The Soufan Group Morning Brief


Three civilian lawyers who quit the USS Cole case at Guantanamo refused to return to the war court at the prison yesterday, despite a military judge ordering them to return.  Veteran death-penalty defense attorney Rick Kammen and colleagues Rosa Eliades and Mary Spears resigned from the team Oct. 11 over a classified ethical conflict. The judge said, under his reading of the rulebook, they cannot leave the case without his permission.

“The military judge has ordered U.S. citizens to go to what the government claims is a foreign country to provide unethical legal services to keep the façade of justice that is the military commissions running. This order is illegal and neither I nor the other civilians are going to Guantánamo,” Kammen told the Miami Herald Sunday morning. “The fundamental problem, of course, is government misconduct and the judge’s willingness to tolerate this misconduct, which gives rise to the requirement that we withdraw as Mr. al-Nashiri’s lawyers.” Miami Herald
Just Security: The Guantanamo Ethics Mess

The first defendants in a criminal investigation of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign could be taken into custody as soon as Monday, people familiar with the matter said, though the nature and target of the charges couldn’t be determined over the weekend. On Friday, prosecutors led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel in the Russia matter, obtained a grand jury indictment against at least one person. Mueller’s team obtained the charges under seal, the people familiar said. Wall Street Journal, NBC News, CNN
Lawfare: Seven Frequently Asked Mueller Indictment Questions for Which We Don’t Have Answers
Dana Boente, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, resigned last week, reportedly after he was asked to step down to make way for a successor to be named by President Trump.

Boente, who has served in the Justice Department for three decades, became the U.S. attorney in 2015 during the Obama administration. A well-regarded veteran prosecutor, he became acting attorney general in January after Trump fired Sally Yates, who refused to enforce the first executive order restricting travel. He served briefly as acting deputy attorney general, and more recently, as the acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's National Security Division.

According to NBC News, Boente was notified last Wednesday by the chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he should submit his letter of resignation, so that the political process for naming a successor could begin. NBC News, Washington Post

Fifteen months after he was captured fleeing Islamic State territory in Iraq, Mohamad ­Khweis was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Friday for supporting the terrorist group. “It’s an unusual case,” U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady said at the hearing in federal court in Virginia. “There’s no event, no instigation, no suicidal ideation, no friend who radicalized you.”

Khweis, a 27-year-old former bus driver from Alexandria, Va., came from a stable and secular home, his attorneys said. He got an associate degree in criminal justice and held steady work. While he began using marijuana and drifting in recent years, he was never violent and left no trail of radical musings. He showed no particular interest in religion.

Yet in late 2015, he sold his belongings, flew to Turkey and contacted Islamic State recruiters to smuggle him across the Syrian border into the group’s territory. Three months later, he sneaked out and was arrested by Kurdish forces. Washington Post, New York Post, CBS News

Justice Department officials don’t believe they have enough evidence to charge an American citizen and suspected member of the Islamic State who was captured in Syria last month, but the United States will face immediate legal challenges if he is not released and is detained without trial, reports the Washington Post.

Nearly seven weeks ago, on Sept. 12, the man apparently surrendered to a rebel group in Syria, which handed him over to U.S. forces. Since then, his name, age and other personal details, including a second country of citizenship, have been withheld, even from U.S. lawyers seeking to represent him. The ACLU has filed a suit on his behalf challenging his detention. He is being held in a Defense Department “short-term facility” in Iraq, according to the Pentagon. Washington Post

State Dept. scraps sanctions office: The State Department shuttered an office that oversees sanctions policy, even as the Donald Trump administration faced criticism from lawmakers over its handling of new economic penalties against Russia. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson eliminated the Coordinator for Sanctions Policy office, which had been led by a veteran ambassador-rank diplomat with at least five staff, as part of an overhaul of the department. Foreign Policy

2 Navy Seals under suspicion of killing Green Beret in Mali: Navy criminal authorities are investigating whether two members of the elite SEAL Team 6 strangled an Army Green Beret in June while they were in Mali on a secret assignment. Staff Sgt. Logan J. Melgar, a 34-year-old veteran of two tours in Afghanistan, was found dead on June 4 in the embassy housing he shared in the Malian capital, Bamako, with a few other Special Operations forces assigned to the West African nation to help with training and counterterrorism missions. The Navy SEALs’ potential involvement also raised the prospect of a highly unusual killing of an American soldier by fellow troops, and threatened to stain SEAL Team 6, the famed counterterrorism unit that carried out the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. New York Times

Bergdahl sentencing: An apparent security lapse enabled a convicted murderer to access Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing last week where the individual made threatening remarks about the former Taliban prisoner, who has pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. George Marecek, 85, was only a few feet from Bergdahl on Wednesday when he turned to another individual seated in the courtroom gallery and said: “I’ll be glad when this crap is over. I got my firing squad standing by.”

Marecek, a retired Army colonel, is a highly decorated Green Beret whose bravery during the Vietnam War earned him a Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star, prestigious valor awards that rank second and third, respectively, behind only the Medal of Honor. Decades later, in 2000, he was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison for killing his wife in 1991. Marecek spent three years at a state correctional facility before earning an early release in 2003. Washington Post

A truck bomb detonated outside a hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, minutes before gunmen on foot stormed the building on Saturday afternoon, killing at least 23 people and wounding at least 30 others, the police reported. Somali troops retook the popular Nasa-Hablod hotel, frequented by Somali business leaders and government lawmakers, on Sunday morning, having killed three attackers and captured two alive. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes comes two weeks after a truck bomb left 358 people dead in the city.

The five gunmen were dressed in intelligence service uniforms and used identity cards from the country’s intelligence service to gain access to the building. Associated Press, New York Times, Guardian

Taliban says U.S. hostage is seriously ill: The Afghan Taliban said on Monday that Kevin King, one of two professors from the American University of Afghanistan who were kidnapped at gunpoint in Kabul last year, is seriously ill and needs urgent medical attention. Reuters
New York Times: Afghan Taliban Awash in Heroin Cash

Heathrow Airport officials have launched an internal investigation into how a USB memory stick containing the airport's security information was allegedly found on a London street by a member of the public. The USB stick, which apparently held details such as the route which the Queen takes when using the airport and maps pin-pointing CCTV cameras and a network of tunnels and escape routes, was not given to police but instead was handed to a national newspaper, the Sunday Mirror. CNN, Independent, Telegraph

Two teens arrested in UK over terror plot: Two 14-year-old boys have been arrested by counter terrorism police on suspicion of plotting an attack from a market town in the north-east of England. The teenagers were being held on “suspicion of preparing for an act of terrorism” after intense police activity in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, over the weekend. Guardian
A domestic terrorism statute is federal overreach, not justice: “This fall, a national conversation about a domestic terrorism statute is brewing. But we should recognize that it is not just about terrorism — it is about the character of the country,” writes Karen J. Greenberg in “In the wake of the violence and death at Charlottesville, and with the motives of the Las Vegas attack still unknown, an agenda that has been simmering at the Justice Department since the Obama administration calling for passage of a federal domestic terrorism statute. But would extending an unfair policy to others really be a step in the right direction?”

Reform surveillance. Don’t end it: “A vital surveillance program expires at the end of the year,” write David Medine and Patricia M. Wald in the Wall Street Journal. “If Congress fails to act before then, the intelligence community will lose one of its most critical counterterrorism tools. But if it follows the Trump administration’s request and makes the program permanent without change, Americans’ privacy could be endangered. We urge Congress to add important privacy protections.”

Don’t wait for Trump to fire Mueller: “If you think Trump would never dare to fire Robert Mueller for filing charges against his associates, you still haven’t understood his character,” writes Yascha Mounk in “And if you think that Congress is sure to act when he does, you haven’t been paying attention for the past several months. The second part of the answer is to try to change what happens next: Instead of being glued to our screens, we need to start doing everything in our power to enforce the red lines before we cross them.”

Pompeo could stop Mueller in his tracks: “As a former federal prosecutor, I have worked on cases where the intelligence community denied permission to use evidence at trial, resulting in the inability to proceed on certain charges,” writes Barbara McQuade in Foreign Policy. “In those cases, I accepted that the intelligence agency in question was acting in good faith to protect a source or method that was of higher priority than the individual charges. I increasingly worry that such a presumption wouldn’t be warranted for Pompeo’s CIA.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSC IntelBrief.

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