The Soufan Group Morning Brief



U.S. warplanes bombed ISIS targets in Libya on Monday, after the country’s UN-backed government requested assistance in its fight against the group in the coastal town of Sirte. President Obama authorized the airstrikes, which are intended to help break an impasse in the Libyan government’s ongoing effort to retake Sirte. This is the first direct U.S. involvement in the fight against ISIS in Libya. ISIS seized control of the city, as well as miles of adjacent coastline last year, but through progress in operations over the last few months, Libyan forces have backed the militants into a small section of the city. New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters

The Intercept: U.S. Says New Bombing Campaign Against ISIS in Libya Has No “End Point at This Particular Moment”

A longtime FBI employee pleaded guilty on Monday to acting as an agent for the Chinese government and to sending sensitive information to Chinese officials. Kun Shan Chun, 46, had worked in the FBI’s New York field office as an electronics technician and held a top-secret security clearance. Chun, who is a Chinese-born U.S. citizen, faces up to 10 years in prison. New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal

Terror Prosecution: An Ohio man who plotted an attack on the U.S. Capitol building during the President’s State of the Union address in January pleaded guilty to attempting to kill government employees, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. According to his plea agreement, 22-year-old Christopher Lee Cornell researched bomb-making instructions and potential targets and said he was inspired by ISIS to carry out the attack. ABC, CBS

Gitmo: On Monday, the Periodic Review Board announced that it had cleared 36-year-old Yemeni detainee Musab Omar Ali al Madhwani for release to resettlement outside of Yemen. Madhwani has been held at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay without charge since October 2002, after he was captured in raids on a terrorist safe house in Karachi, Pakistan. Of the remaining 76 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, 66 have never been charged with a crime; half have been cleared for release. Miami Herald

Orlando shooting: New accounts of the events during the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando have raised questions about the response of law enforcement to the attack. Police had an opportunity to follow Mateen into the nightclub bathroom, which turned the situation into a hostage standoff with victims trapped inside. One witness who was inside the bathroom said that the police “took too damn long for me….If they had moved faster, they would have gotten us out of there and everybody could have possibly lived.” Orlando Police Chief John Mina defended the actions of officers inside the club saying that Mateen “went from an active shooter to a barricaded gunman….If he had continued shooting, our officers would have went in there.” Washington Post

Surveillance: The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled on Monday that “exigent circumstances” permitted law enforcement to track a suspected killer’s cellphone without a warrant. The court ruled that the warrantless tracking of a Vermont murder suspect’s cellphone fell within a narrow exception to the Fourth Amendment that allows police to bypass a warrant in emergency situations. Wall Street Journal

A Russian military helicopter was shot down on Monday in the province of Idlib, killing five Russian military personnel. The rescue group Syria Civil Defence claimed that a separate helicopter dropped containers of toxic gas on Monday night on a town close to where the Russian helicopter had been shot down. A spokesman for Syria Civil Defence said that 33 people had been affected by the gas in the town of Saraqeb. New York Times, Reuters

Turkey: On Monday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford met with top Turkish officials in an effort to moderate growing anti-American sentiment in Turkey following last month’s failed coup attempt. Washington Post

Brazil: Brazil’s government is working closely with U.S. law enforcement and intelligence services to help prevent terror attacks at the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. American officials have been training Brazilian counterterrorism units on chemical and biological attacks and have helped identify potential soft targets such as restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping centers. New York Times

Pope: On Monday, Pope Francis said that the inspiration for terrorism is not related to Islam, but rather the result of economic problems in a world economy that worshiped the “god of money.” Pope Francis said “it is not right and it is not just to say that Islam is terroristic.” Wall Street Journal, CBS

France: Prime Minister Manuel Valls and several prominent members of France’s Muslim community have called for a national drive to promote mainstream Islam and combat radicalization. Efforts would include the creation of a French Muslim foundation responsible for funding mosques to prevent outside funding by radical overseas donors. Guardian, BBC

Iran: On Monday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei distanced himself from last year’s nuclear agreement, accusing the United States of failing to uphold its end of the agreement and citing “the futility of negotiations with the Americans.” New York Times
Have U.S. Officials Given Up on ‘Defeating’ ISIS?: “Officially, the Obama administration is still committed to defeating ISIS. But at the annual gathering of national security chiefs in Aspen, no one was talking about beating the terror army and its adherents,” writes Kimberly Dozier on the Daily Beast. “Instead, grim resignation and dark warnings of a long hard fight to come dominated the discussion, with every official predicting a global rise in terror attacks, including in the United States.”

The Drone Presidency: “Remote killing outside of war zones, it seems, has become business as usual. This is a remarkable development, all the more noteworthy in that it has emerged under Barack Obama, who came to office as an antiwar president, so much so that he may be the only person to win the Nobel Peace Prize based on wishful thinking,” writes David Cole in the New York Review of Books. “Our Peace Prize president has now been at war longer than any other American president, and has overseen the use of military force in seven countries—Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. In the latter four countries, virtually all the force has come in the form of unmanned drones executing suspected terrorists said to be linked to al-Qaeda or its ‘associated forces.’ ”

How ISIS Defectors Can Help Us Beat Terror: “These defectors—from low-level fighters to commanders, wives of fighters, and even young teens—can offer the most authentic voice on the group’s inner workings,” write Anne Speckhard and Ahmet S. Yayla in TIME. “It was during these defector interviews that we discovered the most powerful tool against the digital caliphate: the defectors themselves. These former insiders, who have lived inside the ‘utopian ideal,’ saw the group for what it really is, and risked their lives under threat of torture and death if captured, to escape.”

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

Call for Applicants: The Center on the Future of War at Arizona State University is seeking a full-time Research Fellow. This position offers opportunities for the fellow to pursue individual policy research while also contributing to collaborative projects with the institution. CV and Cover Letter must be submitted by August 15, 2016. For a full description of the position, click here.

Out Now: Karen Greenberg's newest book, Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State, is the definitive account of how America's War on Terror sparked a decade-long assault on the rule of law, weakening our courts and our Constitution in the name of national security.

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