The Soufan Group Morning Brief


The Soufan Group Morning Brief, June 20, 2017
TUESDAY, JUNE 20, 2017
SUPREME COURT RULES FOR BUSH OFFICIALS IN POST-9/11 SUIT

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that several high-ranking Bush administration officials, including former attorney general John Ashcroft and former FBI director Robert Mueller, may not be sued for policies adopted after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Justices ruled 4-2 that the officials cannot be held liable for the alleged unconstitutional treatment of noncitizens detained after the terrorist attacks.
 
Ziglar v. Abbasi was a long-running lawsuit that stemmed from the arrest and detention of hundreds of Arab and South Asian men — many of them Muslim — after the 9/11 attacks as part of a nationwide terrorism investigation. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, acknowledged that the way the detainees said they had been treated was appalling. But he said lawsuits seeking money from high-ranking officials were not the right way to address asserted misconduct in the midst of a national security crisis.
 
“If the facts alleged in the complaint are true, then what happened to respondents in the days following September 11 was tragic,” Justice Kennedy wrote. “The question before the court, however,” he wrote, “is not whether petitioners’ alleged conduct was proper, nor whether it gave decent respect to respondents’ dignity and well-being, nor whether it was in keeping with the idea of the rule of law that must inspire us even in times of crisis.” SCOTUSblog, New York Times, Washington Post, National Law Journal, ABA Journal
Related:
The Atlantic: The Supreme Court’s Ominous National Security Ruling
Washington Post: ‘In an Appropriate Case, We Should Reconsider Our Qualified Immunity Jurisprudence’
SOUTHCOM INVESTIGATING WHETHER LEGAL MEETINGS AT GUANTANAMO WERE RECORDED
The commander of the U.S. Southern Command has ordered an investigation into claims that somebody was illegally recording attorney-client meetings at Guantánamo from September 2015 to April 2017, a discovery that prompted a general to warn war court defense attorneys that their privileged communications were at risk. Miami Herald
 
OTTO WARMBIER DIES DAYS AFTER RELEASE FROM NORTH KOREA
Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who was detained in North Korea for nearly a year and a half, died Monday afternoon, days after he returned home in a coma, his parents announced. Warmbier, 22, had been medically evacuated last week and was being treated at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, did not specify the cause of death. Warmbier was arrested in January 2016 at the end of a brief tourist visit to the isolated country and sentenced to 15 years hard labor for allegedly stealing or defacing a political poster from the hotel where he was staying.
 
Doctors treating  Warmbier said they couldn’t firmly say what caused hisbrain injury, citing the limited information about his condition from North Korea. Speaking at a press conference last week, his physicians said it appeared he suffered the brain injury at least 14 months ago, and that the damage was consistent with cardiopulmonary arrest.
 
“We hold North Korea accountable for Otto Warmbier’s unjust imprisonment, and demand the release of three other Americans who have been illegally detained,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement Monday. Washington Post, Wall Street Journal
 
Killing of Muslim teenager in Va. was road rage: Police in Virginia say a the killing of a Muslim teenage girl was a road rage incident and not a hate crime. Washington Post
 
GOP voter data firm implicated in massive leak: Detailed information on nearly every U.S. voter — including in some cases their ethnicity, religion and views on political issues — was reportedly left exposed online on a publicly accessible Amazon server for two weeks by a political consultancy that works for the Republican National Committee and other GOP clients. Gizmodo, Washington Post
 

TENSIONS WITH MOSCOW ESCALATE AFTER THE U.S. DOWNS A SYRIAN PLANE
Long-running tensions between the United States and Russia erupted publicly on Monday as Moscow condemned the American military’s downing of a Syrian warplane and threatened to target aircraft flown by the United States and its allies west of the Euphrates. The Russians also said they had suspended their use of a hotline that the American and Russian militaries used to avoid collisions of their aircraft in Syrian airspace. NBC News, New York Times, PBS NewsHour, Foreign Policy
 
Australia announced Tuesday that it is suspending all air operations over Syria in the wake of the warning from Russia. CNN
Related:
Al-Monitor: U.S. Struggles to Calm New Syria Flashpoints
 
AL QAEDA’S COMEBACK LED BY OSAMA BIN LADEN’S SON
As ISIS’s power dwindles and it loses fighters and territory, al Qaeda is plotting a resurgence. The story of Hamza bin Laden, the son of Osama bin Laden shows how the terror group is mounting its comeback—one with potentially deadly consequences for the West and the rest of the world. Newsweek
 
Iraqis use small drones to target ISIS: Iraqi forces are using small, off-the-shelf drones to target ISIS fighters in the crowded and twisting streets of Mosul’s Old City, where the militants are making a last stand, reports the Wall Street Journal. Iraqi counterterrorism forces have said they used commercially available quadcopter drones, which are small enough to fit in a backpack, to supply aircraft with the U.S.-led coalition with some of their first targets in the Old City. Wall Street Journal
 
Mali attack: An Al-Qaeda linked coalition of jihadi groups has claimed responsibility for attacking a tourist resort near Mali’s capital on Sunday, killing five people. Newsweek
 

DRIVER DIES AFTER RAMMING CAR INTO POLICE ON THE CHAMPS-ELYSEES
A car exploded as it crashed into a police vehicle on Paris’s famed Champs-Elysees on Monday in what authorities called a probable terrorist attack. Police were treating the incident as a deliberate act, and the Paris prosecutor has opened a terrorism investigation. The driver, whose identity was not immediately released, was killed in the crash. No one else was injured. The driver was reportedly known to French authorities, and was listed in a dossier of people suspected of posing a threat to national security. Washington Post
 
TERRORIST OR DISTURBED LONER: THE CONTENTIOUS POLITICS OF LABELS
When a man rammed a van into a crowd near a London mosque on Monday morning, controversy quickly erupted over whether the attack would be treated as less significant than others because it was committed against Muslims -- but not by them. The New York Times and NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast both explore the politics of the “terrorism” label.
 
Somalia sentence: The soldier who shot Somalia’s youngest-ever minister has been sentenced to death by firing squad. The officer reportedly mistook Abas Abdullahi Sheikh Siraji, the 31-year-old minister for public works, for an Islamic militant before shooting him inside his car in the capital Mogadishu in early May. Time
TOP OP-EDS
Can you kill the Islamic State? “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed caliph of the self-described Islamic State, might have been killed. Again,” writes Ali Soufan in the New York Times. “The resulting leadership vacuum, and the scramble to fill it, would no doubt hasten the coming disintegration of the Islamic State. In truth, however, the handwriting was on the wall long before last week’s announcement.”
 
How to deal with North Korea: “The U.S. has four broad strategic options for dealing with North Korea and its burgeoning nuclear program,” writes Mark Bowden in The Atlantic. “Prevention. Turning the screws. Decapitation. And Acceptance. Let’s consider each option. All of them are bad.”
 
Why is the U.S. killing so many civilians in Syria and Iraq? “The civilian death toll has risen mainly because the battle has moved deeper into major cities,” writes Micah Zenko in the New York Times. “But even as the civilian death toll ticks upward, the American military has relaxed oversight, investigation and accountability on civilian casualties. Finding out the reasons for these tragic mistakes, seeing what can be learned from them and enforcing the American military’s own standards could save thousands of lives.”
 
Fear is what changed Saudi Arabia: “Saudi Arabia used to be one of the most cautious players in the world of diplomacy. Not anymore,” write Walter Russell Mead in the Wall Street Journal. “What is behind the new Saudi activism? Fear. It’s an emotion that comes naturally to an oil-rich kingdom with a relatively small population in a neighborhood full of predatory rivals. For years fear made the Saudis cautious, since they felt they could take shelter behind a strong and confident America. Now they aren’t so sure.”
EDITOR'S PICK
New York Review of Books: The Banality of Putin
 
New York Times: Empowering Women to Break the Jihadi Cycle

SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Serious Risk of Escalation in Syria




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