- The Washington Times
Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sunni radicals with the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant have one really big fan of the terrorist organization’s YouTube, Instagram and Twitter accounts: the U.S. intelligence community.

“U.S. intelligence prefers for these accounts to stay up, rather than come down,” an employee with a major social media company told Mashable on Wednesday. The employee asked not to be identified by the digital news outlet.

When the Sunni terrorist army posts pictures of beheadings, equipment and ongoing operations, it gives away key bits of intelligence. A U.S. intelligence official told Mashable that Twitter feeds, YouTube videos and Instagram pictures all provide valuable information needed to assess the “fluid” situation in Iraq and Syria.

“Whether or not it makes more sense to be trying to quash this kind of communication so they can’t get their message out, intel folks would always want them to have it more open,” Jason Healey, a founding member of the Pentagon’s first joint cyberwar unit and now director of the Atlantic Council’s Statecraft Initiative, told Mashable.

“These guys are so busy promoting themselves online, you’d think they were Justin Bieber,” added Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “Right now I could get online and I could watch ISIL on social media and tell you where they are operating, which countries they’re from and who they’re working with.”

Twitter and Facebook declined to provide an official statement for Mashable’s article. A representative for YouTube told that news outlet that the company abides by “valid court orders and subpoenas,” but declined to answer specific questions about ISIL.

SEE ALSO: ISIL captured 52 U.S.-made howitzers; artillery weapons cost 500K each

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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