The Soufan Group Morning Brief


FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2016

The Syrian military, backed by Russian air support, launched an assault on rebel-held areas north of Aleppo on Thursday, threatening ongoing peace talks in Geneva and the fragile ceasefire in place since late February. The military operation could cut off rebel access to Castello Road, the only supply route for rebels into Aleppo. Rebel forces have also reported heavy air raids in the northwestern province of Latakia and in the central of province of Homs. Washington Post, Reuters, BBC News

Voice of America: Ceasefire in Syria Close to Collapse
ABC News: Fighting in Syria's Aleppo Forces Thousands to Flee
Washington Post: Al-Qaeda affiliate faces unusual backlash from fed-up Syrians

The Periodic Review Board has decided that the oldest detainee held Guantanamo Bay is not eligible for release. The board found that Saifullah Paracha, a 68-year-old Pakistani businessman, is too dangerous to release, citing his ties to Al Qaeda and claiming that he is a “continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.” Paracha has been held without charge since his arrest in 2003 for his role in “facilitating financial transactions and travel, and developing media for al-Qaida.” Miami Herald, Associated Press

Torture: The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons on Thursday for wrongfully withholding documents related to a CIA black site in Afghanistan known as “The Salt Pit,” and by its code name “COBALT.” The Bureau of Prisons rejected an earlier ACLU Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to a November 2002 inspection of the detention site, which one CIA official called “the closest thing he has seen to a dungeon.” CBS News, The Intercept

ISIS in Minnesota: 20-year-old Adnan Farah pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiring to provide material support to ISIS. The plea deal came abruptly after prosecutors uncovered evidence that a member of a co-defendant’s defense team had interfered with Adnan’s case. Farah was accused of making plans to travel to Syria to join ISIS beginning in spring 2014. He faces up to 15 years in prison. Minnesota Star Tribune, MPR News

Privacy: Microsoft filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department on Thursday, claiming that the gag order statute in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 is unconstitutional. The statute prevents Microsoft from informing its customers when the government requests information about them. Microsoft is arguing that the statute violates its customer’s constitutional Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure and the company’s own First Amendment right to communicate with its customers. New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal

The Verge: Microsoft sues US government over 'unconstitutional' cloud data searches
NY Mag: Microsoft Sues DOJ to Let Customers Know When Their Emails Are Being Read

FBI v. Apple: The FBI has not yet found any links to foreign terrorists on the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, according to U.S. law enforcement officials. However, investigators hope to exploit the phone’s geolocation data to track the movements of the shooters in the days and hours leading up to the attack. Washington Post

Cybersecurity: The Obama administration named MasterCard CEO Ajay Bangaand and former NSA Director Keith Alexander to help lead a special commission to strengthen U.S. cyber defenses. The panel reportedly held its first meeting on Thursday and plans to submit its long-term recommendations to the White House by December. NBC News, The Hill

The U.S. military has deployed tactical aircraft with capabilities to intercept and disrupt ISIS communications on the ground. U.S. European Command announced the deployment of a squadron of Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler to Turkey to support the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The military aircraft can intercept ISIS communications and jam ISIS radar and communication devices. CNN, MarineTimes

Daily Beast: ISIS Targets American Imams for Believing Muslims Can Thrive in U.S.
The Atlantic: The Hell After ISIS

Afghanistan: The United States has carried out between 70 and 80 airstrikes against ISIS in Afghanistan in three months since the U.S. military was given broader authority to target the group, according to a U.S. military spokesman on Thursday. Before January, strikes against ISIS in Afghanistan were limited to narrow circumstances involving protection of troops. The spokesman added that about 70-80 percent of the airstrikes were against targets in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar. Reuters, Washington Post

The Hill: General: ISIS in Afghanistan potentially an 'enormous' threat
Reuters: Taliban kill top police official in Afghanistan ambush

Nigeria: Two years have passed since Boko Haram abducted 276 girls from Chibok Government Secondary School in northeastern Nigeria and nearly all of them are still missing. On Wednesday, CNN released a proof of life video filmed last December in which the militant group alludes to possible negotiations with the Nigerian government. CNN, Washington Post, New York Times

European Union: The European Parliament approved legislation on Thursday requiring airlines to share passenger information with national police and intelligence services. The law, called the Passenger Name Record, requires airlines to share personal and credit-card data of all air passengers traveling to or from the EU. Member countries will also have the option to opt into collecting and sharing data about flights within the EU. Wall Street Journal

United Kingdom: British counterterrorism officials are launching a campaign to combat ISIS’s efforts to radicalize and recruit members via the Internet, encouraging users to report jihadist material they find online. The Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit has reportedly removed more than 50,000 pieces of internet content last year and more than 26,000 in the first quarter of 2016. The content includes footage of beheadings, bomb-making instructions, and speeches encouraging violence. Guardian
How our politicians – and media – are helping terrorists win:  “A terrorist incident is not an act of war, not the conquest of territory. It deploys extreme violence to turn military weakness into political strength,” writes Simon Jenkins in The Spectator. “It does this not by the tally of death and destruction but through the multiplier effect of the response. The sensible strategy concentrates on minimising that response.”

Hillary Clinton Has No Regrets About Libya: “Clinton, they say, does not see the Libya intervention as a failure, but as a work in progress,” writes Kim Ghattas on Foreign Policy. “The key lesson she has drawn from Libya is not that the United States should always avoid intervention or steer clear from the Middle East altogether, but that it needs to deepen its commitment to the region and find longer-term ways to engage with it.”

Islamist radicals are a threat. But do you need to attack their religion?: “But is it worth fighting a culture war? Of course, Islam is not a monolithic thing. It's embraced by multitudes that speak different languages, think different thoughts and grapple with different challenges every day,” writes Ishaan Tharoor in The Washington Post. Islam “has no central, governing institution and no shortage of internal debates and schisms.”

Global Dispatches: Who Will Be the Next UN Secretary General?

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Preventing the Next Islamic State

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. The event is currently full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist please send an email here.

Fordham Law School will host the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals for an Outreach Argument and Q&A: “United States v. Staff Sergeant Charles D. Buford Jr.” on Friday, April 15, 2016. To RSVP, click here.

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