Social media is a powerful tool in the recruitment of terrorists, but it is also a powerful tool in the fight against terrorism. The infamous double-edged sword. The militant group,Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has been successfully using social media to recruit as well as broadcast their message, but the U.S. Air Force is turning the militant group’s eagerness to share on social media into a target acquisition system.
Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, described Monday how airmen, with the 361st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group at Hurlburt Field, Florida, turned a social media post into an airstrike that resulted in three Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) bombs destroying an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) headquarters building.
“It was a post on social media to bombs on target in less than 24 hours,” Carlisle said. “Incredible work when you think about.”
Here is how Gen. Carlisle told the story at the recent breakfast meeting in Washington D.C. hosted by the Air Force Association.
“The guys that were working down out of Hurlburt, they’re combing through social media and they see some moron [in a selfie] standing at this command. And in some social media, open forum, bragging about the command and control capabilities for Daesh, ISIL. And these guys go: ‘We got an in.’ So they do some work, long story short, about 22 hours later through that very building, three [Joint Direct Attack Munitions] take that entire building out.”
The destruction of a terrorist headquarters resulting from a social media post illustrates the intelligence gathering potential of social media. It is a tale of good and evil that parallels many great inventions of the past, from Alfred Nobel’s inventing of dynamite to the development of nuclear power. Powerful tools such as explosives, nuclear power and social media can be used constructively or destructively as guided by the hands and hearts that wield them.
Social media can be used to draw people together or tear them apart, spread evil or good at the whim of those who use it. This story is much more than just an idiot with a selfie stick, it brings to light the wonderful and horrible potential of the interconnected world we live in. It is a cautionary tale for all involved from terrorists to military intelligence, from citizen to government and from person to person. The information you share is not just seen by those you wish to see it, but by those who may wish you harm as well. Food for thought for us all.