The Soufan Group Morning Brief


Turkish authorities said Tuesday that the Uzbek man suspected of attacking an Istanbul nightclub in the early hours of New Year’s Day, killing 39 people, has confessed after being captured yesterday in Istanbul. The suspect, identified as Abdulgadir Masharipov, an Uzbek citizen born in 1983, received help in the attack, done “in the name of ISIS,” Vasip Sahin, the governor of Istanbul, said at a news conference. ISIS had claimed responsibility for the attack. Masharipov reportedly speaks four languages and has been “well-trained,” according to authorities, having received training in Afghanistan.  

Masharipov was arrested with four others, an Iraqi man and three women from countries including Egypt and another country on the African continent, in a raid on a house in the Esenyurt district of Istanbul. A pistol, an air gun, ammunition, two drones and $197,000 were seized during the raid on the residence. New York Times, Guardian, Washington Post, BBC News
National Interest: Why ISIS Recruits from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan
With just days left in Obama’s presidency, ten additional Guantanamo detainees who have been cleared for release were transferred Monday to Oman. A statement by the Omani Foreign Ministry said that the men would “temporarily reside” in the country; there was no immediate explanation for the reference to a ‘temporary’ stay, though it could refer to an agreement to withhold travel documents from the men for a period of several years. Neither Oman nor the Pentagon has provided a list of the identities of the transferred prisoners. The transfers leave the prison’s population at 45. Several more transfers — including to the United Arab Emirates, another to Saudi Arabia and possibly one to Italy — are expected in the coming days. Miami Herald, New York Times, Washington Post

The FBI on Monday arrested the wife of the gunman who killed 49 patrons at an Orlando, Fla., nightclub last summer, accusing her of aiding and abetting terrorism and obstructing investigators. Noor Zahi Salman, the wife of gunman Omar Mateen, will face federal charges filed in central Florida after making an initial court appearance in Oakland, Calif., scheduled for Tuesday morning. The aiding and abetting charge, a terrorism charge, suggests that prosecutors believe that Salman helped her husband in some way — either before or after the attack. New York Times, Los Angeles Times

KSM letter reaches Obama: A 2014 letter addressed to Barack Obama from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man accused of orchestrating the 9/11 terror attacks, has reportedly arrived at the White House. Earlier this month, Army Col. James L. Pohl at Guantanamo ordered prosecutors to get the letter to the departing president at least a week before Donald Trump takes office. Miami Herald

‘Never Trump’ national security experts blacklisted: Some of the biggest names in the Republican national security establishment say they fear they have been blacklisted from serving under the Trump administration because they took public stands against the Trump campaign during the election. Washington Post

CIA’s Brennan rejects Trump’s criticism: CIA Director John Brennan has rejected President-elect Donald Trump’s suggestion on Twitter that he personally was behind the leaking of a controversial and unsubstantiated dossier and asserted that the reports in the dossier were not the work of U.S. intelligence. Wall Street Journal   

The FBI and Muslim surveillance: The Council of American Islamic Relations says it received about 100 reports of FBI agents visiting homes before Trump’s win, asking about personal details and al Qaeda. Guardian

The Syrian opposition says it will attend peace talks sponsored by Turkey and Russia in Kazakhstan next week, in a boost for the negotiations that will now bring together representatives of the opposition and the regime of Bashar al-Assad, as well Russia, Turkey and Iran. Guardian

Afghan officials have accused ISIS of kidnapping 14 Muslim clerics from a religious school in Nangarhar province over the weekend, a seizure that is fueling fears the militant group is making a comeback in its eastern Afghan stronghold after setbacks at the hands of coalition forces last year. Wall Street Journal
Putin, Obama, and Trump: “For eight years, the Obama administration misjudged Vladimir Putin’s Russia, as it misjudged most of the Middle East, China, and the rest of the world as well,” writes Victor Davis Hanson in National Review. “Obama got wise to Russia only when Putin imperiled not just U.S. strategic interests and government records but also supposedly went so far as to tamper with sacrosanct Democratic-party secrets, thereby endangering the legacy of Barack Obama.”

The lingering stench of torture: “After President-elect Donald J. Trump insisted during the campaign that ‘torture works’ and promised to bring back waterboarding and ‘a hell of a lot worse,’” writes James Kitfield in the New York Times, “it was just a matter of time before the former CIA official Jose Rodriguez and the former Air Force psychologist and CIA contractor James Mitchell resurfaced to defend the indefensible.”

DOJ’s perplexing motion on the torture report: “Last month, District Judge Royce Lamberth entered an order in the habeas case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, requiring the Executive branch defendants to retain a copy of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s torture report, and to deposit a copy of the Report with the court’s information security officer,” writes Marty Lederman in JustSecurity. But last week, “DOJ filed a motion for reconsideration with Judge Lamberth.  It’s a very strange filing, in that the Department’s two rationales appear to be in direct conflict with one another.”

Terrorists, insurgents, something else? “The Trump administration’s appointments have signaled that it will continue to prioritize the fight against jihadist violent non-state actors (VNSAs)—a broad term that we find far more useful than an exclusive focus on terrorist groups, but a term in desperate need of clarification,” write Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Jacob Zenn in Lawfare. “In this article we provide a taxonomy of VNSAs that can be used to produce more rigorous discussion of them.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Trump Draws Further Questions Over Alliances

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