The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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TUESDAY, APRIL 4, 2017
AUTHORITIES NAME SUSPECT FROM KYRGYZSTAN AS RUSSIAN BOMBER

The state security service of Kyrgyzstan says that a native of Kyrgyzstan who had Russian citizenship is believed to be responsible for the deadly blast in St. Petersburg on Monday that killed at least 14 people.

The suspect was identified as Akbarzhon Dzhalilov, born in 1995 and a native of Osh. Investigators suspect he was linked to radical Islamist groups and carried his improvised device in a backpack in a possible suicide attack. A second device was found at another station and defused Monday and police were seeking a second suspect. Kyrgyz security services were in contact with Russian authorities over the matter, but declined to provide any additional specifics. Russian authorities haven’t provided details about any suspects being sought.

The blast on Monday shook one of St. Petersburg’s busiest neighborhoods. Nearly 50 people were injured, in addition to the 14 killed, when the bomb went off in a metro train as it traveled between the Sennaya Ploschad and Tekhnologichesky Institut in the center of the city. President Vladimir Putin was visiting the city at the time. Washington Post, New York Times, BBC News, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal
Related:
Politico: How Russia Became the Jihadists’ No. 1 Target
 
ON VISIT TO WASHINGTON, AL-SISSI FINDS A FRIEND IN TRUMP
President Trump went out of his way Monday to honor Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, praising the hard-line leader for doing a “fantastic job” and soliciting his help in the fight against terrorism and violent extremists. “We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt,” Trump told Sissi at the White House. “You have a great friend and ally in the United States and in me.” USA Today

REPORT: SUSAN RICE ‘UNMASKED’ TRUMP ASSOCIATES IN INTEL REPORTS
Bloomberg reported Monday that former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign. The pattern of Rice's requests was discovered by Trump administration lawyers in a National Security Council review of the government's policy on “unmasking” the identities of individuals in the U.S. who are not targets of electronic eavesdropping, but whose communications are collected incidentally. Bloomberg, Fox News
Related:
The Atlantic: Did Susan Rice Do Anything Wrong by Asking to ‘Unmask’ Trump Officials

TRUMP ASSOCIATE CARTER PAGE REVEALED AS TARGET OF RUSSIAN SPIES
Carter Page, the energy industry consultant who was linked last year to Donald Trump's presidential campaign, is the unnamed man identified in a federal complaint as having met with a Russian intelligence agent four years ago. Page himself confirmed his role in the 2013 FBI investigation after several news outlets identified him as “Male 1” in a criminal complaint filed in 2015 against Evgeny Buryakov, an undercover agent posing as a Russian bank executive in New York who was later convicted of conspiring to act as a foreign agent. NBC News, BuzzFeed

Gorsuch nomination: Democratic senators said Monday they had the requisite 41 votes to filibuster Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court, setting up an acrimonious Senate floor battle that could end up in a permanent rule change to the filibuster. Wall Street Journal, New York Times

Trump and the travel ban: The Wall Street Journal offers a timeline of how Trump, against his instincts, eventually removed Iraq from the list of countries affected by the travel ban. Wall Street Journal

ISIS-inspired plot to kill the pope: A New Jersey teen pleaded guilty on Monday to plotting to kill Pope Francis during his 2015 visit to Philadelphia, in what prosecutors said was an ISIS-inspired plot. New York Post


SUSPECTED CHEMICAL ATTACK KILLS 58 IN SYRIA
A monitoring group in Syria says at least 58 people have been killed and dozens wounded in a suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held town in the northwest of the country. The group said many victims were choking after the area came under attack by either Syrian or Russian jets and that many had died of asphyxiation. BBC News, Time

KUSHNER MEETS WITH IRAQI LEADER ON FUTURE OF ISIS FIGHT
Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, flew to Iraq on Monday and met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to discuss the fight against ISIS and whether the United States would leave troops in Iraq afterward. Kushner traveled with Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as part of the general’s planned trip. The trip has raised eyebrows in diplomatic circles because Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has not yet traveled to Iraq. Kushner’s trip broke with standard government practice in another way: On Sunday evening, as word of Kushner’s trip began to spread, the White House incorrectly told reporters on background that Kushner was in Iraq before he actually landed. Officials avoid such notifications for security reasons. New York Times
Related:
U.S. News and World Report: Midair News of Kushner’s Iraq Trip Posed Security Risks

PENTAGON RAMPS UP YEMEN AIRSTRIKES
The Pentagon carried out roughly 20 strikes in Yemen against al Qaeda militants since last week, putting the total number of strikes past 70 in a little over a month. The Hill


Germany: A German court handed lengthy prison sentences Monday to four Islamic extremists over plots to bomb a train station and kill a far-right politician. Associated Press
TOP OP-EDS
The likely culprits behind the St. Petersburg bombing: “While it's not clear who carried out the deadly attack on the St. Petersburg metro, there are two groups that have both the capability and the intent to carry out large-scale terrorist attacks in Russian cities: Chechens separatists and ISIS,” write Peter Bergen and David Sterman in CNN.com.

Susan Rice, unmasked: “Where are the civil libertarians when you really need them?” writes the Wall Street Journal in an editorial. “These columns support broad surveillance powers for national security, but executive officials need to be accountable if those powers are abused. If congressional oversight of U.S. intelligence operations is going to be worth the name, then it should include the unmasking of a political opponent by a senior official in the White House.”

The national security consequences of deregulation: “What the House and Senate probably don’t realize is that these radical reforms to the regulatory process have serious consequences for national security and the fight against terrorism,” writes Ganesh Sitaraman in Lawfare.
EDITOR'S PICK

JOB OPENING
Research Professor (Open Rank)
Arizona State University
Center on the Future of War
 
SOUFAN GROUP
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