Monday, December 1, 2014
FBI and DHS warn military members that social media use could make their families domestic targets of loan wolves, as "recruiting chatter" surges; is it more than active duty?
Sunday night, according to many media sources, the FBI and DHS warned that military members should scrub their social media accounts so as not to make themselves or particularly their families at home in the US targets of possible ISIS-related “loan wolf” attacks, perpetrated by disaffected people at home radicalized online by ISIS. Home addresses, of soldiers (possibly retired or veterans) and their families or relatives might be available on newer data broker websites like Instant Checkmate.
A typical and detailed account is on Fox, here . ABC News has a story by Brian Ross and James Gordon Meek. CNN's account, updated Monday evening, has become more alarming.
These sorts of warnings have been issued since last summer, and have even mentioned journalists. Some seem to be based on reckless tweets and social media statements that are so vitriolic that they need not be repeated. Many tend not to be taken seriously because of their tone. However, the FBI and DHS, possibly on the basis of NSA analysis of chatter and perhaps from CIA reports, seem to believe that ISIS militants have very recently stepped up efforts to find disaffected “loan wolves” in the US to conduct simple attacks. A few of these may have happened already (in Oklahoma, in New York City, in Washington DC, and this weekend in St. Louis), as well as two visible attacks in Canada in October, and previous attacks in the UK. Some of them (like in Queens, NYC) have been crude indeed and normally suggest mental illness. Some of the tension could be related to attention to racial issues, as in the cause of the Ferguson Unrest. Some of it may be more like “class war” (what Noam Chomsky talks about) than about “unbelievers and apostates” as enemies. It’s clear that foreign agitators could try to leverage the racial issues. It’s also apparent that some of the chatter could be related to US and coalition air strikes and talk of ground troops.
There are some disturbing variations in how this story has been reported. Some have suggested that former military members and veterans (and, previously, journalists and celebrities) should be concerned as well. Some have suggested that entire social media accounts should be removed.
It would come as no surprise that active duty military members, when deployed overseas in conflict areas (most of all the Middle East or Islamic countries) would have to be very careful about what they post. This has always been true. It would seem logical that enemies could use threats at home (against families of specific servicemembers) to disrupt combat or support operations in or near ISIS-controlled territories.
But to suggest that former military members (unless working overseas as contractors) should be so concerned would be to give in to bullying. If some accounts are taken literally, someone who served because drafted during the Vietnam era (and saying so online) could become vulnerable. If you key “ISIS violence” into Google, you get 40 million search results returned.