The Soufan Group Morning Brief



28-year-old Army Capt. Nathan Michael Smith, an intelligence officer stationed in Kuwait, sued President Obama over the legality of the war against ISIS on Wednesday. Smith claims President Obama did not receive proper authorization from Congress to carry out the fight against ISIS, as the President is justifying military operations in Iraq and Syria using the 2001 authorization that was passed following the 9/11 attacks. The Obama administration contends that the authorization is valid, as ISIS was once affiliated with Al Qaeda. New York Times, Washington Post

Military Times: Deployed Army captain sues Obama over ISIS fight
New York Times: Another Combat Death in Iraq May Presage Future U.S. Role
Reuters: U.S., allies agree to do more to combat Islamic State

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Wednesday that Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV “died in combat” while attempting to rescue a group of American service members who were meeting with partner forces in the area. Speaking during a visit to Germany Carter said “we are participants in this, and I just want to be clear. This young man found himself in combat, and sacrificed for this campaign’s success accordingly.” Carter added that U.S. forces in Iraq serve in advisory and security roles “but that doesn't mean we aren't going to do any fighting at all as a coalition.” Wall Street Journal, The Hill

ABC News: Inside the Battle With ISIS That Killed a US Navy SEAL
Washington Post: After SEAL’s death, Pentagon chief says fight against Islamic State ‘far from over’

FBI hacking powers: Sen. Ron Wyden is expected to introduce legislation to block a Justice Department request to expand the FBI’s ability to remotely hack into computers. Last week, the Supreme Court approved a change to federal rules that would make it easier for the FBI to hack into computers linked to criminal investigations. Wyden said that the proposed changes “will have significant consequences for Americans’ privacy and the scope of the government’s powers to conduct remote surveillance and searches of electronic devices.” The Hill

A new partial truce in the Syrian civil war has been extended to the embattled city of Aleppo, officials from the United States, Russia, and Syria said on Wednesday. American and Russian envoys hurried to negotiate the terms of the agreement, before conditions worsened on the ground. The parties reportedly did not agree on the exact timing, as the State Department claimed the ceasefire had begun at 12:01 AM on Wednesday, while Syrian state media said it would begin at 1:00 AM on Thursday. New York Times, Washington Post

Iraq: An Australian citizen believed to be a top recruiter for ISIS was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq on Thursday. Neil Prakash was “considered to be Australia’s most prominent ISIL recruiter,” according to Australian government officials. Reuters

Yemen: U.N.-backed peace talks resumed on Wednesday between Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government in Kuwait after they had been suspended for three days over a Houthi attack on a military base near the capital Sana’a. Reuters

Iran: Tensions between Iran and the United States showed signed of worsening on Wednesday, as Iranian officials threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil shipping route in the Persian Gulf. A commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps issued the warning in response to a recent congressional resolution condemning Iran’s detention of American soldiers in January. New York Times

Australia: Terrorism suspects as young as 14 years old could be detained and questioned for up to two weeks under newly proposed laws in the state of New South Wales. The new legislation extends the amount of time suspects can be held and questioned from 24 hours and does not require the suspect to be brought before a judge until the fourth day of detention. Guardian
Analysis of Lawsuit Challenging War Against ISIL: “The lawsuit is a big deal to the extent that it provides a possible vehicle for a court to adjudge the legality of Obama’s interpretation,” writes Jack Goldsmith on Lawfare. “One consequence of Obama’s decision not to detain captured Islamic State soldiers in GTMO is that the habeas corpus vehicle for challenging the legality of the war against the Islamic State has been shut off.  This  lawsuit provides another possible vehicle.”

Is America’s War on ISIS Illegal?: “The president claims that Congress’s authorizations in 2001 and 2002 for the wars against Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein can be stretched to cover his current campaign,” writes Bruce Ackerman in The New York Times. “But many legal experts question his unilateral assertion of power.”

Al Qaeda Is About to Establish an Emirate in Northern Syria: “The jihadi group’s Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front — having spent nearly five years slowly building deep roots in the country — is laying the groundwork for al Qaeda’s first sovereign state,” writes Charles Lister on Foreign Policy. “The Islamic State and al Qaeda use different tactics in Syria, but their ultimate objective there is the same: the creation of an Islamic emirate. Whereas the Islamic State has imposed unilateral control over populations and rapidly proclaimed independence, al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate has moved much more deliberately, seeking to build influence in the areas they hope to rule.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Shifting Profile of an Islamic State Fighter

Join the Center on National Security on Wednesday, June 1 for a discussion with Director Karen J. Greenberg, author of Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State. To RSVP click here

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