The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 2017
ISIS CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR LONDON TERROR ATTACK

An ISIS-affiliated news agency on Thursday claimed that the extremist group was behind Wednesday's terror attack outside the Houses of Parliament in London, as British police revealed that the attacker was 52-year-old UK-born Khalid Masood. Masood, who was known by a number of aliases, was born in Kent by the name Adrian Russell Ajao and was a married man who had been living with his family in a suburb of Birmingham. He had previously been investigated by police for links to extremism but had been assessed as low risk. He did have a rap sheet of criminal offenses stretching over the past 20 years, including criminal damage and assault. He reportedly converted to Islam late in life.

The death toll from his assault rose to four on Thursday night when a 75-year-old man, named as Leslie Rhodes from south London, had his life support withdrawn at the hospital.

On Thursday, a tweet from ISIS-affiliated news agency Amaq said the London attacker was “a soldier” of ISIS, inspired by its message. However, ISIS has provided no evidence for any direct links to the assailant, whom it did not name. Guardian, CNN, NBC News, New York Times
Related:
Financial Times: Police Probe How Family Man Khalid Masood Became a Violent Zealot
Guardian: No Surprise that London Attacker Was Born in UK
CNN: ISIS Has Mastered the Art of Creating Lone Wolves
Time: ISIS Is Claiming Attacks Abroad Because It Is Losing Its Empire
NUNES PARTIALLY BACKS OFF CLAIMS ABOUT TRUMP SURVEILLANCE
House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) partially backed away from his dramatic claim that officials in President Trump’s transition team had been subjects of surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies on Thursday, with an aide saying that Nunes did not know “for sure” because he has not seen U.S. intelligence documents summarizing the intelligence. “He’ll have to get all the documents he requested from the [intelligence community] about this before he knows for sure,” spokesman Jack Langer said.

Nunes also reportedly apologized to fellow panel members, including ranking Democrat Adam Schiff, for not informing them about the intelligence before going to the White House. “I felt I had a duty and obligation to tell [President Trump] because as you know he’s been taking a lot of heat in the news media,” Nunes told Sean Hannity on Fox News Thursday night. Los Angeles Times, Politico, Washington Post

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ORDERS TOUGHER SCREENING OF VISA APPLICANTS
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has sent cables to all American embassies demanding new security checks before giving visas to tourists, business travelers, and relatives of American residents. The new rules generally do not apply to citizens of 38 countries — including most of Europe and longstanding allies like Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea— that are part of the visa waiver program. But for other countries, the increased scrutiny includes asking applicants detailed questions about their background and making mandatory checks of social media history if a person has ever been in territory controlled by ISIS. “All visa decisions are national security decisions,” the secretary of state wrote in the cables. New York Times

AMERICAN-ISRAELI JEW ARRESTED IN ISRAEL OVER JCC THREATS
An 18-year-old American-Israeli Jew has been arrested by Israeli authorities in southern Israel over a months-long wave of bomb threats to Jewish community centers, schools, and museums in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. The teenager has not been charged, but officials made it clear that they considered him to be the primary source of the threats. The teenager’s lawyer said he had a brain tumor that could affect his behavior. He is being held pending a medical evaluation. New York Times, Jerusalem Post

MOUSSAOUI WANTS TO TESTIFY AT 9/11 TRIAL
Zacarias Moussaoui, the convicted “20th hijacker” who is serving life in prison, wants to testify at the 9/11 trial and has written the military judge offering his services. “I am willing to fully testify on the 9/11 case,” Moussaoui wrote in broken English in January, “even if I was charge on the death penalty case as it incriminate me.” The letter was handwritten and signed “Slave of Allah.” Miami Herald
Related:
Miami Herald: About the 9/11 War Crimes Trial (Updated)


TOP U.S. GENERAL: RUSSIA MAY BE SUPPLYING THE TALIBAN
The top U.S. general in Europe told lawmakers Thursday that Russia may be influencing and supplying the Taliban in Afghanistan. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who serves as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, told senators on the Armed Services Committee that Russias role in Afghanistan seemed to be growing. “I’ve seen the influence of Russia of late, increased influence in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban,” Scaparrotti said. NBC News, Washington Post
Related:
BBC News: Why Sangin’s Fall to the Taliban Matters

U.S. JOINS FIRST AIR ASSAULT AGAINST ISIS ‘BEHIND ENEMY LINES’ IN SYRIA
Fighters in Syria have begun a major ground offensive, backed by U.S. forces, to retake a vital dam near Raqqa in Syria. The offensive includes an unprecedented air assault involving U.S. helicopters landing behind enemy lines, officials tell CNN -- the first time the U.S. has conducted an air assault with the Syrian Arab Coalition and Syrian Democratic Forces. CNN
 
TOP OP-EDS
Rep. Nunes is a lapdog in a watchdog role: “It was predictable that standard congressional committee investigations into the role of Russia and the election would turn into muddled partisan fights,” writes the New York Times in an editorial. “But Mr. Nunes’s conduct stands out for his brazenness and heedlessness.”

The ambiguous legacy of Obama’s foreign policy: “Whether or not this lukewarm and at times distrustful view of Obama’s role as a national-security president was a foregone conclusion is a question that historians will wrestle with for decades to come,” writes Karen Greenberg in The Nation. “But for now, three new books—Mark Landler’s Alter Egos, Jameel Jaffer’s The Drone Memos, and Mark Danner’s Spiral—capture how Obama aimed high in his rhetoric and ideals, and yet was often frustrated in realizing his goals.”

Ivanka Trump’s dangerous and unethical West Wing job: “What the first daughter fails to acknowledge is that the very nature of her proposed role breaches ethical standards to which previous administrations have adhered for generations,” write Helen Klein Murillo and Susan Hennessey in the Washington Post. “That ethical breach does more than “shake up Washington” by breaking with norms and decorum — it threatens our national security.”

The power struggle for the Saudi throne and the reset with Trump: “The Trump administration must deal with two alternative future Saudi leaders and may — and perhaps should — regard it as premature to decide whom it prefers,” writes Simon Henderson in Foreign Policy.
EDITOR'S PICK

SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Al Qaeda Expands in the Sahel




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