Buried in a Dell computer captured in Syria are lessons for making bubonic plague bombs and missives on using weapons of mass destruction
Harald Doornbos and Jenan Moussa reporting, for Foreign Policy, ANTAKYA, Turkey — Abu Ali, a commander of a moderate Syrian rebel group in northern Syria, proudly shows a black laptop partly covered in dust. “We took it this year from an ISIS hideout,” he says.
“The ISIS laptop contains more than the typical propaganda and instruction manuals used by jihadists. The documents also suggest that the laptop’s owner was teaching himself about the use of biological weaponry.”
Abu Ali says the fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which have since rebranded themselves as the Islamic State, all fled before he and his men attacked the building. The attack occurred in January in a village in the Syrian province of Idlib, close to the border with Turkey, as part of a larger anti-ISIS offensive occurring at the time. “We found the laptop and the power cord in a room,” he continued, “I took it with me. But I have no clue if it still works or if it contains anything interesting.”
As we switched on the Dell laptop, it indeed still worked. Nor was it password-protected. But then came a huge disappointment: After we clicked on “My Computer,” all the drives appeared empty.
Appearances, however, can be deceiving. Upon closer inspection, the ISIS laptop wasn’t empty at all: Buried in the “hidden files” section of the computer were 146 gigabytes of material, containing a total of 35,347 files in 2,367 folders. Abu Ali allowed us to copy all these files — which included documents in French, English, and Arabic — onto an external hard drive.
The laptop’s contents turn out to be a treasure trove of documents that provide ideological justifications for jihadi organizations — and practical training on how to carry out the Islamic State’s deadly campaigns. They include videos of Osama bin Laden, manuals on how to make bombs, instructions for stealing cars, and lessons on how to use disguises in order to avoid getting arrested while traveling from one jihadi hot spot to another.
The Islamic State runs a self-sustaining economy across territory it controls in Syria and Iraq, pirating oil while exacting tribute from a population of at least eight million, Arab and Western officials said, making it one of the world’s richest terror groups and an unprecedented threat.
“Can you prevent ISIS from taking assets? Not really, because they’re sitting on a lot of assets already.”
That illicit economy presents a new picture of Islamic State’s financial underpinnings. The group was once thought to depend on funding from Arab Gulf donors and donations from the broader Muslim world. Now, Islamic State—the former branch of al Qaeda that has swallowed parts of Iraq and Syria—is a largely self-financed organization.
Money from outside donors “pales in comparison to their self-funding through criminal and terrorist activities,” a U.S. State Department official said, adding that those activities generate millions of dollars a month.
“So you must disrupt the network of trade. But if you disrupt trade in commodities like food, for example, then you risk starving thousands of civilians.”
For Western and Arab nations that are striving to stop Islamic State, the group’s local funding sources pose a conundrum: A clampdown on economic activity that helps fund the group, counterterrorism officials and experts said, could cause a humanitarian crisis in the already stressed areas it controls. Read the rest of this entry »
Dark Media: The Islamic State’s Online Branding Efforts Show that they’re Waging a War Beyond the Grounds of Iraq and SyriaPosted: August 27, 2014
The Islamic State’s online branding efforts show that they’re waging a war beyond the grounds of Iraq and Syria: http://t.co/XdM9AxuzYw
— WSJ Live (@WSJLive) August 27, 2014
ISIS Makes Liberals Rediscover the Necessity of Hard Power
Bret Stephens writes: So now liberals want the U.S. to bomb Iraq, and maybe Syria as well, to stop and defeat ISIS, the vilest terror group of all time. Where, one might ask, were these neo-neocons a couple of years ago, when stopping ISIS in its infancy might have spared us the current catastrophe?
“Are we going to fight terrorists over there—or are we going to wait for them to come here? “
Oh, right, they were dining at the table of establishment respectability, drinking from the fountain of opportunistic punditry, hissing at the sound of the names Wolfowitz, Cheney, Libby and Perle.
And, always, rhapsodizing to the music of Barack Obama.
Not because he is the most egregious offender, but only because he’s so utterly the type, it’s worth turning to the work of George Packer, a writer for the New Yorker. Over the years Mr. Packer has been of this or that mind about Iraq. Yet he has always managed to remain at the dead center of conventional wisdom. Think of him as the bubble, intellectually speaking, in the spirit level of American opinion journalism.
UPDATED: Cache of Surface-to-Air Missiles? Islamic State Captures Major Government Air Base in Northeast SyriaPosted: August 24, 2014
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) August 25, 2014
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) August 24, 2014
The Corner‘s Andrew Johnson: Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell called the Islamic State’s rapidly growing strength and control of territory in Iraq and Syria “the most complex terrorism problem that I have ever seen.”
While he said “there are no magic bullets” for dealing with the situation, he offered a potential strategy on Face the Nation. First, the United States must work towards taking the controlled territories in Iraq and Syria, which will require a political solution with the former’s government; doing so in Syria will likely be notably more difficult…(more) NRO
[VIDEO] House Homeland Security Committee Chairman McCaul: ISIS Presents the Greatest Threat We’ve Seen Since 9/11Posted: August 24, 2014
“This has been festering for the last year and now it’s culminating with the killing and beheading of an American journalist.”
The Corner‘s Ryan Lovelace reports: On ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, House Homeland Security Committee chairman Michael McCaul R., Texas said he thinks the beheading of American journalist James Foley by the Islamic State represents a turning point that will open the American people’s eyes to the Islamic State’s true nature. “Well, I do think they [ISIS] present the greatest threat we’ve seen since 9/11″
“We need to expand these air strikes so that we can ultimately defeat and eliminate ISIS because I would far prefer to eliminate them over here than have to deal with them in the United States.”
James Foley Murderer Identified: London Rapper Turned jihadist Believed to be Under Investigation for Beheading Journalist in SyriaPosted: August 24, 2014
The Independent‘s Lizzie Dearden reports: A former rapper fighting with the Islamic State (Isis) in Syria is believed to be one of several British jihadists under investigation following the beheading of James Foley.
Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 24, was known as L Jinny or Lyricist Jinn at home in London, where his rising music career saw him appear in videos and have his singles played on BBC Radio in 2012.
He came to national attention earlier this year, when he posted a picture of himself holding a severed head on Twitter after resurfacing in Syria.
The gruesome picture, believed to have been taken in the Isis stronghold of Raqqa, was captioned: “Chillin’ with my homie or what’s left of him.”
Bary reportedly travelled to the country last year from Maida Vale, west London, where he lived with his mother and five siblings.
His father Adel Abdul Bary, an Egyptian refugee thought to be one of Osama Bin Laden’s closes lieutenants, was extradited from Britain to the United States on charges of terrorism in 2012 for his alleged roles in the bombings of two US embassies in east Africa in 1998. Read the rest of this entry »
Progressives can’t wish away human nature.
Charles C. W. Cooke writes: H. G. Wells’s famous prediction that the First World War would be the “war to end all wars” was met with skepticism by the British prime minister. “This war, like the next war,” David Lloyd George quipped in the summer of 1916, “is a war to end war.” History, he sighed, is not shaped by wishful thinking.
“The lessons of history endure, because human nature never changed.”
– J. Rufus Fears
Two decades later, Lloyd George would be proven right. And yet, in the intervening period, it was Wells’s sentiment that prevailed. The horrors of the trenches having made rationalization imperative, a popular and holistic narrative was developed. The Great War, Woodrow Wilson quixotically argued, had finally managed to “make the world safe for democracy” and, in doing so, had served an invaluable purpose. Henceforth, human beings would remember the valuable lesson that had been written in so much blood, coming together in mutual understanding to, as Wells rather dramatically put it,“exorcise a world-madness and end an age.” And that, it was thought, would be that. Read the rest of this entry »
Countering Radical Narratives Requires Understanding the Radicalized
Nimmi Gowrinathan writes: Reports that women have formed their own brigade within the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have confounded experts — and worried them. For many, the idea of women as violent extremists seems paradoxical. After all, why should women want to join a political struggle that so blatantly oppresses them?
“In war zones across the world, women absorb a disproportionate amount of the fallout from conflict, including material deprivation in refugee camps, daily harassment and fear in militarized zones, and a constant vulnerability to rape.”
That question reveals more about the experts than the fighters. Those who ask it assume, first, that women are more peaceful than men by nature; and second, that women who participate in armed rebellion are little more than cannon fodder in a man’s game, fighting foolishly for a movement that will not benefit them. As the women of ISIS prove, both assumptions are false.
“Joining the fight is sometimes the only way to survive.”
To understand the women of ISIS and their motivations, it helps to place them in their historical context, among the legions of women in El Salvador, Eritrea, Nepal, Peru, and Sri Lanka who voluntarily joined violent movements and militias, sometimes even as highly ranked officers. In each of these cases, women joined for the same basic reasons as men. Living in deeply conservative social spaces, they faced constant threats to their ethnic, religious, or political identities — and it was typically those threats, rather than any grievances rooted in gender, that persuaded them to take up arms. Read the rest of this entry »
‘Flawless’ Except That the Hostages Weren’t There
“Was this a failure of intelligence? No…This operation, by the way, was a flawless operation, but…”
The group which killed American journalist James Foley have many more hostages
For the Telegraph, Gordon Rayner and David Chazan reporting: As well as the journalist Steven Sotloff, who was threatened with beheading by the same man who murdered Foley, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil) is holding a number of aid workers, thought to include Vanessa Marzullo, 21, and Greta Ramelli, 20, both Italian.
“Can you go back on all the teaching and the values you have tried to instill for a lifetime?”
Three aid workers employed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are also being held hostage after they were abducted last October.
“Can you change your daughter, who has these values and has strong ideals about solidarity and human empathy?”
– Ramelli’s mother, Antonella
As fears grew that Isil could make good on its threat to murder more hostages, families of those being held defended their loved ones’ decisions to travel to Syria.
Remember that ISIS guy who promised to raise Islamic flag over the White House? Me neither!
The Islamic State’s Press Officer Abu Mosa became a figure of international notoriety overnight when he took on a starring role in a captivating Vice News documentary about ISIS in Syria.
“We will humiliate them everywhere, God willing, and we will raise the flag of Allah in the White House.”
– The late Abu Mosa
Instead of doing that, according to the U.S. State Department, he’s just going to be dead.
— Think AgainTurn Away (@ThinkAgain_DOS) August 21, 2014
Mosa was reportedly killed near the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria, where much of Vice’s documentary was shot. His death comes as Islamic State forces mount a long-awaited assault on the Tabqa Syrian military airbase. Read the rest of this entry »
Reporters Released by Islamic State Say They Spent Several Months With Beheaded Journalist
PARIS - David Gauthier-Villars reports: Former French hostages in Syria said they spent several months in captivity with James Foley, the American journalist whose beheading was videotaped and posted on the Internet this week, and had shared the information with U.S. authorities.British Broadcasting Corp.
Didier François, a reporter with French radio Europe 1 who was kidnapped by Islamist insurgents in Syria in June of last year, said he shared a cell with Mr. Foley from September 2013 to April, when he was released by the group that calls itself Islamic State.
“He was an extraordinary man, an impressive journalist, an extremely strong man who never cracked down despite the incredibly difficult conditions.”
Mr. François told Europe 1. Upon his release with three other French reporters, Mr. François said he contacted Mr. Foley’s family, as well as U.S. authorities, to share information about the American correspondent.
U.S. Special Operations forces mounted an unsuccessful mission inside Syria earlier this summer to try to rescue Mr. Foley and other Americans held by the Islamic extremists, senior Obama administration officials have said. Read the rest of this entry »
President Bush said yesterday that he gave up golfing in 2003 “in solidarity” with the families of soldiers who were dying in Iraq, concluding that it was “just not worth it anymore” to play the sport in a time of war…(more)
NEW YORK TIMES HEADLINE: OBAMA VOWS TO ‘STAY ON COURSE’
The vacationing commander-in-chief returned to the golf course Wednesday after calling for justice in the brutal killing of an American journalist by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) terrorists. …
The president zipped quickly from a local school to a Martha’s Vineyard golf course after his 12:45 p.m. media session. Obama delivered a short statement and took no questions from the assembled media.
[VIDEO] Tom Rogan: Obama White House ‘More Concerned with Domestic Popular Opinion Rather Than Foreign Strategic Threat’Posted: August 21, 2014
See Tom Rogan’s recent piece on the Islamic State and James Foley’s murder, “A Man of Courage and ISIS’s Face of Evil.”
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) August 20, 2014
The Independent‘s Heather Saul reports: A militant from the Islamic State (Isis) who appeared to have beheaded American journalist James Foley has threatened to kill another journalist, believed to be Steven Sotloff, whose life the fighter said depends on how the US responds.
In a video posted on YouTube, entitled ‘A Message to America’, the man purported to be Mr Sotloff was filmed being held by the militant who had apparently executed Foley.
The footage claimed Foley’s death is a revenge killing for the ongoing US air strikes in Iraq.
The jihadist, who speaks with a British accent, then addresses the US President, saying: “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.”
The man is wearing an orange shirt similar to that worn by the executed man.
Mr Sotloff, from Miami, was kidnapped near Aleppo in August 2013 and was believed to be held in Raqqa. His family was reportedly made aware of his disappearance but had chosen not to go public on the advice of officials.
He has worked for TIME, the National Interest, Media Line and the Christian Science Monitor and had apparently gone missing near the Syrian-Turkish border. His Twitter bio suggests he was based in Libya before his disappearance.
“My girlfriend Lauren Sotloff’s brother Steven Sotloff was taken hostage by ISIS on August 04 2013 and up to this point it has been all under wraps as due to a media blackout.”
This morning, his sister Lauren Sotloff’s boyfriend released a Facebook post urging people to sign a White House petition calling on the US government to “do everything possible to free American reporter Steven Sotloff from ISIS in Syria and save his life”.
“My girlfriend Lauren Sotloff’s brother Steven Sotloff was taken hostage by ISIS on August 04 2013 and up to this point it has been all under wraps as due to a media blackout,” his post reads.
“People please not only sign the following petition, but PLEASE SHARE so the more the better. Thank you in advance and pray for his safe return home.”
Mr. Foley was one of dozens of journalists kidnapped and missing in Syria
“You are no longer fighting an insurgency. We are an Islamic army.”
Militants from the group Islamic State released a video on Tuesday that appeared to show the beheading of Mr. Foley in an act of retribution for U.S. airstrikes on the group in Iraq.
U.S. intelligence agencies have analyzed the video and judged it to be authentic, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council said Wednesday. President Barack Obama is expected to deliver a statement Wednesday afternoon addressing the apparent murder of Mr. Foley.
“I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope of freedom and seeing my family again. But that ship has sailed.”
The graphic video raised new dangers for Mr. Obama’s Middle East policy. It showed a masked militant, speaking in British-accented English, threatening to kill more Americans if the U.S. military campaign continued. Read the rest of this entry »