Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Quotable: The FBI's Michael Steinbach on technology and terrorist messages


Sunday, July 10th 2016
Highlights of the prepared statement of Michael Steinbach, Executive Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on July 6, 2016.  The topic of the hearing was “ISIS Online: Countering Terrorist Radicalization & Recruitment on the Internet &;\ Social Media.”

  • As technology advances so, too, does terrorists’ use of technology to communicate — both to inspire and recruit.  Their widespread use of technology propagates the persistent terrorist message to attack U.S. interests whether in the Homeland or abroad. As these threats to  Western interests evolves, we must adapt and confront the challenges, relying heavily on the strength of our Federal, State, local, and international partnerships. 

  • To an even greater degree than al Qaeda or other foreign terrorist organizations, ISIL has persistently used the Internet to communicate and spread its message.  From a Homeland perspective, it is ISIL’s widespread reach through the Internet and particularly social media which is most concerning as ISIL has aggressively employed this technology for its nefarious strategy. 

  • ISIL blends traditional media platforms, glossy photos, in-depth articles, and social media campaigns that can go viral in a matter of seconds.  No matter the format, the message of radicalization spreads faster than we imagined just a few years ago.   

  • Unlike other groups, ISIL has constructed a narrative that touches on all facets of life — from career opportunities to family life to a sense of community.  The message is not tailored solely to those who are overtly expressing symptoms of radicalization.  It is seen by many who click through the Internet every day, receive social media push notifications, and participate in social networks.   

  • . . . there is no set profile for the susceptible consumer of this propaganda.  However, one trend continues to rise — the inspired youth.  We have seen certain children and young adults drawing deeper into the ISIL narrative.  These individuals are often comfortable with virtual communication platforms, specifically social media networks.  Ultimately, many of these individuals are seeking a sense of belonging. 

  • . . . social media has allowed groups, such as ISIL, to use the Internet to spot and assess potential recruits.  With the widespread distribution of social media, terrorists can identify vulnerable individuals of all ages in the United States — spot, assess, recruit, and radicalize — either to travel abroad to join ISIL or to conduct a homeland attack.

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