Friday, March 11, 2016

Data Trove or Junk?

"This [a crackdown on ISIL's foreign fighter networks] would allow the law enforcement apparatus across the world to become much more engaged and begin to help do what we can to stem this flow of foreign fighters -- so we're hopeful that it's accurate and if so we certainly plan to do everything we can to  help."
U.S. army Col. Steve Warren, spokesman, Coalition against the Islamic State

"We believe there is a high probability that these documents are genuine."
"These documents are of significance for us for prosecutorial reasons and for threat prevention."
Markus Koths, spokesman, Bundeskriminalamt, Germany
Sky News/AFP
Sky News/AFP   Reputed ISIL personnel records said to have been stolen from the head of ISIL’s internal security police

The German Interior Ministry has revealed that what purports to be authentic lists of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant members are now in the hands of Germany's federal criminal police. Unknown as yet is whether authorities in Germany were prepared to share the list with intelligence agencies of their many allies. Yet another source, Sky News in Britain has reported it has possession of 22,000 ISIL files detailing ISIL jihadi names, home country, telephone numbers and so on.

Above all, also on the lists are identifying names of those believed to have sponsored and recruited the jihadis. How significant this data is is yet to be fully determined, but it will certainly give a heads up, if verified, on technique and method, infiltration and identification. The presence of operatives from ISIL across the Middle East may also be revealed through this new source of intelligence which could have the effect of re-shaping the Western response against ISIL.

The records reveal personal information, including identification of the families of the recruits. A ramification of possession of these files could conceivably include stunting Daesh's future capacity and capability in recruiting and inspiring new members. When foreign fighters leave their home bases throughout Europe and North America most often they prefer and their families as well, to remain anonymous with rare exceptions. Should jihadis after experiencing the conflict wish to return to their countries of origin, the whereabouts and purpose for being there would be best left discreetly blank.

The files, according to Britain's Sky News, were given them on a memory stick purloined from the head of ISIL's internal security police. A former fighter had obviously unauthorized access and used it to take away the data, perhaps as a bargaining chip to be enabled to return to Britain after having grown disillusioned with the group and its playlist. If it's a hoax it is a fairly elaborate one. On the other hand, it appears that possession of such lists may not be an anomalous rarity, after all.

Perhaps the possession of the files is not quite the coup as it is made out to be, given that Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper has reported it too is in possession of "dozens" of files where ISIL files and videos appear to be widely available on the Turkey-Syria border from anti-ISIL Kurdish fighters and members of ISIL itself. If so, does ISIL see no value in safeguarding these records? Seems like pretty sloppy records-maintenance.

The documents appear to be ISIL-standard forms comprising 23 questions which recruits complete once inducted into ISIL. Nationals from an estimated 51 countries are represented on the lists.

Name:   Abu Feras Al-Somali
Born:   1989
Marital status:   Single
Residence:   Canada
Occupation:   Student
Knowledge of Shariah:   Limited
Countries travelled to:   Somalia, Kenya, UAE
Where entered:   Azaz
Smuggler:   Mohamed Hussein
Reference:   None
Date of entry:   Nov.12, 2013
Been to jihad before:   No
Fighter or suicide bomber:   Fighter
Specialty:   None
Valuables surrendered:   Passport
Contacts:   Brother and parent

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