ISIS, which became famous for using social media such as Twitter to spread pictures of its atrocities—beheadings, crucifixions, mass shootings, etc.—has decided to go “dark” since the U.S. began its air campaign last month, The Financial Times reports:
The owner of an internet café in an Isis-controlled area in Syria that is frequented by the group’s members said there had been a big fall in the numbers of fighters using platforms such as Twitter. “A few stayed online, but no one posts selfies next to chopped-off heads any more,” he said.
As one might suspect, the shadow of Edward Snowden looms large over this electronic evasive maneuvering. ISIS, the FT reports, is aware of and takes into account America’s abilities to monitor metadata, even going so far as to hand out a manual on the subject to its forces:
An Arabic language manual distributed among Isis fighters, a copy of which was seen by the Financial Times, gives detailed instructions on how to remove metadata from content being put online.“A number of security gaps have appeared that have benefited the enemy and have helped expose the identities of some brothers or identify some sites used by the mujahideen with ease,” it begins, going on to explain in detail what those gaps are and the way they expose “data that could turn your hair gray”.
Naturally, ISIS could not accomplish its aims without some beheadings and paranoia: some 20 accused “spies” have been executed for allegedly planting chips that led to U.S. drone attacks in Raqqa, among other supposed offenses related to what we would call signals intelligence.For those of us who do not have security clearances, the debate about matters such as Snowden’s revelations will always occur at least half in the dark. Yet sometimes flashes of light, such as this report, illuminate matters. The report lends credence to an argument made by Snowden’s critics—that his disclosures would carry a high cost for the United States and its allies during actual wartime operations.After thirteen years of low-level conflict, many in the West long not only to stay out of the fray, but to have those who do our dirty work for us do so by sanitized means. But real life doesn’t work like that. Our enemies are by no means as ignorant as we sometimes like to pretend, and such high-mindedness creates real problems for those trying to deal with such foes.