The Soufan Group Morning Brief



Daniel Jones, the chief investigator for the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report about the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program, has provided new details about how the CIA attempted to circumvent and disrupt the investigation, calling it a “failed cover-up,” according to a series of interviews in a three-part series with the Guardian. Jones, a former FBI counterterrorism analyst, described his six-year experience investigating the CIA, saying, “to me, it’s a huge lost opportunity. Here’s an administration that came in and did all the right things within a few days, shutting down the program…We were just never given a fair airing. No one from the White House would be briefed by us. They were briefed by the CIA.” Guardian

Guardian: Inside the fight to reveal the CIA's torture secrets

President Obama said on Thursday that he is not ready to concede that the military prison at Guantanamo Bay will remain open after he leaves office. When asked about the future of the detention facility, Obama asserted that his administration is still working diligently to close the prison, saying “I continue to believe that Guantánamo is a recruitment tool for terrorist organizations, that it clouds and sours some of the counter-terrorism cooperation we need to engage in.” AP

In other news at Guantanamo Bay, the Periodic Review Board heard the case of the youngest Guantanamo detainee, Hassan Bin Attash, on Thursday. Bin Attash was the final detainee to appear before the PRB, concluding a 2011 order from President Obama to provide all uncharged, uncleared prisoners a parole-style hearing within one year. Attash is suspected of being an Al Qaeda-linked bomb maker who “grew up immersed in violent extremist ideology,” and helped “facilitate the movement of [Al Qaeda] fighters.” according to a March 2016 unclassified intelligence profile. He was captured in Pakistan in 2002 and then held by the CIA before being brought to Guantanamo in 2004. Miami Herald, Courthouse News Service

During pretrial hearings on Thursday, defense lawyers for the alleged mastermind of the 2000 USS Cole attacks, Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, asked the judge to again dismiss part of the case involving a 2002 bombing of a French oil tanker. Defense attorney Richard Kammen argued that “the military commissions with all of its issues should not be the forum for the United States to be the policeman for the world.” Miami Herald

Just Security: GTMO Update on the final 61 detainees–PRB initial review hearings (finally) completed
TIME: A Man Wrongly Tortured for 9/11 Remains in Guantanamo

CIA cyber hack: Two North Carolina men were arrested and charged on Thursday for allegedly hacking into the computers of several senior U.S. government officials, including CIA Director John Brennan. Andrew Boggs, 22, and Justin Liverman, 24, were accused of working with the hacking group called “Crackas With Attitude.” The FBI said the group had targeted U.S. computer systems, as well as senior officials and their families from October 2015 to February 2016. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, ABC

Election cybersecurity: On Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson downplayed concerns about the threat of hackers influencing U.S. elections amid rising fears about Russian efforts to manipulate November’s vote. Johnson said that “it would be very difficult through any sort of cyber intrusion to alter the ballot count, simply because it is so decentralized and so vast.” The Hill

Donald Trump’s campaign reaffirmed its positive outlook on Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, as Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence said “I think it’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country.” Hillary Clinton responded saying Trump’s stance is “not just unpatriotic and insulting to the people of our country, as well as to our commander in chief — it is scary.” New York Times

NBC: What Really Happened at Donald Trump's Intelligence Briefing
New York Times: On Israeli TV, Hillary Clinton Says Terrorists Are Praying for a Trump Victory

U.S. Special Operations forces conducted an unsuccessful mission last month to rescue two Western hostages in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said on Thursday. The two hostages, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks, both professors at the American University in Kabul, were captured in early August and were believed to be held in eastern Afghanistan by the Haqqani network, a faction of the Taliban. Pentagon officials said the rescue mission missed the two men by only hours at their suspected location. No U.S. forces were killed in the operation. New York Times, Washington Post

Syria: The top military commander of Jabhat Fateh al Sham, previously known as the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, was killed in an airstrike in rural Aleppo province, the group announced in a statement. Sources said the airstrike targeted a meeting of the group’s leaders, killing the commander Abu Hajer al Homsi, also known as Abu Omar Saraqeb. Reuters

Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday to discuss an agreement for a renewed ceasefire in Syria, according to State Department officials. The Obama administration said earlier this week that officials would not meet with Russia until they had resolved outstanding issues regarding the ceasefire. Washington Post

Seventy-three Syrian humanitarian aid groups suspended their cooperation with the United Nations on Thursday, accusing it of complacency amid manipulation by the Syrian government to deny essential aid to opposition-held areas. In a letter to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the groups said “the Syrian government in Damascus has a significant and substantial influence on the performance of U.N. agencies based in Damascus.” New York Times

Washington Post: Families face a long wait and uncertainty in repatriating American militiamen killed in Syria

North Korea: South Korean officials said they detected an “artificial” tremor coming from North Korea on Friday morning, indicating the country likely conducted a fifth nuclear test, despite threats of additional sanctions by the international community. New York Times, Reuters

France: French police arrested three women on Thursday in connection with an abandoned car found laden with gas cylinders parked near the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The French interior minister said the women were likely planning an imminent terrorist attack. One woman reportedly stabbed a police officer during the arrest before being shot and wounded. Reuters, Wall Street Journal, New York Times

United Kingdom: British authorities charged four men with planning to carry out acts of terrorism on Thursday. The four suspects were arrested two weeks ago in a series of raids that also reportedly involved a bomb-disposal unit in the city of Birmingham. Wall Street Journal
Fifteen Years on, Where Are We in the 'War on Terror'?: “Measuring progress in irregular warfare without frontlines is always difficult….There has not been another 9/11-scale event. Although they attract followers, neither al-Qa`ida nor its progeny has become a mass movement,” writes Brian Michael Jenkins in the CTC Sentinel. “On the other side of the ledger, the targeted groups have survived, their determination seems undiminished, and their ideology remains powerful. They are deeply embedded in a number of fragile, divided, conflict-ridden states. Persistent foes, they are able to operate underground and capable of comebacks if pressure on them subsides. The conflict will go on.”

Uzbekistan has a chance to shake off Karimov’s legacy: “Islam Karimov, the late president of Uzbekistan who ruled like a Stalinist dictator until his death on September 2, not only left his fellow Uzbeks poor and directionless; many other leaders in Central Asia hated him, too,” writes Ahmed Rashid in the Financial Times. “Central Asia squandered great economic opportunities when the Soviet Union collapsed. It cannot afford to do so again. The new Uzbek leader can undo Karimov’s baleful legacy by bringing the region together, improving living standards and undermining Islamist extremists, who threaten Central Asia from bases in northern Afghanistan.”

Endless secret war is a constitutional time bomb: “The “Forever War” has posed enormous challenges to our constitutional system, which assumes that war will be exceptional, not perpetual. In many respects, checks and balances worked well in response to early, very controversial presidential actions related to wartime detention, interrogation, and surveillance,” writes Jack L. Goldsmith on Harvard Law Today. “But as the conflict has moved to a light-footprint stage characterized by very few American casualties and by stealth fighting via drone, cyberattacks, and Special Operations Forces, public debate has receded, congressional attention has become intermittent at best, and courts have played no role.”

9/11: Osama bin Laden's spectacular miscalculation: “Yet, for all their tactical success the 9/11 attacks failed strategically and, in the end, achieved precisely the opposite of what Osama bin Laden had intended,” writes Peter Bergen on CNN. “Like the attack on Pearl Harbor, another hinge event in American history, 9/11 was a great tactical victory for America's enemies. But in both these cases the tactical success of the attacks was not matched by strategic victories. Quite the reverse.”

NPR: Mentoring Program Works To Prevent Radicalization In Copenhagen

Constitution Daily: The Constitution at Guantánamo Bay

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Fifteen Years Since America’s Darkest Day

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