The Soufan Group Morning Brief

The Soufan Group Morning Brief, May 25, 2017
THURSDAY, MAY 25, 2017

British police investigating the Manchester Arena bomb attack have stopped sharing information with the U.S. after leaks to the media, the BBC reports. British officials were said to be outraged this week after U.S. officials leaked the name of the suspected bomber to the media and later when photos appearing to show debris from the attack appeared in the New York Times on Wednesday. BBC News
If true, such a move would break with years of increasingly close counterterrorism cooperation between the US and the UK that followed the September 11 attacks. In a sign of the extent of UK concern, Theresa May will raise the issue of U.S. leaks when she meets Donald Trump at a Nato summit in Brussels on Thursday. British police chiefs also released a highly unusual statement on Wednesday saying that when trust in security partnerships are breached, “it undermines these relationships, and undermines our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses and their families.”
“These images will be distressing to victims, their families and the wider public,” a senior Whitehall official told Politico. “British officials and ministers are making it clear to their U.S. counterparts that these leaks from within the system are unacceptable.” Politico, Financial Times, Washington Post, NBC News

UK police accelerated their hunt Wednesday for co-plotters of the Manchester concert bombing, making at least a half-dozen arrests in Britain, searching for a possible clandestine bomb factory, and extending the investigation to Libya, where two of the bomber’s relatives were detained.
A German security official told The Washington Post that the bomber, 22-year-old Salman Abedi, had been in Dusseldorf just four days before the bombing, signalling an expansion of an investigation that already had stretched to North Africa to continental Europe. Abedi’s father and one of his brothers were were arrested in Tripoli this week by security forces loyal to the UN-recognized Government of National Accord. The brother reportedly confessed to a Libyan militia that the two of them belonged to ISIS. Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Reuters
A portrait of Abedi’s life is also coming into focus. He was a Manchester United fan, a college dropout and an occasional marijuana smoker who had visited his family in Libya last month, returned to Manchester as recently as last week, and may have been radicalized two years ago. In 2011, when Abedi was still a teenager, he had traveled to Libya and fought alongside his father in a militia, known as the Tripoli Brigade, to oust Gadhafi’s regime as the Arab Spring swept North Africa and the Middle East, a family friend said. Telegraph
The sister of the suspected suicide bomber, Jomana Abedi, told the Wall Street Journal that her brother was kind and loving and that she was surprised by what he did this week. She said she thought he was driven by what he saw as injustices.“I think he saw children—Muslim children—dying everywhere, and wanted revenge. He saw the explosives America drops on children in Syria, and he wanted revenge,” she said. “Whether he got that is between him and God.” Wall Street Journal
NBC News: Manchester Explosion Photos Suggest a Carefully Made Bomb
ABC News: Authorities Find Bomb-Making Workshop in Abedi’s Home

American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald Trump through his advisers, the New York Times reported on Wednesday. The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump’s opinions on Russia. New York Times
President Trump is seeking new candidates to replace fired FBI Director James Comey, broadening the search after at least two rounds of interviews with more than ten contenders for the post. Administration officials had previously described former Sen. Joe Lieberman as the leading prospect for the high-profile job, but he ran into resistance from Democrats.  Politico
Israel says it has changed its intelligence-sharing protocols with the United States after President Donald Trump disclosed classified information to Russian diplomats earlier this month that had reportedly come from Israel. Israeli defense chief Avigdor Liberman said Wednesday, “I can confirm that we did a spot repair and that there’s unprecedented intelligence cooperation with the United States.” He declined to say what changes had been made. VOA
Trump in Brussels: President Trump is in Brussels for a NATO summit today, where European leaders are waiting with bated breath to see if he explicitly endorses Article 5 of the Atlantic alliance’s founding treaty, which states the principle that an attack on any member is an attack on all. New York Times
Pompeo’s CIA: CIA Director Michael Pompeo signaled this week that he intends to move the agency in a more aggressive direction, telling reporters that “we are back in the business of stealing secrets.” Politico, NPR
Comey and a fake Russian document: A secret document that officials say played a key role in then-FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation has long been viewed within the FBI as unreliable and possibly a fake, the Washington Post reports.
Trump praises Duterte in call: President Trump congratulated Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte for a “great job” in his crackdown on drugs, which human rights groups and the United Nations have condemned as a vigilante-style campaign that has left thousands of suspected drug dealers and users dead. USA Today
BuzzFeed: The Pentagon Can’t Believe Trump Told Another President About Nuclear Subs Near North Korea

The U.S. military and Russia have stepped up their communication about operations over Syria to include dialogue between U.S. and Russian generals in the Middle East. Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, the commander of Air Forces Central Command, told reporters at the Pentagon that “deconfliction” between the two countries has been boosted as the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS progresses in preparation for an assault on Raqqa, the de facto capital of the militant group. The talks are designed to prevent aerial accidents or clashes between aircraft. “We have had to increase the amount of deconfliction work we are doing with the Russians given the tighter airspace that we are now working ourselves through,” Harrigian said, speaking from his headquarters in Qatar. Washington Post, New York Times
Somalia car bomb: A car bomb believed to have been planted by al Shabab militants killed at least eight people in Mogadishu on Thursday. Associated Press
What Trump reveals by calling terrorists ‘losers’: “Calling ISIS ‘losers’ says a lot about Trump,” said Peter Beinart in The Atlantic. “For him, America’s primary goal is not freedom or tolerance. It’s success. Trump espouses no deeply held political, religious, or moral doctrine. He sees government through the lens of business. And thus, he’s more comfortable with the language of winning and losing than the language of right and wrong.”
The jihadi state of mind: “I have written before about the increasingly blurred lines between ideological violence and sociopathic rage,” said Kenan Malik in the New York Times. “There is now what we might call a ‘jihadi state of mind,’ in which some mixture of social disengagement, moral dissolution, unleavened misanthropy and inchoate rage drives some to see the most abhorrent expressions of violence as a kind of revolt. It is a state of mind that finds its most vicious, barbaric form in Islamist terror. But it’s not only in Islamist terror that it finds expression.”
Does the Manchester attack show ISIS’s strength or weakness? “ISIS is both expanding and contracting to survive,” said Robin Wright in the New Yorker. “The physical disruption of the isis proto-state may increase the danger of lone-wolf attacks in the West.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Yemen Edges Closer to Collapse

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