Islamic State’s sophisticated recruiting campaign poses persistent threat in U.S.

May 4, 2015

By Kevin Johnson

The arrests of six Minnesota men accused earlier this month of attempting to join the Islamic State group, highlights an unprecedented marketing effort being waged by the militant group in Iraq and Syria, U.S. law enforcement officials and terror analysts said.

It’s a campaign that is finding resonance from urban metros to the American heartland.

“This is not so much a recruitment effort as it is a global marketing campaign, beyond anything that al-Qaida has ever done,” said a senior law enforcement official.

The official, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said the Islamic State’s slick multimedia productions, its use of social media and personal “peer-to-peer” communication are proving to be effective parts of a sophisticated program aimed at the West.

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15 comments on “Islamic State’s sophisticated recruiting campaign poses persistent threat in U.S.

  • The USA behaved so badly in Afghanistan and Iraq they brought ISIS and far worse on themselves. It really annoys me the way they pretend they did nothing to create their predicament. They seem to think more of the same is how to fix the problem.

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  • This stuff about how sophisticated ISIS is and how there are huge numbers of Americans flocking to join them is just BS. First of all keep in mind that the FBI has anti-terrorist agents who essentially do entrapment. They find suckers who talk big about wanting to do Jihad and encourage them with offers of money, etc. BTW, I’m willing to be a little more tolerant of aggressive prosecution for these kinds of crimes but when you look at the details of many of these arrests it clearly seems like entrapment and that the criminals are often just losers who really were no credible threat until the FBI stepped in. Even supposing that some of these examples aren’t such cases the number of Americans joining ISIS is trivial. It is just a hand full of people. In fact if news stories were based on actual numbers and actual number of people killed or injured there would be much more attention to the threat of right wing terrorists such as abortion clinic bombers and right wing militias. There are for more of them and many more Americans have been killed or injured by them but the majority of attention goes to the Islamic threat. Of course in either case the actual danger is trivial and about the same as the risk of getting struck by lightning. In both cases we ignore the REAL threats such as climate change or the US regulatory environment that allows things like “bomb trains” or unregulated fertilizer factories that can blow up.

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  • One more comment and I realize this may get deleted as off topic but Jesus Fucking Christ am I the only one who is getting sick of these pop up ads to “become a member”. This site continues to go down hill. It used to be a place people could have intelligent discussions about scientific topics and atheism but it continues to look more and more like just a marketing site for Dawkins. Yes, and I know this is completely off topic but there is nowhere on the site where these kinds of topics can be raised and I think it is worth mentioning.

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  • You’re right, Red Dog, it is off topic, and in the interests of not derailing the thread we would ask people not to respond to your comment here.

    See the blue question mark at the bottom left of the page? If you click on that and post your comment there, it will go direct to the people who manage the site (which isn’t the moderators, by the way!)

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  • Roedy and Red Dog,

    Have you guys read the email conversation between Chomsky and Sam Harris? I realize that the Mid East/Islam discussion in general is a mine field but after reading their discussion I was left to wonder how any average person can parse this complicated problem when these two public intellectuals had a complete communication breakdown like that. Sigh.

    Ditto on the pop up ads.

    Also, are the atheists that are also zionists/supporters of Israel more inclined to blame the problems in the M. East on Islam as a driving force and conveniently overlook the geopolitical-historical context? I’m thinking of Harris and Bill Maher right now. I mean, if someone is solidly in the pro-Israel camp, wouldn’t that give them a strong bias toward blaming violence on a bunch of Islam deluded automatons instead of holding Israel and it’s supporters accountable for the human rights violations and atrocities?

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  • 6
    ad nauseam says:

    I’ve read their exchange, but I don’t think the way the conversation went was because the middle east was to difficult to understand or anything. It seemed to be more about Harris not addressing Chomsky’s comments and trying to change the subject when Chomsky called him out on it.

    Also, it seemed Harris was trying to boost his popularity through Chomsky and Chomsky wasn’t going to have any of that. Chomsky even said he would be open to discussing issues privately but Harris REALLY wanted to the publish it.

    By the way, I really hope an article comes out about their exchange on this website…if anyone in charge is reading…

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  • ad nauseam,

    By the way, I really hope an article comes out about their exchange on this website…if anyone in charge is reading…

    I agree.

    I don’t think the way the conversation went was because the middle east was to difficult to understand or anything.

    Right. I was thinking of the American hoi polloi mostly when I wrote that. Chomsky and Harris aren’t in that category.

    So you didn’t think Harris had a point when he claims that Chomsky was dismissive and condescending?

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  • ” The USA behaved so badly in Afghanistan and Iraq they brought ISIS and far worse on themselves. ”

    ISIS is not even having a minimal impact on the US. They have plenty of their perceived enemies to occupy them for some time to come. If the US had never existed the Middle Eastern problems would still be intractable. Just the Shiite/Sunni divide would keep that region well soaked in blood and tyranny without any outside influence needed.

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  • 9
    ad nauseam says:

    So you didn’t think Harris had a point when he claims that Chomsky was dismissive and condescending?

    Yeah he was being dismissive and condescending, but I think I would be too if someone misrepresented me and then tried to manipulate the conversation in another direction in order to avoid my criticism. Chomsky may have addressed the hypothetical situation Harris brought up if Harris had admitted he misrepresented Chomsky.

    Chomsky seemed to prefer an honest intellectual discussion in private with sources which is not condescending at all, in fact it shows he considers Harris worth the time to get to know and actually talk face to face. If I were Harris, I would have considered it an honor to sit down with Chomsky, but Harris wanted to make a big public spectacle about it. (I think maybe he was jealous of Lawrence Krauss’s publicized discussion with Chomsky but Krauss actually knew Chomsky from MIT).

    The main point about Chomsky’s criticism of Harris is that Harris thinks America has better intentions than the terrorists. Intentions mean nothing to those who are negatively impacted by others decisions (like with the Clinton example). You really can’t trust the state’s “official” reason for doing something because every state thinks they are good.

    Right. I was thinking of the American hoi polloi mostly when I wrote that. Chomsky and Harris aren’t in that category.

    I just don’t think the issue is that hard to understand for the average person though. It is really more of a matter of apathy. Does the west care enough to go in and stop the killers before they try and invade our countries? Does the west care enough to fight and die for other’s rights?

    I don’t think so…not unless there is a profit to be made.

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  • To his credit, Harris has made some concessions on his website. They are tacked onto the bottom of the email discussion:

    In any case, I can now see that I was using rather rhetorical language in my book and that Chomsky was entitled to reject my characterization of him on literal (if pedantic) grounds. He had asked the questions I said he hadn’t; I just didn’t like the answers. Conceding this doesn’t render the views he expressed in 9/11 easier to digest. But given the umbrage that Chomsky took over the offending phrases, it would have been helpful if I had admitted that they were sloppily written and, in a narrow sense, untrue. Nevertheless, all our real work would still have lain ahead of us.


    I just don’t think the issue is that hard to understand for the average person though

    🙂 Apparently you’re not one of those American hoi polloi in-the-bubble types either. I’m afraid you’re in for a great disappointment if you ever run across a survey on American knowledge of the Middle East geography, history and political realities. I expect it would be frightening to outsiders…

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  • 11
    ad nauseam says:

    I did see Harris’ last statements earlier today. I just happen to agree with Chomsky more on the issues.
    From what I’ve read of Chomsky’s, he seems to take a lot more into consideration.

    After all the saying goes: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
    As misplaced as this statement is (considering its on the Dawkins website) it seems applicable in this situation regarding intentions.

    Chomsky has said before that we should exhaust all diplomatic possibilities before using violence. Harris on the other hand…I think he is more concerned with protecting western society against our enemies (whether we caused the problems in the first place or not) rather than the human rights of all parties.

    People have tried for years to say Chomsky is against America and for our enemies, but it is just not accurate. He just tries to call out whoever is oppressing others without prejudice. In a way he is one of the most dedicated humanists living.

    And when it comes to the population of the west’s knowledge on the issues it is abysmal, but the issues are not hard to grasp. It really is just a matter of whether we want to help those in the middle east and if so, to what extent.

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  • Ad nauseam,

    I agree with your opinion of Chomsky. I’ve followed his work for thirty years and I respect and admire his activism. I also admire Harris and have learned much from his books, especially his work on morality. This is exactly why I agree with Harris when he says that both of these men have readers in common who would have been interested in the results of a productive conversation between them. I’m one of those people.

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  • The main effect ISIS is having on the USA is “forcing” it to spend money. Many think that the USA is just looking for an excuse to spend money on the military, and with Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, they desperately needed an excuse to spend.

    The USA is committing suicide. By spending so much more than they earn, they are charging toward bankruptcy. They can’t really afford bases all over the planet, and a military bigger than all their rivals put together. But the military industrial complex does not care, so long as the next quarter profit are record.

    Given that murdering civilians is what spawned ISIS, it seems highly unlikely more murdering civilians will wipe ISIS out. I think the best route it is to take advantage of America’s relative strength, and fight like a boy scout. No killing civilians. No torture. No banned weapons.

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  • If the US had never existed then they wouldn’t have removed the elected governments in Iran and replaced them with their puppet Shah who was universally hated by his people.

    If the Shah hadn’t been returned instead of the elected government there would have been no niche for the Ayatollahs. And no anti US feeling. A democracy would have evolved.

    If there had been no need for the Ayatollahs and their hard line anti US stance there would have been no need for the US to prop up psychopath Saddam Hussain. Iraq could have evolved a democracy.

    There would have been no psycho Saddam to remove when he became awkward. There would have been no political vacuum in Iraq.

    If there had been no US when a small group of tribal religious extremists starting messing around in Afghanistan than the afghan government, with a bit of help from their soviet neighbours would have got if rid of the threat to their security. Neighbours they asked to help them.

    There would not have been a lot of money and weaponry thrown at the Taliban and Bin Laden. With no Taliban in the seventies there probably wouldn’t have been an Al Quada. No Al Quada probably no IS.

    Cos groups like IS flourish where there is instability. And a hell of a lot of that instability was caused by previous Western foreign policy!

    Would Sunni and Shia bother fighting in a stable democracy? Probably would have grown beyond that by now. Like they have in other countries where there hasn’t been interference.

    And the US isn’t suffering the horrors that this group are engaged in. Yesterday I heard of the heartbreaking call the Kurdish fighters had received from a desperate Yazidhi Woman begging them to bomb the brothel she was in because her life was so awful. She’d been raped thirty times that day and it wasn’t even lunch time. She was so badly damaged she could no longer go to the toilet. She wanted to die but suspect wanted to take a few IS rapists with her.

    I don’t think she deserved any if that because previous US Govts were terrified of anything remotely socialist.

    And I’ve not even started on the issues of Saudi money and Isreal.

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