The Soufan Group Morning Brief


The CIA and FBI are conducting a joint investigation into one of the worst security breaches in CIA history, which exposed thousands of top-secret documents that described CIA hacking tools, reports CBS News. Wikileaks published the documents in March.

The investigation is reportedly looking for an insider -- either a CIA employee or contractor -- who had physical access to the material. The agency has not said when the material was taken or how it was stolen. WikiLeaks has said it obtained the CIA information from former contractors who worked for U.S. intelligence. CBS News, New York Post, Slate
Daily Beast: Is There a Russian Mole Inside the NSA? The CIA? Or Both?
President Trump’s efforts to appear decisive in his responses to fast-moving global crises in his first 100 days “have been undercut by confusing and conflicting messages from within his administration,” reports the Washington Post. Over the past two weeks, repeated policy pronouncements from senior Trump aides have often been at odds with one another — such as whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must leave power as part of a negotiated resolution to end that nation’s civil war or whether the U.S. welcomed the Turkish referendum this week that strengthened President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian rule. Washington Post

White House says it didn’t mislead about aircraft carrier: The White House has shrugged off any blame for its role in misleading comments about the position of the USS Carl Vinson, saying it didn’t mislead U.S. allies about the carrier’s destination. The Pentagon instead took responsibility for confusion, but U.S. officials also blamed “sloppy reporting” by the media. Wall Street Journal

Page’s trip to Moscow: The New York Times reports that a trip by Carter Page last July to Moscow was a catalyst for the FBI investigation into connections between Russia and President Trump’s campaign. New York Times

Departing official in Trump-Russia investigation: Mary McCord is reportedly stepping down from her post as the acting head of the Justice Department’s national security division and leaving the federal government for academia in the coming weeks. The Intercept

Schiff calls for NSA-Cyber Command split: Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has called for the NSA to be split from U.S. Cyber Command, saying it would be “wise” to have separate leaders for the two organizations. The Hill

Trump’s missing cyber plan: President Trump pledged in January to quickly develop a program for countering hackers, but no one seems to know who’s in charge of developing it or where it is, reports Politico.

Syria has moved its aircraft from a base struck by the U.S. two weeks ago to a separate airbase in the port city of Latakia used by Russia's military. The move is likely for protection from additional American strikes, since Russian aircraft will be nearby. ABC News

North Korea: Analysts who examine satellite images of North Korea reported on Wednesday that they had spotted some unexpected activity at the country’s nuclear test site: active volleyball games in three separate areas. New York Times

Ukraine: Russian President Vladimir Putin has quietly tightened Russia’s grip on two rebel regions of Ukraine, taking advantage of U.S. disinterest in the region. Bloomberg

Chemical attack in Iraq: A U.S. general in Iraq has confirmed that ISIS militants used a chemical in an attack on Iraqi forces in Mosul over the weekend, and that the chemical agent has been sent for testing to try to identify it. Reuters, The Hill

Yemen: The U.S. is considering whether to provide additional military support to Saudi Arabia in that country’s fight against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wrapped up two days of talks in Riyadh on Wednesday. Wall Street Journal

Turkey arrests dozens: Dozens of members of Turkey’s political opposition were arrested in dawn raids yesterday, part of a crackdown on those questioning the legitimacy of a referendum to expand President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers. New York Times

Putin critic dies after beating: Nikolai Andrushchenko, a Russian journalist known for his criticism of President Vladimir Putin, has died after being beaten by unknown attackers in St. Petersburg. Independent
Trump and Nunes’s fake scandal: “It is now clear that the scandal was not Susan Rice’s normal review of the intelligence reports but the coördinated effort between the Trump Administration and Nunes to sift through classified information and computer logs that recorded Rice’s unmasking requests, and then leak a highly misleading characterization of those documents, all in an apparent effort to turn Rice, a longtime target of Republicans, into the face of alleged spying against Trump,” writes Ryan Lizza in the New Yorker. “It was a series of lies to manufacture a fake scandal.”

The plot against American foreign policy: “Is the world witnessing the demise of the U.S.-led liberal order?” writes G. John Ikenberry in Foreign Affairs. “If so, this is not how it was supposed to happen. The great threats were supposed to come from hostile revisionist powers seeking to overturn the postwar order. Yet a hostile revisionist power has indeed arrived on the scene, but it sits in the Oval Office, the beating heart of the free world. Across ancient and modern eras, orders built by great powers have come and gone—but they have usually ended in murder, not suicide.”

All means, short of war: “From the U.S. perspective, our policy should be to hasten the North Korean regime’s demise by applying all possible sanctions, but not to risk an outright military confrontation with a state that possesses nuclear weapons and artillery zeroed in on Seoul,” writes Max Boot in Commentary.

From the Death of bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State
with Ali Soufan and Lawrence Wright
Tuesday, May 2
Fordham Law School

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: A Large and Leaky U.S. Intelligence Community

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