An unexpected turn in a campaign of psychological warfare

– Here is a translation of Joseph Braude’s weekly broadcast in Arabic, Risalat New York, for October 20, 2014. To hear the broadcast, click here.

For some time now, a campaign of disinformation and psychological warfare has been waged against the United States and its allies by a terror group that brutalizes the innocents who live under its rule. In recent days, however, there have been signs that the group could itself fall prey to the trap it set for others.

We are referring of course to the so-called “Islamic State,” otherwise known as ISIS. Reports have been numerous over the past half-year that the organization excels in the use of social media, such as Twitter, as a means to recruit fighters from around the world as well as intimidate various powers in the West. In addition to the infamous beheadings of American and European hostages, some militants in Iraq and Syria went so far as to photograph themselves, smiling, next to the gruesome remains of locals who had also been slain.

But according to a report in Saturday’s Financial Times newspaper, some of the many boastful Tweets and blogs posted from ISIS territory may have inadvertently provided valuable intelligence to Western governments at war with ISIS, perhaps including the locations of coveted targets. ISIS itself has expressed fear of this possibility by issuing a series of warnings to its followers. In particular, they say that they are worried about the promulgation of documents and files that could expose, as they put it, “data that could turn your hair gray.”

The international military campaign against ISIS is off to a slow start, to be sure — though pressure is mounting on President Obama to move more aggressively against the group than he has done thus far. Nonetheless, where matters of hacking, social media manipulation, and harassment are concerned, Washington and its allies are known to have developed strong capabilities of their own. Whether in ISIS-controlled Iraq, Syria, or other parts of the Arab region where extremism reigns, the combatants who initiate such schemes may soon discover that they are in over their heads.

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