The Early Edition: March 31, 2016 by Nadia O’Mara
Before the start of business, Just Securityprovides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
EUROPEAN TERROR THREAT
Fayçal Cheffou is still suspected of committing terrorist murder despite having been released by Belgian authorities. Vince Chadwick et al explore the investigation into the suspected Brussels attacker. [Politico]
The chief suspect in a foiled Paris terror plot has been charged with terrorism, the Paris prosecutor said yesterday. The suspected ISIS operative, Reda Kriket, was found to have an assortment of weapons and explosive devices, “some of them primed for use.” [France 24, New York Times’ Aurelien Breeden and Lilia Blaise]
Airports are looking into how technology could improve security systems, in the wake of Brussels. The deadly attacks have also served as a warning that technology is not a silver bullet for security, reports Robert Wall. [Wall Street Journal]
ISIS has called on German Muslims to attack the chancellery and the Cologne-Bonn airport, posting pictures online, reports the SITE intelligence group. [Reuters]
Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam will cooperate with French authorities, his lawyer has said today, confirming his client’s wish to be extradited to France from Belgium. Abdeslam has links to several of those involved in the Brussels attacks. [France 24]
France’s government has not missed the opportunity to “trumpet its frustrations” at European institutional failings to adequately tackle the terrorist threat, in the wake of the Brussels attacks. Pierre Briançon provides the story at Politico.
France faces a difficult struggle to combat homegrown jihadism, reports Nicholas Vinocur, citing “false starts and ideological discomfort” as undermining the country’s attempts to handle the threat posed by foreign fighters. [Politico]
“Do all roads lead through Italy for ISIS?” Barbie Latza Nadeau considers the increasing number of terrorism arrests and connections with the group’s operatives, a situation which has Italian authorities struggling to connect the dots. [The Daily Beast]
IRAQ and SYRIA
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad described plans to form a transitional government as “illogical and unconstitutional” when he spoke to Russian media yesterday, Hugh Naylor and Michael Birnbaum suggesting that he was “buoyed” by his recent major victory in Palmyra. Assad also expressed support for peace talks next month, but rejected the opposition’s key demands. [Washington Post]
Assad also suggested that it would not be difficult to form a new Syrian government that included opposition figures, his opponents responding immediately that no administration could be legitimate while he remained in office. [Reuters]
Iraqi forces backed by US-led coalition airstrikes advanced on the western town of Hit, near Baghdad, today. Removing Islamic State from Hit would leave the militants with only one stronghold near the capital, Falluja. [Reuters]
At least one Russian Mi-28 attack helicopter assisted Assad’s forces in retaking Palmyra this week, underscoring Russia’s continued support of the Syrian regime, reports David Axe. [The Daily Beast]
It is time for the Obama administration to give “a forthright assessment of the resources that would be required” to oust Islamic State from the two major cities it still controls, Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, says the New York Times editorial board.
There are at least 12 US generals in Iraq despite the fact that there are only 5000 troops stationed there – about enough for one general, reports Nancy A Youssef, who considers the possible reasons for this apparent imbalance. [The Daily Beast]
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out four strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on March 30. Separately, partner forces conducted 20 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
NUCLEAR SECURITY SUMMIT
President Obama will convene his fourth Nuclear Security Summit in Washington today, with over 50 countries due to attend. Russia is boycotting the summit, which “could detract from decisions” reached. [Reuters’ Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom] The White House’s press call preceding the summit was released yesterday.
“Of all the threats to global security and peace, the most dangerous is the proliferation and potential use of nuclear weapons.” Ahead of the summit, Barack Obama sets out what has been achieved so far in terms of ridding nations of uranium and plutonium, and moving toward a world without nuclear weapons. [Washington Post]
The US and the UK are to simulate a cyber attack on a nuclear power plant, a “war-game” designed to test the ability of the nations’ governments and utility companies’ to respond to such an attack. [The Guardian’s Heather Stewart]
The UK is to exchange 700 kilograms of nuclear waste for the “largest ever” movement of highly enriched uranium with the US, UK Prime Minister David Cameron will announce at the summit today. The uranium will be used to produce medical isotopes, used to treat some forms of cancer. A British government source has called the deal a “win-win” situation. [Reuters]
The increase in anti-China sentiment on the US presidential election campaign will “cast a shadow” over Obama’s one-on-one meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping at the summit today, reports Mark Landler. Experts have warned that the Chinese are taking the anti-China rhetoric employed by the presidential candidates, particularly Donald Trump, “more seriously” than in previous elections, and view it as “a gauge of American intentions.” [New York Times]
Turkish President Erdogan “may face some tough questions about the direction he’s taking his country” at a Q&A session planned as part of the summit. His visit to the US, which began yesterday, was preceded by the release of a letter signed by numerous, mainly right-leaning and neoconservative, foreign policy thinkers warning that the situation in Turkey is “deeply troubling.” [Politico’s Nahal Toosi]
CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY
Apple v. FBI. The American government has employed the same legal tactic – relying on the All Writs Act – that it used in its dispute with Apple in over 60 other phone-unlocking cases, according to a tallyby the American Civil Liberties Union. The number includes iPhones and devices running Google’s Android operating system. [The Guardian’s Danny Yadron] Apple has faced such requests since at least 2008. [NPR’s Naomi Lachance]
The FBI has agreed to use its new capabilities unlock another iPhone and an iPod in relation to a murder case being investigated by Arkansas police. [BBC]
Apple may never find out how the FBI succeeded in breaking into the iPhone of Syed Farook, despite the US vulnerabilities equities process under which the government is supposed to favor disclosure of security issues so companies can remedy errors. Dustin Volz explains. [Reuters]
US citizens should “absolutely” still have confidence in their personal privacy, despite the government’s success in breaking into the Apple iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said yesterday. [Reuters]
“Should hackers help the FBI?” was the question posed on the New York Times’ ‘Room for Debate’ yesterday.
“A conversation on privacy.” The Intercept hosts footage of a discussion on privacy rights between Edward Snowden, Noam Chomsky and Glenn Greenwald at the University of Arizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Alex Emmons reporting.
Prime Minister Fayez Serraj and six other members of Libya’s UN-backed unity government defied an air blockade to travel to Tripoli, Libya’s capital, yesterday. Serraj’s Government of National Accord is one of three governments vying for control of the country, but is the only one that has the support of Western powers. [New York Times’ Declan Walsh; The Guardian’s Chris Stephen]
Unwelcome interlopers. The head of the Tripoli authorities, Khalifa Ghweil, told Serraj’s envoy “to surrender and be safe in our custody or to return to where they came from” in a televised address. Soon after the politicians’ arrival, a local television channel supportive of authorities in Tripoli was stormed by gunmen and forced off-air. It has not been established to whom the gunmen are affiliated. [BBC]
The situation in Libya undermines Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s “supreme credential,” her “foreign policy mastery” while serving as secretary of state, according to George F Will. [Washington Post]
Libya’s “chaos” is threatening neighboring Tunisia’s “fragile democracy,” reports Leila Fadel. At the same time, many of the Islamic State fighters currently in Libya have come over from Tunisia. Tunisian security forces were able to prevent the Islamist group from seizing the border town of Ben Guerdane on March 7, which would have enabled Islamic State to move freely between the two countries. [NPR]
HILLARY CLINTON EMAIL CONTROVERSY
FBI Director James Comey is likely to interview Hillary Clinton over the next few days or weeks, as part of the investigation into her use of private emails while serving as secretary of state. [The Daily Beast]
“Heads, Clinton’s indicted; tails, they’re corrupt.” Ruth Marcus worries about the consequences if Hillary Clinton is not charged with a crime as a result of the FBI investigation, a decision which a large “school of people” would never accept as the result of “independent, sober-minded prosecutors looking at the facts and the law and reaching a contrary conclusion.” [Washington Post]
Up to a dozen more Guantánamo Bay prisoners are to be transferred, the Defense Department told Congress late last night. The detainees will be transferred to at least two countries, which have not been identified. [New York Times’ Nicholas Fandos; BBC] One of those due to be transferred is a Yemeni detainee who has been on hunger strike since 2007, Tariq Ba Odah. Repatriations from the detention center to Yemen are banned, meaning that another country will have to be found to take him. [ Washington Post ’s Adam Goldman]
Out of fear that they are financing terror or money laundering, US banks have closed thousands of accounts belonging to individuals and firms they consider “suspicious, high-risk or difficult to monitor.” This “evicts from the financial system the innocent as well as those the US government would most like to watch,” report Rob Barry and Rachel Louise Ensign. [Wall Street Journal]
There are more foreign intelligence operatives in the US now than ever before, former head of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers stated during his speech at the Heritage Foundation yesterday. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]
Contenders for the post of UN secretary-general are to take part in a public debate next monthbefore representatives from the 193 member nations, followed by unprecedented public debates in New York and London. Previous secretary-generals have been chosen in private by the dominant powers on the Security Council. [The Guardian’s Julian Borger]
The “public and political storm” whipped up by the shooting of an injured Palestinian man by an Israeli soldier in occupied West Bank, caught on video and widely distributed, poses “a rare challenge” to the Israeli military’s high command. The army’s predicament was underlined by Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot in a letter sent to commanders and soldiers yesterday. [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner] The incident has attracted the outrage of the UN, which has referred to it as an “apparent extrajudicial execution.” [Al Jazeera]
A suicide bombing in a cafe in the town of Galkayo, Somalia, has killed at least nine people today. Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack. [AP]
Boko Haram fighters have killed six soldiers from Niger in the town of Diffa, on the border with Nigeria. [BBC]
The UN has widened its investigation of reports of sexual abuse in Central African Republic amid further allegations. [Reuters’ Louis Charbonneau]
US troops are “afraid to fight” because of “rules and regulations” like the Geneva Conventions, Donald Trump remarked at an afternoon town hall yesterday. “We can’t waterboard, but they can chop off heads,” he observed, stating that “I think we’ve got to make some changes, some adjustments.” [Politico’s Ben Schreckinger] Trump received the endorsement of the National Border Patrol Council in a statement released yesterday, referring to the presidential candidate as the only one “who actually threatens the established powers that have betrayed this country.” [NPR]
Serbian ultra-nationalist Vojislav Seselj is “a free man” following the ICTY’s verdict today that he is not guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Balkan wars in the 1990s. [BBC]
Mosque leaders in Scotland have been linked to a “proscribed organization,” Sipah-e-Sahaba, formed in Pakistan in the 1980s with links to the Taliban and al-Qaeda and banned by the UK Home Office in 2001. [BBC]
Is China enforcing sanctions against North Korea? asks Matt Rivers, reporting on the caravans of trucks that pass from China to North Korea everyday filled with goods that “represent North Korea’s economic lifeline.” [CNN]
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Blogs Reviews by mikenova
Blogs Reviews: Global Voices | Huffington Post |
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10:58 AM 3/31/2016 – Today’s Headlines Link: Russia Is Maintaining Most of Its Military Aircraft and Equipment in Syria… by Mike Nova (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Russia Is Maintaining Most of Its Military Aircraft and Equipment in Syria, US Officials Say – ABC News | » Rise of Isil raises nuclear terrorism threat, Harvard researchers warn 30/03/16 22:06 from Mike Nova’s Shared Newslinks – Today’s Headlines – 10:47 AM 3/31/2016
NEWS: The World and Security Review: http://newslinksandbundles.blogspot.com/ The main news stories from the major sources; selected, compiled, and occasionally commented on by Mike Nova
Mr. Trump’s Dangerous Babble on Foreign Policy – The New York Times – Headlines – 3:49 PM 3/30/2016 by mikenova
- U.S. to deploy armored brigade combat teams to Europe | Reuters
- America Needs Frank Talk on ISIS – The New York Times
- Nuclear Materials Remain Vulnerable to Theft, Despite U.S.-Led Effort – The New York Times
- Dilma Rousseff Loses Support From Key Part of Brazilian Coalition – The New York Times
- Exclusive: Russia, despite draw down, shipping more to Syria than removing | Reuters
- US Relocates Most Defense Family Members from Turkey
- US to beef up military presence in Eastern Europe – TheUnion local.com | TheUnion.com
- Khamenei says missiles, not just talks, key to Iran’s future | Reuters
- Can Trump become so unpopular that Democrats take back the House? – The Washington Post
- Exclusive: Most Americans support torture against terror suspects – poll | Reuters
- All three Republican presidential candidates back away from pledge to support eventual nominee – The Washington Post
- Donald Trump revokes pledge to support Republican nominee | US news | The Guardian
- Apple still doesn’t know how FBI hacked San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone without their help | Fox News
- Latest Plan to Rescue Puerto Rico Is Met With Disdain on Island – The New York Times
- NEWS: The World and Global Security Review: Headlines – 9:15 AM 3/30/2016
- NEWS: The World and Global Security Review: Russia ‘will release pilot Nadiya Savchenko if US releases world number one arms dealer Viktor Bout’ by Allison Quinn
- NEWS: The World and Global Security Review: Islamic State Praises Brussels Suicide Bombers
- NEWS: The World and Global Security Review: » The Strategic Importance of Palmyra 30/03/16 15:38 from Mike Nova’s Shared Newslinks
Today’s Headlines and Commentary by Elina Saxena
The U.S. government has ordered families of diplomats and military members in Turkey to leave the country amid fears of rising security threats in the region. According to the Wall Street Journal, “the Pentagon and State Department said on Tuesday they had directed family members of most military and diplomatic personnel in Turkey to leave the country, which has been hit by four major attacks this year.” With more than 650 Americans expected to leave Turkey as a result of the decision, Reuters adds that “100 military dependents in Ankara and Istanbul were not affected by the departure orders because of security measures in place there.” According to the Washington Post, the decision will primarily affect “family members of officials posted to the U.S. consulate in Adana, near the Mediterranean coast in south-central Turkey and in Izmir and Mugla provinces on the western coast.” Additionally, official travel within the country has been limited to “mission critical.” Commander of European Command Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove said that the “decision to move our families and civilians was made in consultation with the Government of Turkey, our State Department, and our Secretary of Defense.” The Daily Beast has more.
Over in Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared that Iran would continue its ballistic missile program, suggesting that “those who say the future is in negotiations, not in missiles, are either ignorant or traitors.” In a post on his official website, the Ayatollah said that “it’s the time of both missiles and dialogue.” Iran began its latest round of missile testing at the end of last year despite the historical nuclear agreement and rising international pressure. In a joint letter to Spain’s U.N. Ambassador Roman Oyarzun Marchesi and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. and European officials suggested that Iran’s “recent ballistic tests involved missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and were ‘inconsistent with’ and ‘in defiance of’ council resolution 2231,” Reuters writes. For his part, Ban Ki-moon noted that Iranian missile tests had caused “alarm and concern” but maintained that the Security Council had the final say in deciding what to do about Iran’s missile program.
President Bashar al Assad suggested on Russian state media that “independent forces, opposition forces, and forces loyal to the state” could form a new government but has so far resisted calls for him to step down. Responding to Assad, opposition politicians argued that Syria “needs a transitional ruling body with full executive powers and not a participatory government under President Bashar al-Assad.” This is the latest disagreement in a series of over the political future of Syria, as the BBC notes that “the major powers backing rival sides in the war agree that there must be a political transition process, a new constitution and elections in Syria, but so far the talks in Geneva have not produced any signs of progress.”
Politico reports that “U.S.-backed Syrian opposition leaders want President Barack Obama to push harder for an agreement that bids farewell to Assad” as some members of the opposition “worry that if a deal on a political transition isn’t reached soon, the U.S. presidential election could distract the administration and sap its resolve.”
The Washington Post sheds light on the Russian elite special forces, also known as Spetsnaz, who have helped shape the fight in Syria. Despite Russia’s drawdown of forces in Syria, Reuters tells us that Russia is shipping more to the country than it is removing, suggesting that “Russia is working intensively to maintain its military infrastructure in Syria and to supply the Syrian army so that it can scale up again swiftly if need be.”
Foreign Policy tells us about how the Free Syrian Army is leveraging backlash against al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, after the latter shut down a nationalist protest in Maarat al-Nu’man earlier this month.
Turning to Israel, after footage surfaced of an Israeli soldier shooting and killing a wounded Palestinian attacker over the weekend, Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot issued a memo to Israeli security personnel reinforcing the “purity of arms” code of conduct. According to the New York Times, the memo confirmed that “the military would continue to support any soldier who errs in battle but will also punish those who stray from its moral code.” The Times adds that the soldier involved in the incident was arrested “after an initial inquiry concluded he acted improperly but protesters and right-wing politicians have come to his defense and accused the army of abandoning him.”
Yemeni forces backed by local fighters have pushed militants back from areas of Aden held by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The militant group has developed a stronghold in the southern port city as the country’s civil conflict continues. Meanwhile, a new report from Unicef says that “children are paying the highest price” in the Yemeni conflict as “at least 934 children have been killed […], 61 percent of them in airstrikes,” in addition to 1,356 who have been wounded. The report also noted that at least 51 schools have been hit by airstrikes since the conflict began and that children are increasingly being recruited by armed groups involved.
Over in Afghanistan, Taliban militants killed 15 Afghan security personnel during a gunfight in the country’s southern Uruzgan province. The Associated Press tells us that “the fighting took place late Tuesday during an operation to reopen an important highway in the province” and that Afghan security forces gained control of the highway after the fighting.
Brussels’ Zaventem airport remains closed today as officials continue temporary restoration of the departure hall which was torn apart in last week’s blasts. Meanwhile, investigators are still searching for a third suspect in the airport bombing and a second suspect in the metro attack but have not “ruled out that a third man seen in the airport video was also the second assailant at the metro.” The Journal writes that “the Monday release of the only suspect charged with direct involvement in the Brussels attacks has dealt investigators a major setback—forcing them to revisit leads from the immediate aftermath of the explosions.” After accidentally double counting 3 victims, Belgian officials also revised the official count of those killed in the attacks to 32.
In neighboring France, President François Hollande dropped his proposal to amend the French constitution, stating that “parts of the opposition have been hostile to any revision of the constitution.” Under his proposed amendments, French nationals who hold dual-citizenship and are convicted of terrorism would be stripped of their French nationality. Hollande initially proposed the constitutional changes following the November attacks in Paris, but his proposal has been met with fierce resistance with critics suggesting that such measures would create a discriminatory, “two-tiered” system of French nationality.
NATO is ramping up its presence in Eastern Europe in efforts to increase U.S. military deterrence against Russian aggression in the region. “The Pentagon has drawn up plans to position American troops, tanks and other armored vehicles full time along NATO’s eastern borders to deter Russian aggression, in what would be the first such deployment since the end of the Cold War,” the Journal tells us. Russian officials suggested that the United States is “using false pretexts to continue a military buildup on Russia’s border.” Foreign Policy adds that “the move will add hundreds of the Army’s most advanced tanks, cannons, and other ground vehicles to the force,” including “250 tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Paladin self-propelled howitzers as well as more than 1,700 additional wheeled vehicles and trucks.”
Two vehicles exploded in the Dagestan region of Russia, leaving one police officer dead and two injured. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. According to Reuters, “Dagestan, where Kremlin critics say widespread poverty and corruption help feed religious extremism, last saw similar attacks on police in February,” and some militants in the region have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State.
Elsewhere in the country, some 20 Islamic State supporters attempting to recruit fighters were arrested in Moscow during a joint operation between the FSB and Russian Police. Reuters cites Russia’s RIA news agency as saying that the majority of the arrested suspects are citizens of the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan and were found with numerous fake documents.
Amid the ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the Philippines is considering building a submarine. Agence France-Presse writes that the Philippines, “which has never before operated submarines and until now relied largely on US surplus ships, has been ramping up defence spending in response to China’s military expansion in the region.”
Also in the South China Sea, the New York Times takes a look at U.S. naval activity in the region, shedding light on the interactions between U.S. patrol vessels and the Chinese military in the region.
A Minnesota man, Abdul Raheem Habil Ali-Skelton, was charged with three felony counts of making terroristic threats after he allegedly threatened to “shoot up” a Walgreens. Elsewhere in the United States, Jaelyn Young, the Mississippi woman who attempted to join ISIS with her husband last August, pled guilty to one count of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Her husband pled guilty to similar charges earlier this month. The Daily Beast notes that “more than 80 people have been charged with ISIS-related crimes in the U.S. since 2014.”
Parting Shot: ABC News’ Bob Woodruff takes us inside of China’s “ISIS breeding ground” in China’s western Xinjiang province. With increasing outbreaks between the local Muslim Uyghur population and the Han Chinese, “Beijing has increasingly become worried as ISIS has trained a crosshair on China and Xinjiang.”
ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare
Susan wagered that the FBI will tell Apple how it accessed the San Bernardino iPhone, but for reasons not related to the Vulnerabilities Equities Process.
Ben predicted the imminent return of the encryption debate.
Laura Dean took a look at Syrian and Iraqi Kurds who fear being returned to Turkey.
Matthew Wein considered the immigration debate and argued that “a wall is not going to deter those seeking a better life, nor those wishing to do us harm.”
Ben invited readers to a lunch debate on “Using Data to Secure Networks: Optimizing Individual Privacy While Achieving Strong Security.”
Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.
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Global nuclear security must be improved, report says, as developments in Belgium fuel fears of nightmare scenario