The Soufan Group Morning Brief



The Obama administration disclosed its rules and procedures for targeted killing airstrike operations outside conventional war zones on Friday. A newly declassified document, known as the 2013 Presidential Policy Guidance, indicated that if top National Security Council leaders and lawyers agree that a proposed action is legal and appropriate, the Pentagon or the CIA can proceed with the airstrike. If there is disagreement about the legality of the strike, or if the target is an American, the matter is sent to the President for a decision. The document also says that “In no event, will additional detainees be brought to the detention facilities at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.” New York Times, Washington Post, Politico

CNN: Newly released US drone policy explains how targets can be chosen
The Verge: The Obama administration has released its ‘Playbook’ for drone warfare
Deutsche Welle: 'Near certainty' required in US drone policy
The Intercept: White House Finally Releases Its “Playbook” For Killing and Capturing Terror Suspects
Just Security: The Presidential Policy Guidance for targeting and capture outside Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria

In a recent ruling, a federal judge criticized the new secrecy rules regarding administrative subpoenas called national security letters (NSL) issued to companies that receive data requests for information sought in national security cases. The rules require the government to revisit gag orders on companies when an investigation ends or three years after the original subpoena. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg for the District of Columbia said the rules contain “several large loopholes” and thus, “give the court some pause” as to whether the rules comply with the law. Washington Post

Airline profiling: Two Muslim American women were ordered off an American Airlines flight in Miami last week after a flight attendant said he was made uncomfortable by the two women’s complaints about the lack of food or water available on the flight. An American Airlines spokeswoman said that the women, one of whom was Voice of America journalist Niala Khalil, were removed from the airplane for “noncompliance” and denied that religion played a role in incident. New York Times

Election security: The Department of Homeland Security is considering classifying the election process as “critical infrastructure” in order to provide additional protections against cyber attacks, according to Secretary Jeh Johnson. In response to claims from Donald Trump that the election process is “rigged,” President Obama said “if we see signs that a voting machine or system is vulnerable to hacking, then we inform those local authorities who are running the elections that they need to be careful.” The Hill

Militants linked to ISIS released photos showing weapons and equipment they claimed belonged to captured American soldiers in eastern Afghanistan. The photos released Saturday show a U.S. portable rocket launcher, grenades, and other military gear. The U.S. military denied the claims that any soldier had been captured. Reuters

Syria: Government forces carried out an intense air attack on Sunday against rebel-held territory in Aleppo. Rebels had seized military facilities southwest of the city in a major offensive that began on Friday, breaking a month long siege on their positions. Guardian, New York Times

New York Times: Military Success in Syria Gives Putin Upper Hand in U.S. Proxy War
CNN: ISIS captures up to 3,000 people fleeing violence in Iraq, UN says

Yemen: On Saturday, UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed announced the suspension of peace talks between Houthi Rebels and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government. The ending of talks, which had been ongoing for over three months in Kuwait, leaves uncertain a weak ceasefire between the warring parties in Yemen. New York Times, Al Jazeera

Ukraine: The Russian-backed president of the separatist region Luhansk People’s Republic in Ukraine was wounded on Saturday in an assassination attempt. Igor Plotnitsky was seriously wounded by a bomb in the city of Luhansk. There has been ongoing fighting between Russian-backed rebels and Ukrainian government forces since April 2014. New York Times

Belgium: ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on Saturday against two police officers in Charleroi, Belgium. The two police officers were severely wounded at a checkpoint near the city’s police station by a man wielding a machete. The attacker, a 33-year-old Algerian who had been living in Belgium since 2012, was shot by police and died later at a hospital. New York Times

Iran: Iran executed a nuclear scientist accused of spying for the United States. The government claims that the Iranian scientist, Shahram Amiri, gave away vital information when he was detained in the United States in 2010. Reuters, Wall Street Journal

Turkey: The State Department announced that it is closing its English language teaching program in Turkey, citing security concerns following last month’s failed coup attempt. About 80 Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program awards were canceled. Other programs, such as the National Security Education Program’s Boren awards and the Critical Language Scholarship, were disrupted as well. New York Times

Washington Post: Muslim cleric’s lawyers decry Turkey’s push for extradition from U.S.
Turkey Chooses Erdogan: “The country has spent the past three weeks in a state of collective hyperventilation. The combination of nationalism and religiosity is like nothing I have seen in twenty years of following Turkish politics,” writes Christopher de Bellaigue in the New York Review of Books. “The epic qualities of July 15 and the evasion of a possible catastrophe were mostly lost on Western leaders, whose reactions to events were dictated by sympathy less for the besieged government than for the probable targets of its reprisals.”

France’s Real State of Emergency: “Since the Bataclan massacre by Islamic State gunmen in Paris last November, emergency laws and powers have been approved and extended three times. Last month, the French National Assembly voted to extend the state of emergency for six more months,” writes Ramzi Kassem in The New York Times. “France is reeling. Unaccustomed to such violence, its politicians proclaim the nation is “at war” with terrorists. But should an open, democratic society indefinitely grant exceptional powers to its police and security services?”

To Stop ISIS Recruitment, Focus Offline: “The role of the Internet in radicalization has been overblown. While instances of purely web-driven, isolated radicalization exist, in most cases, U.S.-based individuals cultivated, and later strengthened, their interest in ISIS’s narrative through in-person relationships,” writes Seamus Hughes on Lawfare. “To say ‘the Internet’ is the driving factor of radicalization among American ISIS supporters is a vast over-simplification….More often than not, online and offline dynamics complement one another.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Counterterrorism and Informants

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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