Since the beginning of the U.S.-led air campaign against ISIS, there have been concerns that a lack of intelligence on the group’s positions on the ground in Syria would hinder the effort. But the head of the U.S. Air Combat Command says that’s no problem—there’s plenty of valuable intel on social media.
At the same breakfast meeting where he claimed to have “taken 13,000 fighters off the battlefield,” Gen. Hawk Carlisle described an incident in which he says the Air Force destroyed an ISIS headquarters building based on a single post on social media.
The website DefenseTech quotes Carlisle:
“The guys that were working down out of Hurlburt, [an Air Force base in Florida] they’re combing through social media and they see some moron standing at this command. And in some social media, open forum, bragging about the command and control capabilities for Daesh, ISIL. And these guys go: ‘We got an in.’ So they do some work, long story short, about 22 hours later through that very building, three [Joint Direct Attack Munitions] take that entire building out.”
“It was a post on social media to bombs on target in less than 24 hours,” Carlisle said. The general didn’t specify what type of social media post it was, though it sounds like he’s describing what counterinsurgency experts refer to as a “selfie.”
This certainly isn’t the first example of intelligence officials gaining information from the prolific social media output of ISIS members and supporters. The group is even believed to have responded to the problem by publishing guidelines for fighters on how to remove potentially compromising information and metadata from their online posts. Senior leaders of ISIS generally keep a much lower public profile to avoid just the kind of scenario Carlisle describes. If the selfie-to-bombing-in-24-hours scenario was really as straightforward as what the general described, someone really slipped up.