The Soufan Group Morning Brief



Investigators are looking for two witnesses who came across a second pressure cooker device after Saturday’s bombing in New York. The FBI wants to question two men who “allegedly located a piece of luggage on the sidewalk, removed an improvised explosive device from the luggage, and then left the vicinity leaving the device behind but taking the luggage.” The two men are not accused of wrongdoing, according to NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau Chief James Waters who said “we have no reason to believe they’re connected.” New York Times, CNN, AP

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller defended a previous investigation into New York bombing suspect Ahmad Rahami from 2014, saying that investigators found nothing incriminating about him. Speaking before the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, Miller said there had been “no demonstrable thing’’ that happened since 2014 to reopen an investigation into Rahami. Wall Street Journal

A copy of Rahami’s notebook was released on Wednesday, offering details different from those provided in a criminal complaint filed on Tuesday. The notes mentioned former American Al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki and refers to recent comments made by ISIS spokesman and senior strategist Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. Rahami also expressed frustration with being “blocked” from traveling to Syria. New York Times

Politico: U.S. attorney sees no rush to arraign Rahami in federal court
AP: NY bombing case most high-profile since Boston bombing
ABC: Terrorists in US Will 'Get Through,' Feds Can't 'Stop Everything,' FBI Official Warns
CBS: Former FBI agent: Terror threats in U.S. are "radicalized quicker than we can identify them"

The Periodic Review Board at Guantanamo Bay has declared that three former CIA captives are too dangerous to release, according to decisions announced by the Pentagon on Wednesday. Two Malaysian detainees, Mohammed Bashir Bin Lap, 39, and Mohd Farik Bin Amin, 41, allegedly agreed to be part of a suicide operation, while Libyan detainee Mustafa Abu Faraj al Libi, 45, allegedly served as a “trusted advisor” for Osama bin Laden and his successor Ayman al Zawahiri, according to the review board. None of the men have been charged with a crime. Of the remaining 61 detainees held at Guantanamo, 23 are now designated as “forever detainees.” Miami Herald

Iran sanctions: On Wednesday, the Treasury Department authorized Airbus and Boeing to sell aircraft to Iran. Airbus has been allowed to sell 17 commercial aircraft to Iran Air valued at $27 billion. Boeing is planning to sell and lease over 100 aircraft to Iran Air in a deal totaling $25 billion. Wall Street Journal, CNN

Climate change: President Obama signed a directive on Wednesday ordering 20 federal offices to develop a “federal climate and national security working group” to “identify the U.S. national security priorities related to climate change and national security, and develop methods to share climate science and intelligence information to inform national security policies and plans.” The move is part of an effort to better understand how climate change may pose threats to national security. The Hill

Philadelphia terror case: 32-year-old Keonna Thomas pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS in federal court. Thomas admitted that she planned to leave her two children behind and travel to Syria to join in “martyrdom operations” with an ISIS fighter she had married over the internet. Thomas faces up to 15 years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced on January 17.

A group of 75 retired career foreign service officers, including ambassadors and other senior diplomats from both Democratic and Republican administrations, has signed a letter opposing Donald Trump’s candidacy for president. The letter calls Trump “entirely unqualified to serve as President and Commander-in-Chief.” Washington Post

Secretary of State John Kerry called for an immediate grounding of all military aircraft in “key areas” of Syria on Wednesday. Speaking at a UN Security Council meeting, Kerry demanded aircraft to be grounded to allow vital humanitarian aid into besieged areas in northwest Syria. Washington Post, New York Times

The Hill: Pentagon: No US aircraft flying during Syrian convoy attack

Iraq: ISIS fighters allegedly fired a rocket containing a chemical agent targeting U.S. troops in Iraq. No one was injured in the suspected chemical weapon attack near the Qayyara West base, where U.S. troops are preparing for an offensive to retake the city of Mosul from ISIS. Reuters, Washington Post, New York Times

Syria: The Obama administration is reportedly considering a military plan to arm Syrian Kurdish fighters combating ISIS. The move could sharply escalate tensions with NATO ally Turkey, which has blamed Kurdish groups for several attacks in Turkey over the last several months. New York Times

Yemen: A Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed at least 19 civilians on Wednesday, according to according to residents, medical personnel, and local officials. The strike occurred in the Houthi-occupied sea port city of Hodeidah. Reuters

Iran: On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stressed the importance of finding a political solution in Syria, saying “what is of utmost importance is to understand that Syria doesn't have a military solution….And the Syrians’ problems must certainly be resolved politically. Only politically.” The Iranian government has continued to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. NBC

Belgium: A fire that destroyed a forensics lab in Brussels may have set back investigations into terrorism cases, including the attacks in March on the Brussels subway and international airport. The fire was allegedly an arson attack by three unidentified suspects who were attempting to destroy forensic evidence. New York Times

South Korea: The United States flew two B-1B Lancer bombers over South Korea on Wednesday in a show of force against North Korea. The move comes in response to North Korea’s fifth nuclear test. The Hill
The New York Bomber Was Not a Lone Wolf: “It was no surprise that in the first hours after the New York and New Jersey bombing attacks, the culprit was widely suggested to be a ‘lone wolf.’ It’s time, however, to put the lone-wolf metaphor, and its associated counterterrorism analysis, out to pasture,”
writes Matthew Levitt on Foreign Policy. “But if that diagnosis isn’t wrong, it is incomplete. The New York bomber may have been ‘self-radicalized,’ but it’s very unlikely he was merely ‘inspired’ by terrorist groups.”

Why post-9/11, racial and religious profiling is in danger of becoming normalized: “But normalizing that kind of intolerance, allowing it be mainstreamed across the political spectrum, it doesn’t come without a cost for all of us. And that chauvinistic narrow-mindedness was part of the point,” writes H.A. Hellyer on Newsweek. “Fifteen years on, the likes of al-Qaeda look at the way Muslims are treated in popular discourse, and smile. It validates part of their nefarious worldview. We have mainstreamed the ‘othering’ of Muslims in our midst in the West. It’s now, wholly, respectable.”

Jimmy Carter: A First Step for Syria? Stop the Killing: “The agreement can be salvaged if all sides unite, for now, around a simple and undeniably important goal: Stop the killing. It may be more likely than it sounds,” writes Jimmy Carter in The New York Times. “If this cease-fire is to last, the United States and Russia must find ways to work beyond the lack of trust that undermined the previous cease-fire, in February.”

Now is the time to plan for a post Islamic state Mosul: “Decisions made now, especially in determining whether the Iraqi government, or sectarian and ethnic armed groups will be able to hold Mosul and provide security, will decide the fate of Iraq’s second city – and the rest of the country,” writes Mina Al-Oraibi for Reuters. “Once the battle reaches the outskirts of Mosul and progresses towards the city center, all eyes will be on the competing forces as they try to impose their control. How the city will be governed – from the treatment of prisoners to how quickly the displaced are resettled – will determine whether Mosul’s citizens can trust the new leaders of their city.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Tensions Escalate Between the U.S. and Iran

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