Vigilance Not Terror Required in Wake of Islamic State Threat to Service Members

On Sunday, March 22nd, a group identifying itself as the “Hacking Organization” of the Islamic State released what it claims are the identities of one hundred American Servicemen and women offered up as potential targets for Islamic State supporters in the United States. Reports indicate that at least some of the names on the list are accurate, and Military law enforcement agencies have notified those involved:

A U.S. law enforcement official said that all 100 or so troops named in the file are being contacted. It is believed that ISIS members and sympathizers have been scouring social media sites trying to glean as much information as possible about service members, and have even threatened the spouses of military personnel online. The file appeared to include information that is already available publicly, through social media accounts, online phone directories and other accessible public records.

The Islamic State has previously called for the targeting of U.S. and allied military personnel in a general way, and has previously been reported to engage in gathering open source information online and releasing it in a coordinated way in order to strike fear (a technique known as Doxxing). Islamic State has previously issued targeted threats such as this to individuals it claimed to identify as fighter pilots serving in Arab-allied air forces in the propaganda video release of the death of Jordanian pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh, and against individuals it alleged were Mossad officers or agents,  in the video of the execution of alleged Mossad asset Muhammad Said Ismail Musallam. In neither case, to the best of our knowledge, has Islamic State successfully launched an operation against named individuals.

There is also reason to doubt that the “Islamic State Hacking Organization” is directly connected to the Islamic State itself. American anti-Jihad “hacktivist” Th3J35t3r wrote on Saturday that individuals involved in the “IS Hacking Organization” have previously been identified as members of “Anonymous”, and that despite expressing pro-Islamic State sentiments, may not be directly connected to the organization itself.

Regardless, the call is likely to be taken as authentic and legitimate by Islamic State supporters in the West, and authorities are correct to urge vigilance not just for those individuals who may have been named, but for all American servicemen and women. Yet we should avoid treating this most recent threat as something new, as military members have been targeted as far back as the Little Rock Recruiting Station attack in 2009 when a recent convert to Islam Carlos Bledsoe conducted an attack killing one and wounding another. It does however serve as yet another reminder that in the current Global Jihad against the west, there are no front lines.

About Kyle Shideler

Kyle Shideler is the Director and Senior Analyst for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism at the Center for Security Policy. Mr. Shideler specializes in Islamist groups operating in the United States, having spent over a decade researching and writing on their history, doctrine, and impact. Read his complete bio here. Follow Shideler on Twitter at @ShidelerK.