As 80 percent of Americans were saying ISIS poses a serious threat to the United States in a new poll, Islamic State (ISIS) supporters were finalizing an English language hit-list of 100 US military personnel, including their photos and addresses. The list – which Homeland Security Today has reviewed — began to be circulated on jihadi forums and social media on March 21.
The hit list is much like the hit list Al Qaeda supporters circulated on jihadist social media sites in June 2011 which Homeland Security Today first reported. The difference is the current list provides the home addresses of most of the service members on the new list, including top officers in very important command positions.
The group claiming responsibility for the new list is the heretofore unknown jihadi outfit calling itself the Islamic State Hacking Division (ISHD).
“Preceding the list is a message explaining that the group obtained this information by hacking several military servers, databases and emails containing details on personnel in the US Air Force, Navy and Army,” said the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which specializes in closely monitoring jihadi social media sites.
“The message also urges ISIS supporters in the US to assassinate the individuals on the list for their alleged involvement in the campaign against the Islamic State,” MEMRI said.
According to DoD and counterterrorism intelligence officials who spoke to Homeland Security Today on background because they aren’t authorized to discuss the matter, no DoD computer systems containing personally identifiable information on military personnel were breached. They said the information circulated in the ISHD “hit list” was most likely obtained by scouring publicly available information on the Internet, as well as purchasing specialized public databases and other online public information services that provide the sorts of details on individuals that is contained on the service members included on the list.
In its introduction to the list, ISHD warned, “With the huge amount of data we have from various different servers and databases, we have decided to leak 100 addresses so our brothers residing in America can deal with you.”
An estimated two-thirds of the military personnel on the list are featured on publicly available DoD websites, including the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System (DVIDs), a single site that contains literally thousands of photos and identifiable information such as names and service affiliations.
Home addresses, though, had to be obtained through other means, intelligence sources said.
“Whoever put this list together spent considerable time, money and resources to compile the personal information” on the service personnel on the list, one of the sources said.
The document did note, however, that, “A few of the addresses may not be current due to some of the database entries being outdated.”
Intelligence sources told Homeland Security Today the visitor logs of identified websites that were trolled for the personnel named on the list are being analyzed in the hope of correlating originating IP addresses and then comparing the IP addresses against public and other databases that could have been used to obtain home addresses.
Two-dozen of the 100 names on ISIS hit list are past or present personnel at Barksdale Air Force Base, including crew members from the 2nd Bomb Wing, an Air Force spokesperson confirmed. B-52 crew members with the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base are also on the list. San Diego- and North Carolina-based military members were also confirmed to be on the list, as well as high-ranking Naval officers.
The Pentagon said it has contacted everyone on the list and in some cases has sought local law enforcement’s help in stepping up police patrols of neighborhoods where some of the active duty service members live.
Responding to a question during a press briefing Monday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said “force protection is, of course, a paramount objective of us with respect to our forces all over the world. The information that was posted by ISIL was information taken from social websites and publicly available. It wasn’t stolen from any DOD websites or any confidential databases. We take the safety of our people very seriously. At the same time, this is the kind of social media messaging of a vile sort that ISIL specializes in, and that’s the reason — and the kind of behavior that causes us to be determined to defeat ISIL in the first place.”
Also on Monday, “Defense Department employees and their families” were reminded to “be vigilant when guarding personal and work information from expanding cyber-criminal activity, and to know how to recognize scammer tactics, according to DoD’s chief information officer, Terry A. Halvorsen, who’d issued a DoD-wide memorandum on March 18 about the growing threat of cybercrime “phishing” and “spear phishing” in emails, on social media sites and through phone calls.
"The Air Force Office of Special Investigations is coordinating with appropriate federal and local authorities on this matter [and] We have taken the appropriate steps to make sure that everyone impacted has been notified,” said a statement released Monday morning by the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Office. “As always, force protection is a primary concern. As such, we are encouraging all Airmen to ensure privacy settings on online/social media forums are adjusted to limit the amount of available personal information. As it relates to personal social media accounts, we are encouraging personnel to remove personal details such as physical addresses, email addresses and phone numbers.”
"O Kuffar [infidels] in America, O You who worship the cross, O You crusaders that fight the Islamic State, we say to you: “DIE IN YOUR RAGE!” Die in your rage because with the grace of Allah, The Islamic State Hacking Division has hacked several military servers, databases and emails and with all this access we have successfully obtained personal information related to military personnel in the United States Air Force, NAVY & Army …,” the document’s introduction stated.
Continuing, the introduction to the list of identified DoD personnel said, "O Brothers in America know that the jihad against the crusaders is not limited to the lands of the Caliphate, it is a world-wide jihad and their war is not just a war against the Islamic State, it is a war against Islam. These kuffar [infidels] that drop bombs over Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Khurasan [Afghanistan] and Somalia are from the same lands that you reside in, so when will you take action? Know that it is wajib [religious obligation] for you to kill these kuffar [infidels]! and now we have made it easy for you by giving you addresses, all you need to do is take the final step, so what are you waiting for? Kill them in their own lands, behead them in their own homes, stab them to death as they walk their streets thinking that they are safe …”
Hit list nothing new
Jihadi hit lists aren’t new. Islamist jihadi organizations and groups have issued hit lists in the past, and, in recent months, both ISIS and Al Qaeda have repeatedly urged jihadists throughout the West to target military members, high-level government officials and law enforcement officers.
On June 23, 2011, Emmy Award-winning journalist W. Scott Malone and I first reported that 11 of the nation’s top military leaders at the time were among 58 past and present military, corporate and civilian officials who were identified by members of the Al Qaeda-linked Ansar Al Mujahedeen jihadist forum as infidels who should be murdered, according to a jihadist “hit list” that accompanied a June 6 Florida fusion center bulletin.
The bulletin coincided with an unusual flurry of similar alerts that were issued at about the same time by the FBI, Department of Defense and DHS, and which came on the heels of then FBI Director Robert Mueller having told the Senate Committee on the Judiciary that one of the early assessments from intelligence seized at Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan is that Al Qaeda is committed to continuing attacks against the United States.
While some officials downplayed the “hit list” as wishful thinking by Al Qaeda-sympathetic jihadists, other counterterrorism authorities went on high alert in response to the jihadi forums’ members’ disturbing talk of assassinating top US military and corporate leaders — especially in light of testimony a few weeks earlier in a federal terrorism trial that revealed a senior Al Qaeda official had ordered the assassination of Lockheed Martin chairman and CEO because the company manufactures UAVs used by the US military in strikes against Al Qaeda and Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Al Qaeda leadership targets in Yemen and in special operations in Somalia.
Over the past year, Homeland Security Today reported, ISIS — through its media services and social media platforms – has repeatedly threatened attacks on the US homeland.In January, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), FBI and Pentagon issued multiple alerts about the possibility of a range of attacks, including cyberterrorism, a lone wolf attack and attacks specifically targeting military and law enforcement.
An October 11, 2014 joint DHS/FBI bulletin warned that although the Intelligence Community was unaware of a definitive terrorist plot, it noted terrorist groups can conduct an attack with little to no warning. Consequently, US soldiers, government civilians and family members were – and continue to be — urged to be vigilant. It noted that ISIS has specifically called on jihadists to target law enforcement.
The bulletin stated, “There will be a continued call — by the Islamic State and their supporters — for lone offender attacks against Western security forces (both military and law enforcement). These threats will likely increase as the US and its allies continue to carryout airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.”
With the strong presence of ISIS on social media, the bulletin urged members of the military to avoid posting anything to their social media accounts like personally identifiable information that might garner attention from the jihadist organization and leave them vulnerable to an attack.
“Think before you post,” stated a separate September 24 Army Threat Integration Center (ARTIC) Special Assessment. “Always assume everyone in the world will be able to see what you are posting, or tweeting, even if the site limits your posts to your friends and family.”
On September 18, 2014, Abu Muhammad Al Adnani, the official spokesman for ISIS, released an audio message via jihadi forums and Twitter calling for lone wolf attacks in the West, specifically identifying law enforcement, military and other government officials as targets.
ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi (Caliph Ibrahim) earlier vowed "volcanoes of jihad everywhere” while a pro-Islamic State social media group called upon ISIS supporters in the US to use the protests in Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere throughout the United States as a cover to carry out lone wolf attacks.
Senior AQAP leader Nasser Bin Ali Al Ansi reiterated the group’s call for attacks on Western targets and urged Muslims in the West to carry out lone wolf attacks.
Jihadists also have infested the world’s second biggest streaming music service SoundCloud, a Berlin-based social networking platform created in 2007 that allows users to upload and share audio content for free.
Both recent issues of ISIS and Al Qaeda’s respective magazines urged Islamist jihadists and the newly radicalized converts in the West to engage in lone wolf attacks.
The slick, professionally designed new issue of Inspire magazine published by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) – released last Christmas Eve on the 5th anniversary of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’sChristmas Day 2009 bombing attempt on Northwest Airlines Flight253 as it was on its landing approach to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport — devoted more than 30 pages of detailed instructions on how to build a powerful explosive AQAP’s bomb-maker purported can be “hidden” not only on aircraft, but can also be used to blow up other targets with the intent of causing ripples throughout US and Western economies.
Named targets include American, United, Continental and Delta airlines, as well as British Airways, EasyJet, Air France and Air France KI. Other objectives include “direct economic targets” and high-profile “economic personalities” like former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke (the current issue of Inspire says he’s the current chairman, raising questions about when the current issue was produced – Bernanke stepped down in February) and “wealthy entrepreneurs or company owners” like Bill Gates.
Titled, Neurotmesis: Cutting the Nerves and Isolating the Head (Neurotmesis is a Greek word meaning "to sever the nerves”), the latest issue of Inspire is very similar to the previous issue, as it focuses on instigating Muslims to carry out lone wolf attacks against the US. The focus on attacking the US is signaled in a letter by Yahya Ibrahim, the magazine’s editor-in-chief.
"Hereby, Inspire magazine is committed to arm Muslim individuals — as well as Muslim groups as is in this issue — in their Jihâd on America,” he proclaimed.
In January, only days after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) called for enhanced security in light of the terrorist attacks in Paris, federal authorities arrested Christopher Lee Cornell, a 20-year-old resident of the Cincinnati area who espoused support for ISIS on charges of attempting to kill a US government official and possession of a firearm in furtherance of attempted crime of violence.
The criminal complaint filed in US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio stated Cornell allegedly planned to detonate pipe bombs at the US Capitol and open fire on any nearby employees and officials in order to fulfill “the directives of violent jihadists.”
Also in January, ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad Al Adnani stated in a new 9:37-minute audio message released through the jihadi-linked Al Furqan media company, renewed his call last September to jihadists to carry out attacks in the West.
That same month — on the heels of what is believed to have been an Al Qaeda involved attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo — the Somalia-based Al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabaab Al Mujahideen released a 44-minute video featured American and Canadian fighters urging jihad against West.
Meanwhile, AQAP’s chief cleric Sheikh Harith Al Nadhari and Mokhtar Belmokhtar, commander of the Al Qaeda-linked jihad group Al Murabitun which operates in southern Algeria and North Mali, called on jihadists in the West to launch attacks.
In February, ISIS issued a list identifying 52 Jordanian pilots, their addresses, ranks and jobs. Among the named is Zaid ‘Ali Naqrash, commander of the Muwaffak Al Salti Airbase. MEMRI said, “The communiqué urges all Muslims in Jordan and Syria to attack the pilots on the list or at least provide useful information that would help reach them.”
Also in February, Ibrahim Al Rubaish, one of AQAP’s top clerics, called for waves of attacks against the West in an eight-and-a-half-minute audio message. “The unbelievers should be struck in their own countries, [and] anyone who insulted our prophet [should] be chastised, as well as anyone who expressed solidarity with he who insulted [the prophet], and [the jihad] work must continue, and the raid must be followed by another raid,” Rubaish declared.
In March, ISIS praised its online supporters and urged them to attack the White House.
Earlier this month, ISIS released two videos in which the ISIS praised its social media outreach and threatened once again that it will attack the West.
According to the MEMRI, in the first video, "Messages to the Media Knights," the jihadist organization acknowledged "the important role of its online supporters in achieving victories on the media front," and in the second video, "So They Kill and Are Killed,” the jihadi group threatens attacks on Western soil.
“ISIS boasted about the work of its supporters online, while noting such work had considerable benefits for its operations on the ground,” MEMRI said. And, not surprisingly, it “urged its supporters to continue their work online, which, it said, was a form of jihad.”
In its message, ISIS praised the attack the recent attack on the Bardo National Museum in Tunis that had killed more than a dozen and injured a dozen more – most of whom were foreign tourists.
Calling it a "blessed raid" that targeted "one of the dens of unbelief and vice,” ISIS said the attack was carried out by two "knights of the caliphate state" it identified as Abu Zakariya Al Tunisi and Abu Anas Al Tunisi.
ISIS made particular mention of the success of its attack despite the security measures that were in place — the museum is located inside the Tunisian parliamentary secure zone.
ISIS called the people killed and injured in its attack as "Crusaders and apostates."
“It also noted that during the operation, the attackers were able to besiege a ‘filthy group of nationals of Crusader countries’ who had been lured by the apostates in Tunisia to come to the country and turn it into their ‘pastureland of unbelief and debauchery,’” according to MEMRI.
“ISIS further warned those Tunisianapostates that the attack was only the beginning,” MEMRI said, saying ISIS’s message stated, "Behold what [shall make your situation] worse, O filthy ones. For what you have seen today is the beginning of the rain, Allah willing, and you shall not enjoy security or peace as long as the Islamic State has such men who do not tolerate injustice."
Earlier, MEMRI said, “the Ifriqiyya media company, which is associated with jihad organizations in North Africa, released an article titled, Just Another Day – Commentary on the Blessed Attack on Bardo Museum,” which stated “that the gunmen who carried out the attack, Yassine Laabidi and Hatem Khachnaoui, focused on killing infidels and ‘apostate’ policemen and soldiers.”
In this earlier message, ISIS also urged “Muslims to carry out similar attacks, especially against tourists, with emphasis on French, British, American and Israeli nationals,” MEMRI said.
ISIS further suggested ways to kill tourists, including "drown them in the ocean, poison their food, bash their skulls with a rock or suffocate them with pillows in their [hotel] rooms."