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.

Call for Papers: Revisiting the Role of International Law in National Security. For more information, click here.




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