Dan De Luce, Elias Groll and John Hudson, "Going after the ISIS propaganda mastermind," chicagotribune.com
Image from, under the headline: "ISIS propaganda material turns up in Pakistan, India"
His grisly propaganda empire seemed to know no limits. Filming the decapitation of journalists. Taping the immolation of a caged Jordanian pilot. Broadcasting the massacre of Iraqi troops. Nothing, it seems, was off-limits for the jihadist video empire built by Abu Muhammad al-Adnani.
As spokesman and external operations manager for the Islamic State, Adnani built a propaganda apparatus that drew recruits and inspired attacks around the globe. Now, the architect of that machine has been killed in an American airstrike, but the media apparatus he created will live on. ...
The U.S. government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to counter propaganda by Adnani and other radical Islamists through an array of programs sponsored by the State, Homeland Security, and Defense departments as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development. But it hasn't succeeded in preventing groups like the Islamic State from inspiring attacks around the globe.
A particular source of embarrassment for Washington's efforts was the State Department's Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications.
The center, best known for trolling cyber-jihadists on Twitter and producing English-language counterpropaganda videos, has been widely derided as ineffective and counterproductive. Earlier this year, the center stopped producing videos in English and engaging Islamic State users on Twitter and instead started helping foreign governments run countermessaging centers such as one in the United Arab Emirates, or new ones in Malaysia and Nigeria.
Officials hope the center, newly branded as the Global Engagement Center, will produce better results by playing down its associations with the U.S. government.
"We're not the most effective messenger for our message," Richard Stengel, a public diplomacy official at the State Department, told The New York Times last month. "There's no tweet from the U.S. State Department that's going to talk a young man out of joining ISIS."
The center's budget was tripled this year to $16 million after widespread complaints about its previous efforts.
Senior U.S. officials and commanders have long hoped that if the Islamic State suffered a decisive, lasting defeat on the battlefield, its propaganda appeal would fade, since it would no longer be able to sell the idea of a caliphate to Muslims seeking a return to an ancient ideal.
Although Adnani was a skilled propagandist, his track record as a battlefield commander and strategist was less impressive. While he served as the second-most powerful leader in the group, the Islamic State has suffered one defeat after another over the past year in Syria, Iraq, and, more recently, Libya.
If Adnani had survived, his propaganda campaign might have unraveled along with the Islamic State's territory ...