The Soufan Group Morning Brief


In what appears to be a major security oversight, an interactive map posted on the Internet that shows the whereabouts of people who use fitness devices such as Fitbit also reveals highly sensitive information about the locations and activities of soldiers at U.S. military bases.

The Global Heat Map, published by the GPS tracking company Strava, uses satellite information to map the locations and movements of subscribers to the company’s fitness service over a two-year period, by illuminating areas of activity.

Strava says it has 27 million users around the world, including people who own widely available fitness devices such as Fitbit and Jawbone, as well as people who directly subscribe to its mobile app.
Most parts of the United States and Europe, where millions of people use some type of fitness tracker, show up on the map as blazes of light because there is so much activity.

In war zones and deserts in countries such as Iraq and Syria, the heat map becomes almost entirely dark — except for scattered pinpricks of activity. Zooming in on those areas brings into focus the locations and outlines of known U.S. military bases, as well as of other unknown and potentially sensitive sites — presumably because American soldiers and other personnel are using fitness trackers as they move around.

The U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State said on Monday it is revising its guidelines on the use of all wireless and technological devices on military facilities as a result of the revelations. Washington Post, Guardian, CNN
After reports last week that President Trump tried to fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller last June, GOP lawmakers warned the president this weekend not to fire Mueller, but showed little sense of urgency to advance long-stalled legislation to protect the special counsel. “I don’t think there’s a need for legislation right now to protect Mueller,” Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House majority leader, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Right now there’s not an issue. So why create one when there isn’t a place for it?”

“It’s pretty clear to me that everybody in the White House knows it would be the end of President Trump’s presidency if he fired Mr. Mueller,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Graham, who has drafted one of two bipartisan bills to protect Mueller, said he would be “glad to pass it right now,” but quickly suggested that there was no need to do so. New York Times, Politico

On Friday, Foreign Policy reported that Trump pressed senior aides last June to devise and carry out a campaign to discredit senior FBI officials after learning that those specific employees were likely to be witnesses against him as part of Mueller’s investigation. The report identified the three officials as Andrew McCabe, the current deputy FBI director, who was briefly acting FBI director after Comey’s firing; Jim Rybicki, Comey’s chief of staff and senior counselor; and James Baker, formerly the FBI’s general counsel. Foreign Policy
Politico: 12 Legal Experts on What They Think the Special Counsel Will Do Next

A secret, highly contentious Republican memo reveals that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein approved an application to extend surveillance of a former Trump campaign associate shortly after taking office last spring, reports the New York Times.

The renewal shows that the Justice Department under President Trump saw reason to believe that the associate, Carter Page, was acting as a Russian agent. But the reference to Mr. Rosenstein’s actions in the memo — a much-disputed document that paints the investigation into Russian election meddling as tainted from the start — indicates that Republicans may be moving to seize on his role as they seek to undermine the inquiry. New York Times

The House Intelligence Committee, led by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), will vote as early as Monday on whether to declassify the memo, compiled under Nunes and shared with some House members. Trump would then have five days to try to block its release. The Justice Department warned Nunes last week that it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release the memo without vetting from the intelligence community, but Trump is open about wanting it released. The Week

White House mulls nationalization of 5G network: Trump national security officials are considering an unprecedented federal takeover of a portion of the nation’s mobile network to guard against China, reports Axios. Documents produced by a National Security Council officials suggest that America needs a centralized nationwide 5G wireless network within three years, and that one option is for the government to pay for and build the single network. Axios

Intel warned China of chip flaws before U.S. government: In initial disclosures about critical security flaws discovered in its processors, Intel notified a small group of customers, including Chinese technology companies, but left out the U.S. government. Wall Street Journal

Musicians get counterterrorism briefing before Grammys: High-profile Grammy attendees, including Pink, Little Big Town, and Chris Stapleton, received an all-day counterterrorism training, held in a Times Square hotel suite, before the Grammys on Sunday. The decision to hold the briefing, which included training on situational awareness and identifying vulnerable points and times of increased risk, was made in the wake of recent attacks on concerts in Manchester, Las Vegas and Paris. Rolling Stone

At least 103 people were killed and more than 230 wounded in a suicide car bombing near a police checkpoint in Kabul on Saturday -- one of the deadliest attacks on the capital in years.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes one week after another Taliban-claimed attack on a luxury hotel in Kabul left at least 22 people dead.

Afghan officials, led by the country’s spy chief, Masoom Stanikzai, said Pakistan was directly responsible for Saturday’s attack, accusing Islamabad of using the Taliban and its Haqqani network affiliate—as well as Islamic State—to exact revenge for the Trump administration’s decision to increase pressure on Pakistan to end its purported support for radical Islamists in Afghanistan.

On Monday, attacks continued, with militants raiding a military academy in Kabul and killing 11 soldiers. NPR, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Reuters

A female Kurdish fighter carried out what appeared to be a suicide bombing attack on the Turkish military in Syria on Sunday, destroying a tank and killing several Turkish soldiers with a grenade. If confirmed, it would be the first case of a suicide attack by the Kurds against Turkey’s forces in Syria since its ground troops crossed the border earlier this month. New York Times

Gunmen kill 3 soldiers in Mali: Gunmen killed at least three Malian soldiers in an attack on a military post in the northeast on Sunday, capping a week of violence that has stoked concerns about worsening security in the region. Reuters

A sweeping anticorruption campaign that has upended Saudi Arabian politics started with a request from the country’s king and new crown prince to prominent citizens: Make patriotic contributions to help shore up government finances, reports the Wall Street Journal.

It was only after the plea for cash was largely rebuffed that the prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered that members of the country’s elite be arrested and taken to Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel, where they were accused of bribery and other crimes and pressed to make what the government has termed settlement payments.

Billionaire Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men and a large investor in Twitter and other Western companies, was among a handful of businessmen freed over the weekend after agreeing to make payments and, in some cases, hand over corporate holdings. Wall Street Journal, Reuters

A wave of bombings carried out against police stations this weekend has rocked Colombia’s Caribbean coast, with three attacks within 24 hours killing seven officers and wounding dozens more. The motive behind the bombings remained unclear. Officials have speculated that it could be retaliation by criminal groups for police raids. New York Times

Protesters across Russia braved icy temperatures on Sunday to demonstrate against the lack of choice in the March 18 election that is virtually certain to see President Vladimir V. Putin chosen for a fourth term.

The protests in scores of cities — from Vladivostok in the east to Kaliningrad in the west — were called by Aleksei Navalny, the anticorruption opposition leader, after he was barred from running for the presidency because of legal problems that he said had been manufactured to prevent his candidacy.

Navalny was dragged roughly by police into a bus shortly after he arrived at the demonstration on Moscow’s central thoroughfare, Tverskaya Street, according to a live video feed from the scene. Navalny later said on Twitter that he had been released pending trial, and thanked his supporters. New York Times, Associated Press, Bloomberg
The psychological trick behind Trump’s misleading terror stats: President Trump has been criticized for tweeting a report that suggests “nearly 3 in 4 individuals convicted of terrorism-related charges are foreign born,” said Leaf Van Boven and Paul Slovic in Politico. “But there is a more fundamental problem with thinking about terrorist risks in this way. The 75 percent statistic ignores the rarity of terrorist-related activities despite the very large number of foreign-born individuals in the United States. Treating 75 percent as a meaningful measure of risk is deceitful—it’s lying with statistics. If an individual is foreign-born, the likelihood that the person has engaged in terrorism-related activities is nearly zero. There are approximately 41 million foreign-born people living in the United States; 402 out of 41 million is a miniscule proportion—less than 0.001 percent.”

Attacking North Korea is unthinkable. Or is it? “If radical concessions like pulling troops off the peninsula won't work, the U.S. will have to take out Kim's nukes and artillery from the air,” said Tobin Harshaw in

The ‘killer robots’ are us: “The terms in which we frame this debate are crucial: If we fail to understand the problem correctly, and fail to set the appropriate terms and boundaries of the debate from the beginning, we risk searching in the fundamentally wrong places for killer robots and the means to mitigate their pernicious expression,” writes Michael Robillard in the New York Times.

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSC IntelBrief.

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