The Soufan Group Morning Brief

The Soufan Group Morning Brief, June 26, 2017
MONDAY, JUNE 26, 2017

The war court prosecutor at Guantanamo has filed terror charges against the Indonesian detainee at the prison known as Hambali, accusing him of directing the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings and the 2003 attack on the JW Marriott in Jakarta that between them killed more than 200 people.
A military court will later decide whether a trial will be held. Riduan “Hambali” Isomuddin’s charges include terrorism, murder in violation of the law of war, attempted murder, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, attacking civilians and civilian objects and destruction of property, in violation of the law of war.
Hambali has been held at Guantanamo since September 2006, when then President George W. Bush ordered the CIA to deliver its high-value War on Terror prisoners from its secret “Black Site” detention to the U.S. military base for trial. It is not known why it took more than a decade for the Pentagon prosecutor to prepare charges. But according to the Senate Torture Report, an interrogator told Hambali “that he would never go to court, because ‘we can never let the world know what I have done to you.’”
Hambali becomes the first Guantanamo prisoner charged during the Trump administration. If charges go forward, Hambali would be the 11th of Guantanamo’s 41 captives in war crimes proceedings. Miami Herald, Guardian
A federal judge in Colorado on Friday ordered the release of Jamshid Muhtorov, a man who has been held for more than five years on charges of providing support to a suspected Islamic terror group in his native Uzbekistan. Muhtorov claims he should be given bail after repeated delays in the case violated his right to a speedy trial. Muhtorov’s trial has been postponed numerous times while prosecutors and defense attorneys filed a succession of motions over issues including controversial warrantless wiretaps and national security issues. Charges are still pending against Muhtorov, and he will remain at a detention center in Aurora, Colo., until a release hearing Monday in which Judge John Kane will determine conditions of his release. Reuters, Denver Post
Government websites, including that of the Ohio governor’s site, were hacked Sunday with a message that purports to be supportive of ISIS. Visitors to were greeted with a black background and an Arabic symbol while an Islamic call to prayer played in the background. A message said, “You will be held accountable Trump, you and all your people for every drop of blood flowing in Muslim countries.” A group calling itself Team System DZ apparently hacked numerous state websites, including that of first lady Karen Kasich’s and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. CNN, Associated Press
Senior officials and key allies of President Donald Trump are calling for the new administration to take steps to topple Tehran’s militant clerical government, saying that dislodging Iran’s clerical leadership is the only way to halt Tehran’s dangerous behavior. “The policy of the United States should be regime change in Iran,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who speaks regularly with White House officials about foreign policy, told Politico.
Key Trump officials are similarly on the record as saying that Iran will remain a U.S. enemy until the clerical leaders and military officials who control the country’s political system are deposed. As a member of Congress, Trump’s CIA director, Mike Pompeo, last year publicly called for congressional action to “change Iranian behavior, and, ultimately, the Iranian regime.” And Derek Harvey, the Trump National Security Council’s director for Middle East affairs, told an audience at the conservative Hudson Institute in August 2015 that the Obama administration’s hope of working with moderates to steer Iran in a friendlier direction was a “misread” of “the nature and character of the regime,” whose structure he said he has carefully studied. Politico
John Walker Lindh worries about life after his release: John Walker Lindh, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan, is set to be released in less than two years. According to the U.S. government, he’ll leave prison with Irish citizenship and a stubborn refusal to renounce violent ideology. But according to emails to his father from prison, Lindh says he anticipates having to abandon his efforts to move to Ireland and believes he will have to endure threats and hostility in the U.S.. Foreign Policy
CVE funding: The Department of Homeland Security announced last week that it is restarting a $10 million grant program for “Countering Violent Extremism” but will no longer fund Life After Hate, a group dedicated to countering neo-Nazis and white extremism. Mother Jones
NY man arrested at JFK and accused of trying to join ISIS: A Bronx man -- Saddam Mohamed Raishani, 30 -- was arrested last week at JFK Airport and charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization. He was allegedly planning to fly to Europe and make his way to Syria to join ISIS. New York Times
Trump admin. to close Afghanistan and Pakistan office: The Trump administration appears poised to close the stand-alone State Department office devoted to policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan that was the brainchild of diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke, but it has not made a final decision. The acting director of the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and her deputy stepped down Friday. The closure had been expected as part of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s planned downsizing and restructuring of the department. Washington Post

Details about recent U.S. commando operations targeting midlevel but highly trusted ISIS operatives in Syria reveal that Special Operations forces have been able to obtain cellphones and other valuable material to help with for future raids and to thwart attacks, even if the ISIS operatives weren’t captured. In late April, U.S. forces nearly captured Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, a close associate of  ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and a skilled ISIS financier. Uzbeki, a combat-hardened veteran of shadow wars in Syria and Pakistan, died in an ensuring gun battle, thwarting the military’s hopes of extracting from him any information about Islamic State operations, leaders and strategy. But the operation provided other valuable material and firsthand information about the inner circle and war council of the group. New York Times

The British Parliament was the target of a cyberattack this weekend. Around 90 email accounts belonging to parliamentarians were believed to have been hacked, but amid fears that the breach could lead to blackmail attempts, officials were forced to lock MPs out of their own email accounts as they scrambled to minimize the damage from the incident. The Guardian reports that although the investigation is at an early stage, Moscow has been deemed the most likely culprit. Guardian, BBC News
Two botched attacks in Europe in recent days -- in Brussels and Paris -- signal that Islamist terror has entered a new phase, security officials say, one that is more disorganized and less sophisticated but risks spawning a growing number of assailants keen to kill with any means at hand. “We may be entering an era not of lone wolf, but stray dog attacks,” said one Western security official.  Wall Street Journal
Saudi Arabian security forces foiled a terror plot targeting the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, exchanging gunfire with one of the suspects who blew himself up inside a home on Friday, the interior ministry said on Saturday. Five people, including a woman, were arrested in security operations in Mecca. Guardian
German Chancellor Angela Merkel famously made terse remarks in 2013 after learning her mobile phone had been tapped by the NSA. “Spying among friends, that isn’t done.” As it turns out, Germany was spying on America too, even targeting the White House, reports Der Spiegel. Documents that Spiegel has been able to review show that the BND, until a few years ago, actually had considerable interest in the United States as a target of espionage. The document states that just under 4,000 search terms, or selectors, were directed against American targets between 1998 and 2006. Der Spiegel
Italy and terror attacks: Unlike almost all of its big European neighbors, Italy has not experienced a major terrorist attack since the 1980s. Experts say the country has learned harsh lessons from anti-mafia policing, understands dangers of radicalisation in jail, and also relies on surveillance and deportation. Authorities also have good control of the territory. “The absence of [French] banlieues-like spots in Italian major cities, and …[the predominance] of small and medium towns makes it easier to monitor the situation,” says Giampiero Massolo, who served as the director of Italian intelligence from 2012 to 2016. Guardian

The Kremlin has decided to recall its ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak, after nearly 10 years in Washington, BuzzFeed News reports. The decision to bring Kislyak back to Russia rather than appoint him to a senior position at the United Nations in New York, as several outlets previously reported, comes amid investigations by the FBI and Congress into the 66-year-old diplomat’s contacts with President Donald Trump’s top aides during the 2016 presidential campaign. BuzzFeed
This is what foreign spies see when they read Trump’s tweets: “At the CIA, I tracked and analyzed terrorists and other U.S. enemies, including North Korea,” writes Nada Bakos in the Washington Post. “But we never had such a rich source of raw intelligence about a world leader, and we certainly never had the opportunity that our adversaries (and our allies) have now — to get a real-time glimpse of a major world leader’s preoccupations, personality quirks and habits of mind. If we had, it would have given us significant advantages in our dealings with them.”
How Putin seduced Oliver Stone - and Trump: “Many Americans have been looking for an explanation for Trump’s apparent adoration of Putin,” writes Masha Gessen in the New York Times. “How can a powerful, wealthy American man hold affection for the tyrannical, corrupt leader of a hostile power? Oddly, Oliver Stone’s ‘The Putin Interviews’ provide psychological and intellectual answers to that question.”
The ex-journalist who says Al Jazeera aids terrorists: “Mohamed Fahmy is the last person one would expect to make the case against al-Jazeera,” writes Eli Lake in “In 2014, the former Cairo bureau chief for the Qatar-funded television network began a 438-day sentence in an Egyptian prison on terrorism charges and practicing unlicensed journalism. His incarceration made al-Jazeera a powerful symbol of resistance to Egypt’s military dictatorship.  Today Fahmy is preparing a lawsuit against his former employers. And while he is still highly critical of the regime that imprisoned him, he also says the Egyptian government is correct when it says al-Jazeera is really a propaganda channel for Islamists and an arm of Qatari foreign policy.”
I fled ISIS’s caliphate in Raqqa - but fear the city's liberators: “In January 2016, I left behind my home in Raqqa, unable to live any longer under the rule of the Islamic State. I dreamed of returning when the city was liberated from the terrorist group. Now that dream seems on the verge of realization,” writes Marwan Hisham in Foreign Policy. “Instead of being jubilant, however, I worry that my city’s troubles are far from over. These days, I sit with my friends in exile joking about the inaccurate map produced by the media of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).”
NATO can fight terrorism and help refugees: “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has now formally enlisted in the fight against Islamic State. It can begin by helping to stem the flow of refugees trying to reach Europe from North Africa,” writes Bloomberg View in an editorial. “This would be more than a humanitarian exercise; it would be a counterterrorism operation.”
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Last Days of the Islamic State

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