Why Are Terror Leader al-Awlaki’s Video Messages Still on YouTube?

awlaki-1Fox News Insider, December 5, 2016:

YouTube has the ability to remove videos seen as having the potential to recruit terrorists, says Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano.

The judge joined Jenna Lee on Happening Now to discuss growing questions on why the videos of radical Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki – leader of the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen – have been allowed to remain on YouTube.

Investigators have linked the ideology of al-Awlaki, who was killed in Yemen five years ago, to at least 11 incidents since 2009, including the recent attack on the campus of Ohio State University.

According to a YouTube representative, “YouTube has clear policies in prohibiting terrorist recruitment and content intending to incite violence, and we quickly remove videos violating these policies when flagged by our users.” So why then are al-Awlaki’s videos allowed to remain on the platform, Lee asked.

“The short answer is his videos are still out there because like flag burning, they are protected speech,” Napolitano said. “Even though they are hateful, even though they advocate violence, even though they are profoundly un-American, they are protected speech…protected from the government…but not protected from YouTube, which is not the government.

“So the First Amendment says the government shall not interfere with free speech, but YouTube could take them down in a flash just because it doesn’t want this stuff being propagated on its platform.”

Napolitano said YouTube should make a “business judgment” on how to handle this content.

“If they think their their shareholders want a free and open platform where any political idea can be aired no matter how horrible, hateful or harmful it may be, they should keep it on there,” he said. “But if they want to cleanse the airwaves of this horror and terror producing stuff, they can take it down with impunity.”

‘Join the Revolution’: Al-Qaeda Makes Populist Pitch to Millennials

Osama bin Laden and Hamza bin Laden

Osama bin Laden and Hamza bin Laden

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, October 12, 2016:

Al-Qaeda is appealing to millennials with a cocktail of populism and Islam and directives to not admire grown “kids” in professional sports but “men… with their AK aimed at the enemy” — and to follow the latter into jihad.

The outreach was detailed in Al-Balagh, a recent magazine issued by al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, a successful chapter announced by core leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2014 that has conducted a spree of machete assassinations against individuals deemed to have insulted Islam. One of the group’s earlier victims was an Atlanta couple who were secular writers visiting Bangladesh; Avijit Roy was hacked to death, while his wife Rafida Bonya Ahmed was seriously injured.

The 53-page inaugural issue of the magazine was printed in English and Bengali. The editor’s note at the beginning first details and slams the “criminal demon-crazy nexus which is known as democracy.”

“Thus, while the anti-Islamic bigots and hate-breeders are hailed as heroes by the rulers and the media, the Tawheed [monotheism]-loving Muslims who came out in the streets to protest the defamation of their beloved prophet are humiliated and massacred,” the column states in apparent reference to the bloggers, professors and journalists who have been hacked to death by AQIS.

The appeal to youth first uses the politics of Bangladesh as a backdrop, arguing that “the criminals siphon billions of dollars from the share market with ease and immersed in mirth, with no accountability whatsoever, while the devastated, burdened youth faced with unrelenting poverty and debt are forced to commit suicide.”

“Domestic maids succumb to death after enduring barbaric torture at the hands of distinguished citizens, while the killers are showered with flowers and garlands. Our mothers and sisters are abused in broad daylight, yet the criminals roam free,” the piece continues. “Every moment a new tragedy is born. It is impossible to keep track of the disasters plaguing this nation. So which one of these can one speak about? Such is the state of the country.”

“And what about the Muslim Ummah [community]? It seems no one even cares to inquire about the Muslims in Palestine anymore, although the criminal Zionist Israel is still surrounded by Muslim countries. I think it was Ali Tantawi who once said, ‘If Muslims can’t learn to resist Israel with weapons then they should learn how to die. You will see Israel be wiped off of the map with a flood of Muslim blood.'”

The article laments that in “Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, China, Myanmar, India, Pakistan — nowhere have the Muslims been able to be liberated.”

“I am not merely talking about the Western concept of ‘independence’ or ‘self-determination,’ but I am talking about true liberation, which can only come through the victory of the deen [religion]. I am talking about making Islam victorious,” the write continues.

“But the good news is a new wave, a reversal of the world order has started all over the world. A wave of Muslim youth is returning to Tawheed. A wave of the youth is returning to Islam. It is a return to the roots in order to bring back the glory and reclaim the honor, and to destroy the satanic civilization and establish the reign of the divine Shariah.”

“The Muslim youth,” argues the AQIS piece, “have started to realize that they have to rise up and join the caravan.”

“They have to join the resistance and the revolution. They have to conquer fear and walk on the same road on which the Salaf stepped upon. Only then true liberation and true victory will come. The Muslims have recognized the reality of the system of kufr [disbelief] imposed by the global kuffar. The magic of the magician has finally come undone,” continues the recruiting pitch.

Would-be jihadists are told that “with our backs to the wall, now is the time to fight back.”

“It is now or never. The Muslims all over the world are witnessing the help of Allah granted to the Mujahideen.” A few operations are mentioned, including “the beginning of the Third Intifada” in the Middle East.

“Oh youth! Tie your shroud around your head and join the golden caravan! The grown men who spend their times playing like kids in the fields of cricket are not your role models. Rather, your role models are men, firm in speech and in action. Men who lived with their head high and with their AK aimed at the enemy. Your role models are the lions of the Ummah, such as Umar and Usama – may Allah have mercy upon them,” states the piece.

“Yes, your role models are the likes of the reviving Imam, the hero of the afflicted Ummah, Shaykh Usama bin Ladin, who boldly stated, ‘I swear by Allah who has raised the heavens without any pillars, America and those living in America will not even dream of peace until we live it in Filisteen, and until all the kufr armies are expelled from the land of Muhammad.'”

There are also articles in the magazine geared toward a millennial audience, including age-oriented marriage guidelines. Al-Qaeda publications have often tried to include women writers to reach out to that demographic as well, and Al-Balagh includes a “Sisters’ Column: How I Came to Love the Niqab.”

The State Department designated AQIS as a foreign terrorist organization in June, 16 months after Roy’s murder.

The Treasury Department noted that younger leaders — “part of a new generation of al-Qaeda operatives” — have been quietly building up al-Qaeda in its July sanctions against three members of the terror group sheltering in Iran.

Osama bin Laden’s 11th son, Hamza, now in his mid-20s, has also been rallying millennials to jihad in audio messages over the past 14 months.

“The followers of the thought of Sheikh Osama, may Allah have mercy on him, which is represented by targeting the head of global disbelief that supports the Jews, have increased in number within a decade and a half, and became double in number,” Hamza bin Laden said in a July message.

“If you think that your sinful crime that you committed in Abbottabad has passed without punishment, then you thought wrong,” he added, referring to the U.S. raid in which his father was killed. “What is correct is coming to you, and its punishment is severe.”

***

What makes someone become an Islamic extremist? Is it poverty? Lack of education? A search for meaning? Haroon Ullah, a senior State Department advisor and a foreign policy professor at Georgetown University, shares what he discovered while living in Pakistan.

Islamic militant groups’ recruits likely to be well educated, study finds

 Islamic State fighters parading through Raqqa in Syria. Photograph: Uncredited/AP

Islamic State fighters parading through Raqqa in Syria. Photograph: Uncredited/AP

Guardian, by Jason Burke, October 5, 2016:

Recruits to Islamic militant groups are likely to be well educated and relatively wealthy, with those aspiring to be suicide bombers among the best off, a study by the World Bank has found.

The research, based on internal records from the Islamic State group, will reinforce the growing conclusion among specialists that there is no obvious link between poverty or educational levels and radicalisation.

The data, leaked by a disaffected former member of Isis in March, includes basic information on 3,803 foreign recruits from all over the Islamic world and Europe who joined the organisation between early 2013 and late 2014, when the flow of volunteers to the organisation reached a peak.

Those arriving in Isis-controlled territory were vetted and interviewed. Data on country of residence, citizenship, marital status, skills, educational status, previous extremist experience and knowledge of Islamic law was recorded.

The World Bank study found that 69% of recruits reported at least a secondary level education while “15% left school before high school and less than 2% are illiterate”.

The educational level of recruits from north Africa or the Middle East was significantly greater than that of most of their compatriots, the researchers found.

“A large fraction have gone on to study at university … Recruits from Africa, south and east Asia and the Middle East are significantly more educated than individuals from their cohort in their region of origin,” the report said.

The recruits were also asked by Isis what role they hoped to play within the group. The proportions of those who wanted to be administrators and “suicide fighters” increased with education, the report’s authors noted.

Neither inequality nor poverty was a driver of involvement in violent extremism, and wealthier countries were more likely to supply foreign recruits for Isis, the report found.

“In countries with a large Muslim population, low degrees of religiosity, low levels of trust in religious institutions and strong government and social control of religion seem to be risk factors of radicalisation,” the report said.

Ongoing research into causes of Islamic militancy has underlined the complexity of motives of recruits and volunteers, as well as the differences between different conflict zones.

Read more

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This former punk rocker now trains female ISIS fighters to attack Western targets

Photographee.eu | Shutterstock

Photographee.eu | Shutterstock

Conservative Review, by Nate Madden, Sept. 13, 2016:

A high profile British jihadi bride and former punk rocker is currently living in Raqqa, Syria and training women to carry out ISIS attacks in the West.

Sally Jones became the most wanted female jihadist in the world in 2013 when she fled Britain (along with her 11-year-old son) to join ISIS with her husband to-be, Junaid Hussain (since killed in a drone strike).

According to a report at the U.K. Telegraph over the weekend:

In February this year she is said to have moved with Joe into an apartment on al-Thakna street in southern Raqqa, sharing a building with the families of a French and an Uzbek fighter.   

Following Hussain’s death she was put in charge of training all European female recruits, or “muhajirat”. 

She has been entrusted with leading the secretive female wing of the Anwar al-Awlaki battalion, a unit founded by her late husband that is composed solely of foreign fighters with the purpose of planning and executing attacks in the West.

The report later details that Jones’ responsibilities in the unit include training female Islamic recruits in weaponry, combat, and carrying out “suicide missions against Western targets.”

Jones is also believed to have recruited dozens of other women to the so-called caliphate via social media.

“Isil respects her because she is the widow of Junaid, who was very important to the group,” says a former ISIS militant who confirmed the 47-year-old mother’s role in the insurgency. “[Jones] is also influential in her own right. She was the reason Isil was able to recruit a lot of Western girls to Raqqa: it’s not easy to convince a Christian, rock girl to become an extremist.”

Jone’s pre-teen son, Jojo, was believed to be the executioner in an ISIS propaganda video released in late August, in which a child is shown murdering a captured Kurdish fighter.

Last November, U.S. President Barack Obama criticized opponents of his Syrian refugee program as being “scared of widows and orphans,” despite the fact that terror organizations have made a concerted effort to infiltrate refugee populations and train women and children to carry out its barbaric mission in the West.

Nate Madden is a Staff Writer for Conservative Review, focusing on religious freedom, jihadism, and the judiciary. He previously served as the Director of Policy Relations for the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. A Publius Fellow, John Jay Fellow, Citadel Parliamentary Fellow and National Journalism Center alumnus, Nate’s writing has previously appeared in several religious and news publications. Follow him @NateMadden_IV.

Rising Threat: The Islamic States’s Militarization of Children

tkg-report-ischildren

Threat Knowledge Group, September 2016

NEW TKG SPECIAL REPORT:

Rising Threat: The Islamic State’s Militarization of Children (pdf)

By:
Dr. Sebastian L. Gorka
Katharine C. Gorka
Claire Herzog

The rate at which the Islamic State is recruiting, training, and exploiting children presents a new set of challenges for U.S. warfighters and law enforcement.

Not only do we risk overlooking the threat posed by children, assuming their innocence, but we also run the risk of moral injury and increased rates of PTSD to those who must confront this threat.

This paper looks at how the Islamic State is militarizing children in order to better prepare the United States to face this new and rising threat.

ISIS Is Winning the Twitter War

An ISIS propaganda poster featuring terrorist Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people in Orlando, Florida / AP

An ISIS propaganda poster featuring terrorist Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people in Orlando, Florida / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Morgan Chalfant, Aug. 6, 2016:

Islamic State supporters have given the terror group an advantage over its opponents by out-tweeting critics, according to a new study.

While ISIS opponents outnumbered the group’s supporters six-to-one on Arabic-language Twitter last year, ISIS supporters “routinely outtweet opponents” and are better at using social media to propagate their message, according to a RAND Corporation study that examined ISIS Twitter networks between July 2014 and April 2015.

Researchers discovered nearly 76,000 pro-ISIS Twitter accounts using Arabic on the social media site, a marked increase over a 2014 estimate by the Brookings Institution of around 46,000 Twitter accounts used by ISIS supporters—communicating in both Arabic and English.

The RAND study found over 471,000 accounts dispersing critical messages about the terrorist group.

ISIS supporters tweeted 60 times per day on average, 50 percent more than their opponents.

“While ISIS supporters are outnumbered, it is clear that they are more active than ISIS opponents, as they produce 150 percent of opponents’ number of tweets a day. These results suggest that ISIS supporters are more energized than their opponent counterparts,” the researchers concluded in the study released on Tuesday.

“However, more than this, lexical analysis of the ISIS Supporters metacommunity demonstrates that ISIS supporters more actively adhere to good social media strategy by actively encouraging fellow supporters to ‘spread,’ ‘disseminate,’ and ‘link’ messages to expand their reach and impact,” the researchers continued.

ISIS has leveraged Twitter and other social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Ask.fm, to disseminate its message and reach potential sympathizers beyond its so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria. From 2011 to September 2015, roughly 30,000 foreign fighters, including thousands of Westerners and hundreds of Americans, tried to travel to Iraq and Syria, many seeking to join ISIS.

An Alabama high school student who joined the terror group first made contact with ISIS members and supporters on Twitter, according to an interview published by BuzzFeed last year.

ISIS hacking groups have also used social media to promote “kill lists” targeting U.S. military officials, law enforcement personnel, and civilians.

The State Department said in June that ISIS posed the greatest global terror threat last year, noting that the group’s “propaganda and use of social media have created new challenges for counterterrorism efforts.”

RAND researchers analyzed publicly available Twitter data over a 10-month period to understand different communities talking about ISIS and develop recommendations for U.S. and allied efforts to combat the terror group on social media.

The Obama administration has struggled to counter terrorist propaganda online. In January, it overhauled its efforts to curb ISIS and other terror groups’ digital influence with the creation of a counterterrorism task force.

The State Department, which was widely mocked in 2014 for its “Think Again Turn Away” counter-messaging campaign, shuttered its Center for Counterterrorism Communications at the start of this year after an expert panel concluded that the U.S. government should not be so overtly engaged in information operations against ISIS.

The department replaced the program with the Global Engagement Center, which largely relies on foreign states to lead counterterrorism messaging.

Twitter began suspending ISIS accounts in March 2015, which may have resulted in a gradual decline of ISIS supporters, the RAND research indicated. Still, the organization’s use of social media has exacerbated concerns about its ability to inspire future attacks like the Orlando nightclub shooting carried out by ISIS sympathizer Omar Mateen in June. That attack killed 49 people.

Phillip Lohaus, a national security expert at the American Enterprise Institute, told the Washington Free Beacon that Twitter has been effective at cracking down on jihadist accounts, but that some supporters have found ways to direct individuals to ISIS resources without being flagged by the company.

“There are people who sympathize with jihadist groups, with ISIS, that are on Twitter and that know what boundaries not to cross, and therefore can serve as a conduit to point people toward certain resources or to get out messages that are sympathetic to ISIS if they’re not necessary inciting people to violence or things that Twitter would immediately kick them off for,” Lohaus explained.

He said that ISIS has used Twitter and other platforms to “create an online community” that the U.S. government has thus far been ineffective at countering.

“The way that the government has handled this so far has been to kind of send out a couple snarky tweets and they think that’s sufficient,” Lohaus explained. “The real issue here is that these jihadist groups are creating an online community. It’s not just that they’re just sending out all this horrible propaganda. It’s that they’re sending out things like poems, they’re sending out highly-polished videos, they’re sending out all kinds of essays that maybe are only tangentially related to extremists.”

The RAND study recommended that the State Department provide “social media trainings and other engagements” to ISIS opponents using Arabic-language Twitter to amplify their messages. “Of course, with al-Qa’ida and its affiliates counted among the ISIS opponents, care will have to be taken in selecting those suitable to train and empower,” the researchers noted.

RAND researchers also recommended that government organizations looking to combat ISIS with counter-messaging on Twitter should tailor their messages to target specific communities because the terror group’s Twitter community “is highly fragmented and consists of different communities that care about different topics.”

The U.S. military and State Department should also continue to highlight global atrocities committed by ISIS, the researchers wrote, highlighting data indicating that intense attention to such acts resulted in an influx of anti-ISIS messaging. “Note, however, ISIS clearly uses ultraviolence as a key component of its brand, and a messaging strategy, consequently, highlighting such actions risks playing into its hands,” they warned.

In addition to public social media platforms, ISIS has also turned to secure messaging platforms like Kik to communicate with potential supporters and fighters, which Lohaus indicated could be more of a threat than propaganda spread through Twitter.

“These are secured chat platforms where ISIS recruiters and propagandists can directly get in touch with youths or with anybody who might be interested in their cause,” Lohaus said, adding later that militants could leverage these platforms to call for future attacks against the West.

“There’s a whole section of communications in our society to which the government doesn’t have access and I think that we are already seeing Islamists exploit that, and I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t for operational things either,” he said.

AP Report: Islamic State Used ‘Islam for Dummies’ to Train Recruits

Reuters/Stringer

Reuters/Stringer

Breitbart, by John Hayward, Aug. 18, 2016:

The Associated Press published a report on Monday, compiled from court testimony and interviews with former ISIS fighters, that painted a dim picture of the Islamic State’s recruits. The early waves, in particular, were so clueless that some of them had to order Islam for Dummies from Amazon.com to brush up on the religion.

That juicy little tidbit is, naturally, the basis for the AP’s headline: “Islam For Dummies: IS Recruits Have Poor Grasp of Faith.” However, only two recruits from Britain were that unclear about the concept of jihad. 70 percent of early recruits claimed to have “basic” knowledge of sharia law, while 24 percent described themselves as “intermediate” students of the Islamic legal code, and 5 percent “advanced.” This would suggest only one percent of the people ISIS roped in were largely ignorant of sharia law.

The takeaway from the Associated Press report is not that Islamic State recruits were broadly unfamiliar with Islam — it is that they knew just enough about “moderate Islam” to fall prey to the Islamic State’s appeal.

ISIS radicalizes young Muslims by telling them, in essence, the Islam you get from your parents, and the imam at the mosque you scarcely bother to attend, isn’t the real deal. We are the champions of authentic Islam. Here’s what the moderates don’t want you to hear from the Koran.

This message is mixed with appeals to factional and national solidarity. For example, the AP spoke with a European recruit who “thought he was joining a group to fight President Bashar Assad and help Syrians, not the Islamic State.” He ended up packed into a safe house with other recruits while ISIS imams indoctrinated them.

The Associated Press concludes this means ISIS preys on “religious ignorance, allowing extremists to impose a brand of Islam constructed to suit its goal of maximum territorial expansion and carnage as soon as recruits come under its sway.”

It would be equally valid to describe this as religious curiosity, added to the sense of alienation and frustration that drives so many radicals, violent or otherwise. There seems to be little evidence that would suggest intensive study of Islam halts or reverses the radicalization process — in fact, there is a dismaying shortage of evidence that ISIS recruits can be talked out of radicalization, once it passes a certain point.

The constant refrain from the families of Islamic State recruits and “lone wolf” jihadis is surprise: no one in the family ever seemed to realize just how far gone their ISIS-supporting child was until it was too late. One of the reasons radicalization seems so puzzling and sudden to experts is that such denials are accepted at face value.

Only later do we learn that the jihadi held radical beliefs for much longer than the press was originally led to believe, or the jihadi had a history of run-ins with the law. Alternatively, the families of Western jihadis may be missing important signs of radicalization because they have been taught not to see them, by the media/government that insists terrorism has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Islam.

For example, the AP report quotes ISIS recruit Karim Mohammad-Aggad, who journeyed to the Islamic State in Syria with his brother and a group of friends after an Islamic State recruiter contacted them in Germany, claiming he was bamboozled with “smooth talk” from the recruiter.

“My religious beliefs had nothing to do with my departure. Islam was used to trap me like a wolf,” he said in court, insisting he didn’t “have the knowledge” to answer questions about sharia. A co-defendant gave the same answer, and the Associated Press points out that both Karim and his brother Foued said they had only “basic” knowledge of sharia when they filled out the ISIS entry questionnaire.

Those statements are a very thin reed to hang the “ISIS recruits don’t know anything about Islam” argument upon, especially since Karim’s little brother Foued was one of the monsters who carried out the unspeakable atrocity at the Bataclan nightclub in Paris last November.

Another assertion in the AP report, made by a study from the U.S. military’s Combating Terrorism Center, is that ISIS recruits who claimed advanced knowledge of sharia were less likely to volunteer for suicide missions.

“If martyrdom is seen as the highest religious calling, then a reasonable expectation would be that the people with the most knowledge about Islamic law (Shariah) would desire to carry out these operations with greater frequency,” said the Combating Terrorism Center report. However, “those with the most religious knowledge within the organization itself are the least likely to volunteer to be suicide bombers.”

That is a difficult assertion to evaluate without knowing a great deal more about the backgrounds of the individuals in question. A very small group, since as the AP noted, only 5 percent of incoming Islamic State fighters claimed to have “advanced” knowledge of sharia on the entry paperwork. Broad conclusions cannot be drawn from the way a tiny fraction of ISIS recruits described themselves. They might not have wanted to go on suicide missions, but they were still willing to fight for the Islamic State.

Also, sharia law does not require suicide bombing. There is an argument among Muslim scholars about whether sharia forbids suicide, or murder, but the Koran repeatedly encourages courageous battle against infidels, with a willingness to kill or die in the effort. It is a mistake to confuse sharia law with the totality of Islamic belief and tradition, as practiced by many different groups across an enormous worldwide population.

“Sharia forbids suicide, so suicide bombers don’t understand sharia” is a variation on the No True Muslim fallacy, a tautology which argues terrorists can’t possibly understand authentic Islam because no one who practices authentic Islam would be a terrorist.

The ultimate ends of such an argument — a reformation of Islam in which violence is expunged from the religion, and assimilation-minded moderates triumph in all of Islam’s many factions — is highly desirable. The question is how to get there, and ignoring or downplaying the importance of Islam in the appeal made by ISIS and other extremist groups is not likely to help either moderate Muslims or secular governments devise an effective strategy for combating the radicals.

History renders a grim verdict on that approach: the Western world has been pushing No True Muslim arguments with all of its might, especially after the 9/11 attacks, and yet ISIS happened. The young Western recruits described in the Associated Press report spent their entire lives in the “Religion of Peace”/”Terrorists are on the Wrong Side of History” era, but they still ended up fighting for the Islamic State in Syria. What they tell courts today, as they fight for reduced sentences, is very different than what they probably would have said when they first arrived in the “caliphate.”

Former CIA case officer Patrick Skinner told the Associated Press that most ISIS recruits are “reaching for a sense of belonging, a sense of notoriety, a sense of excitement,” and he claimed, “religion is an afterthought.” If that’s true, then why is the Islamic State so much more successful than the many other groups that offer disaffected youngsters a sense of belonging, notoriety, and excitement? Falling in with a local gang is easy; abandoning your family, and evading the law enforcement agencies of several nations, to join ISIS in Syria or Iraq is hard.

The Islamic State’s religious appeal may be only one ingredient in the fuel that drives people to make that awful choice, but discounting it as irrelevant is dangerous.

Also see: