The Soufan Group Morning Brief



Two former Guantanamo Bay inmates have returned to fighting over the first six months of 2016, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). The government has confirmed that a total of nine former Guantanamo detainees who were released from the prison have rejoined militant groups since President Obama took office. The report also said that the number suspected recidivists dropped from 12 to 11 between January and July 2016. The numbers show that 113 of the 532 detainees (21.2 percent) released by President George W. Bush have returned to fighting, compared to only 5.6 percent of the 161 prisoners released by President Obama. Reuters

Human rights activist groups have begun a campaign calling on President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor charged with espionage after leaking thousands of classified documents on U.S. surveillance programs. The launch of the campaign, called “Pardon Snowden” coincides with the release of the movie “Snowden,” a fictionalized and sympathetic version of his story by director Oliver Stone. New York Times, Washington Post

Guardian: 'Edward Snowden did this country a great service. Let him come home'

Indiana: An Indiana teenager has been charged with attempting to provide material support or resources to ISIS, after he allegedly attempted to leave the country to join the group. Akram Musleh, 18, was arrested as he tried to board a bus from Indianapolis to New York where he planned to fly to Morocco en route to ISIS-held territory in June. If convicted, Musleh faces up to 20 years in prison, a lifetime of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. ABC, FOX

Florida mosque: Joseph M. Schreiber, 32, has been charged with arson in connection with a fire at a mosque on Sunday in Fort Pierce, Florida. Schreiber allegedly targeted the mosque, attended by Orlando nightclub gunman Omar Mateen, and had also voiced anti-Islamic views on social media. The charge will include an enhancement under Florida law for a hate crime, raising it to first-degree arson. If convicted, Schreiber faces at least 30 years in prison. New York Times

NYC robbery: Two men planned to capitalize on post-9/11 fears by dressing in traditional Muslim clothing and displaying a fake bomb during a planned robbery in the Bronx. Authorities charged 29-year-old Juneal Ali and another unnamed suspect with conspiracy and attempted robbery, after their plot on the 15th anniversary of the attacks was revealed by a tip to police. AP

Cuba flights: On Wednesday, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) warned that flights from Cuba could pose a potential terrorist threat, after the Obama administration announced that it had not yet signed an agreement with Cuba to allow U.S. air marshals aboard commercial aircraft. Rubio warned that “these are now flights that are vulnerable….There’s a reason why we have air marshals on flights, because of the experience of 9/11...and you now have flights 90 miles from our shores that could theoretically be commandeered and you could have a repeat of that.” The Hill

Gitmo: Former Guantanamo detainee Abu Wa'el Dhiab has reportedly fallen into a coma as he continues his hunger strike, demanding that he be allowed to leave Uruguay, according to doctors. Dhiab is reportedly unhappy living in Uruguay, as he is finding it difficult to adjust to life after Guantanamo and seeks to reunite with his family in Turkey. AP

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell called Donald Trump a “national disgrace” and an “international pariah” in personal emails leaked this week. In another email from 2014, Powell was critical of Hillary Clinton, saying he would “rather not have to vote for her,” and describing her as having “a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational.” Powell said his personal email account had been hacked and confirmed that the messages were authentic. New York Times, BuzzFeed News

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed on Wednesday that the ceasefire in Syria has held and should be extended for another 48 hours. The U.S. and Russian-brokered truce went into effect on Monday night and has largely held, despite sporadic violence. As part of the agreement the United States and Russia are waiting for the ceasefire to hold for seven days before discussing further coordination of military strikes against Nusra Front and ISIS militants. Reuters

The Hill: US general expresses skepticism over Russian cooperation in Syria
New York Times: On Day 2 of Syria Cease-Fire, Out at Playgrounds and Protests

Afghanistan: The United States allegedly worked against its own efforts to rebuild Afghanistan by fueling systemic corruption in the country with over $100 billion of development and military aid, according to a new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). SIGAR, a U.S. Congress watchdog organization, found that “corruption undermined the US mission in Afghanistan by fueling grievances against the Afghan government and channeling material support to the insurgency.” Guardian, The Hill

Yemen: Authorities in a Houthi rebel-controlled port have reportedly seized two oil tankers from international traders over a payment dispute. The incident could make it more difficult to import vital supplies and medicines into the war-torn country, as Houthi rebels now control the Red Sea port of Hodeida, Yemen’s second-largest port. Reuters

North Korea: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that North Korea has escalated tensions to unprecedented levels after its latest missile launches and nuclear tests. Speaking at the General Assembly, Ban said “never in the past have I ever seen such kind of heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” and urged the Security Council to take “urgent actions.” New York Times

Israel: Shortly after agreeing to the largest-ever military bilateral aid deal with Israel, President Obama renewed his call for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a strongly worded statement before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a formal ceremony at the State Department. Obama said on Wednesday after signing the $38 billion deal, “it is because of this same commitment to Israel and its long-term security that we will also continue to press for a two-state solution to the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite the deeply troubling trends on the ground that undermine this goal.” New York Times
How to Negotiate with Putin on Anything: “Clearly, it’s possible for skilled American diplomats to establish a productive relationship with Russia. That’s not to suggest it’s easy — or that the outcome is entirely in Washington’s hands. But some approaches to negotiating with Russia work better than others,” writes James Stavridis on Foreign Policy. “Here are a few tips, many drawn from the hard lessons I learned during my frequent conversations and negotiations with Russia as a NATO supreme allied commander.”

The Jihadist Entrepreneur: What the Anjem Choudary Case Can Teach Us: “[Choudary’s] true influence, however, is even more far-reaching, extending beyond his role as a source of radicalization of British Muslims and converts and beyond support for a single terrorist group. Choudary is a jihadist entrepreneur who has been instrumental in setting up an international jihadist movement,” writes Assaf Moghadam on War on the Rocks. “The so-called ‘Sharia4’ movement epitomizes how present day terrorist actors cooperate in pursuit of militant objectives. Such cooperation involves an increasingly diverse array of actors, ranging from formal organizations to informal networks as well as terrorist entrepreneurs such as Choudary. Such new collaborative forms between terrorist actors pose both conceptual and policy challenges to the counterterrorism community.”

Turkey’s Intelligentsia Kneels to Erdogan: “The coup attempt was despicable and, despite the huge dragnet of arrests, has not been properly investigated — yet within hours, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called it ‘a gift of God.’ No wonder: It gave him a perfect pretext to root out anyone not completely loyal to him,” writes Sevgi Akarcesme in The New York Times. “Turkey now seems to me on an irreversible path toward dictatorship.”
Pardon Edward Snowden: “There is obviously a public interest in enabling the government to keep some national security information secret. But under international human rights law, the public interest — not any particular government’s interest — is crucial,” write Kenneth Roth and Salil Shetty in The New York Times. “The protection of national security and public order may provide legitimate reasons for not disclosing certain sensitive information, but suppressing embarrassing or disturbing news does not. No one should be prosecuted for exposing human rights violations. At the very least, there has to be a genuine opportunity to offer a public interest defense.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Shifting U.S.-Philippines Strategic Relationship

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