The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2016
HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE URGES NO PARDON FOR SNOWDEN

In anticipation of Oliver Stone's movie, released today, there is much debate over Snowden's future. Members of the House Intelligence Committee unanimously signed a letter to President Obama on Thursday urging him to not pardon former NSA contractor Edward Snowden for leaking classified information about the government’s secret surveillance program. The committee also provided an executive summary of a classified 36-page report of a multiyear investigation into the Snowden leaks and their effect on national security. The three-page summary said that “Snowden caused tremendous damage to national security, and the vast majority of the documents he stole have nothing to do with programs impacting individual privacy interests — they instead pertain to military, defense and intelligence programs of great interest to America’s adversaries,” and called Snowden a “serial exaggerator and fabricator” who is “not a whistleblower.” Ben Wizner, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing Mr. Snowden, criticized the House committee's report, citing its lack of evidence over the number of classified documents it alleges Snowden leaked.  New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters

Related:
The Hill: Intel Committee: Snowden a 'disgruntled employee,' not a whistleblower
TIME: Former CIA Officer: President Obama Should Pardon Edward Snowden
New York Times: Review: ‘Snowden,’ Oliver Stone’s Restrained Portrait of a Whistle-Blower
BBC: Edward Snowden hits out at critical report into his activities

FBI SAYS NO RULES WERE BROKEN IN AGENT’S IMPERSONATION OF REPORTER
The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General said on Thursday that no government rules were violated when an FBI agent posed as an editor for the Associated Press while investigating a 2007 bomb threat in Seattle. FBI Director James Comey has reportedly implemented a new policy which restricts the impersonation of journalists without approval from the FBI’s deputy director. NPR, The Hill

Related:
The Atlantic: The FBI's Impersonation of an AP Editor

Gitmo: On Thursday, the House passed a bill that would prohibit the release of any of the remaining 61 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. The bill passed with a vote of 244-174. It is not expected to pass the in the Senate. The White House has also threatened to veto the legislation that would ban the government from spending any money on Guantanamo transfers until the end of 2016 or until the annual defense authorization bill is signed into law. AP, CNN, Washington Post

Al Qaeda case in DC: On Thursday, a dual Dutch-Turkish national pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington, DC to providing material support to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a U.S.-designated terrorist group active in Afghanistan. 58-year old Irfan Demirtas, also known as Nasrullah, faces up to 15 years in prison for allegedly providing funds to the group’s leader, recruiting new fighters, and “fomenting terror across Europe and the Middle East,” according to federal authorities. Washington Post

9/11 Saudi Arabia bill: President Obama is delaying his planned veto of a bill that would allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for any role in the attacks. The White House is stalling in order to buy time to convince Senators against voting to override the potential veto. President Obama has until next Friday to veto the bill. New York Times

Related:
The Hill: Top Republicans want changes to Saudi 9/11 bill


SYRIAN CEASEFIRE FACES CHALLENGES IN THIRD DAY
The U.S. and Russian-brokered ceasefire in Syria ran into difficulties on Thursday as the warring sides reportedly refused to withdraw from a key road in the contested city of Aleppo. Monitoring groups also reported the first civilian deaths since the ceasefire began on Monday. However, the State Department said the ceasefire was “by and large” holding and that both the United States and Russia believed the truce was worth continuing. Reuters

Related:
New York Times: Their Streets and Skies Suddenly Quiet, Syrians Watch Cease-Fire With Unease
Washington Post: Pentagon grudgingly accepts Syria deal amid deep mistrust of Russia
The Hill: Pentagon: 'Not all terms' of Syrian cease-fire being met
CNN: Syrian airstrikes kill 23; Russia, US allege violations

Yemen: A senior U.S. diplomat presented a proposal for a comprehensive ceasefire in Yemen to Houthi rebel leaders at a meeting on Oman on Thursday, according to a member of the Houthi negotiation team. The United States is attempting to restart peace talks between Yemen’s warring sides with the goal of forming a unity government. Reuters


Uruguay: Former Guantanamo detainee Abu Wa'el Dhiab emerged from a brief coma caused by his hunger strike, medical officials in Uruguay said on Thursday. Dhiab’s hunger strike is reportedly premised upon his desire to reunite with his family in Turkey. Ambassador Lee Wolosky, the U.S. special envoy for Guantanamo closure, said that Uruguay’s government had been in the "very advanced stages" of bringing the Dhiab’s wife and children to Uruguay from Turkey to meet his requests. AP

Assange: On Friday, a Swedish appeals court upheld a detention order for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, dismissing his request for investigators to drop a rape investigation against him. Assange has avoided extradition to Sweden by living at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012. AP
TOP OP-EDS
Hamid Karzai: Afghanistan’s bridge-building president or just a corrupt pol?: “When Karzai left office in 2014, he was widely derided as the ‘mayor of Kabul,’ and he had exhausted the patience of key U.S. officials with his continual, public criticism of Americans, whom he described as “demons” when he met with ordinary Afghans,” writes Peter Bergen in the Washington Post. “Was Karzai a bridge-building president, as he was first portrayed, or was he a wily pol adept at playing the great game of Afghan politics but inattentive to his chance to become his nation’s George Washington? Or was he always a bit of both?”

Why Yemen Isn't an American Priority: “The United States may disagree with Riyadh over Yemen, but the heavy gravity of Saudi Arabia in U.S. policy causes a mix of contradictory stances that add up to the kind of failure evident in the recent visit to the region by Secretary of State John Kerry,” writes Charles Schmitz on Real Clear World. “While the United States at times appears to differ from its close Saudi ally on Yemen, Washington has in reality supported the Saudi campaign with large-scale weapons sales and coordination of military operations.”

The pros and cons of Kerry's Syria deal: “The landmark deal last week between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov is, in many ways, a major breakthrough. It may well save lives. Against the backdrop of what has been the worst war of the 21st century, that’s a prize worth seizing,” writes Peter Apps for Reuters. “The problem: The effects will be strictly limited. The agreement is really several significant, but limited, tactical deals – on aid, on local ceasefires and on coordination against certain Islamist groups that both Washington and Moscow don’t want to see as part of the long-term future of Syria.”

Why a Fixation On Al-Qaeda Has Stunted US Foreign Policy: “The problem for Obama is that ‘defeating al-Qaeda’ is no longer a meaningful frame for the struggle to make the world safe from terrorism and violence—and yet the US and its allies still regularly invoke it to make sense of their own actions,” writes Scott Lucas on Newsweek. “For all the chaos and violence that looms large in its history, al-Qaeda is not the chief culprit….The truth is that al-Qaeda was long ago reduced to a mere symbol. It was largely a spent force by the end of 2005. Instead, the world was subject to a new breed of terrorist carnage. This was thanks in part to George W. Bush’s belligerent administration, whose assorted follies created a whole new set of problems still with us today. The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq left that country shattered by insurgency, civil war, and sectarianism.”
EDITOR'S PICK

WEEKLY PODCAST
NPR: Cyber Bombs Reshape U.S. Battle Against Terrorism

BBC: What Happened To Al-Qaeda?

SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Threat of Crumbling U.S. Infrastructure




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