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April 9, 2014 0

Terrorist Groups Continue To Flock To Twitter

The recent launch of Twit­ter accounts by the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), a media orga­ni­za­tion affil­i­ated with Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP) under­scores the con­tin­ued abil­ity of ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions to influ­ence and poten­tially recruit fol­low­ers worldwide.aqap-twitter

GIMF’s Twit­ter feed, which was re-launched in Feb­ru­ary 2014, is pri­mar­ily in Ara­bic and includes a mix of offi­cial state­ments and links to pro­pa­ganda mate­ri­als. It has gained 1,533 fol­low­ers. One of the recent tweets included a link to an English-language video series called “Mujahideen Moments” that pro­motes mil­i­tant activity.

The AQAP Twit­ter feed was re-launched in late March 2014. The feed, which now has 3,406 fol­low­ers, is in Ara­bic and includes pic­tures of mil­i­tants and offi­cial state­ments from AQAP.

AQAP has been par­tic­u­larly adept at spread­ing its mes­sage online. Inspire mag­a­zine, its online English-language pub­li­ca­tion, has influ­enced many extrem­ists and would-be extrem­ists. Inspire came out with its twelfth issue in March 2014, which called for car bomb attacks on major U.S. cities.

The use of Twit­ter by For­eign Ter­ror­ist Orga­ni­za­tions first made head­lines in Decem­ber 2011 when Al Shabaab, a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion in Soma­lia that for­mally merged with Al Qaeda in Feb­ru­ary 2012, began tweeting.

ADL recently released a new report, Home­grown Islamic Extrem­ism in 2013: The Per­ils of Online Recruit­ment &Self-Radicalization, ana­lyzing the rise of ter­ror­ist use of online plat­forms and the effects and impact that use has on domes­tic security.

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April 4, 2014 0

Online Terrorist Propaganda & The Boston Marathon Bombing Anniversary

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Com­mem­o­ra­tive graphic of Boston bomber Tamer­lan Tsar­naev in Inspire magazine

In the year since the Boston Marathon bomb­ing, which resulted in three deaths and over 260 injuries, ter­ror­ists groups that jus­tify and sanc­tion vio­lence have inten­si­fied their efforts to reach, recruit and moti­vate home­grown extrem­ists by adapt­ing their mes­sages to new technology.

Ter­ror­ist groups and their sup­port­ers are not only using social media and other Inter­net plat­forms to spread their mes­sages more quickly and effec­tively than ever before, but also to recruit adher­ents who live in the com­mu­ni­ties they seek to target.

A new ADL report, Home­grown Islamic Extrem­ism in 2013: The Per­ils of Online Recruit­ment & Self-Radicalization, explores the impact sophis­ti­cated ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda has had on a new gen­er­a­tion of home­grown extrem­ists. Face-to-face inter­ac­tion with ter­ror­ist oper­a­tives, the report con­cludes, is no longer a require­ment for radicalization.

Inspire mag­a­zine, for exam­ple, which is designed to engage and recruit sym­pa­thiz­ers in the U.S., has become a sta­ple of domes­tic ter­ror­ism, pro­vid­ing ide­o­log­i­cal jus­ti­fi­ca­tions encour­ag­ing attacks on U.S. soil as well as var­i­ous sug­gested meth­ods of attack. Inspire con­tained the very bomb-making instruc­tions that were used by the alleged Boston Bombers to con­struct their bombs in an arti­cle called “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.”

The newest issue of Inspire, released last month, pro­vides detailed instruc­tions on how to build car bombs and includes sug­ges­ted loca­tions for where to plant them in var­i­ous U.S. cities. The author notes, “The Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment was unable to pro­tect its cit­i­zens from pres­sure cooker bombs in back­packs, I won­der if they are ready to stop car bombs!”

The ADL report also explores the other Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents impli­cated in the U.S. on terror-related charges in 2013 and over the past five years, not­ing how many were directly influ­enced by ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda eas­ily acces­si­ble online.

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April 4, 2014 0

Coalition Promotes Expanded Religious Accommodation In The Military

On Jan­u­ary 22, 2014 the Depart­ment of Defense (DoD) pub­lished an updated and revised Instruc­tion 1300.17–Accommodation of Reli­gious Prac­tices Within the Mil­i­tary Ser­vicesThe new guid­ance, which describes pol­icy, pro­ce­dures, and respon­si­bil­i­ties for the accom­mo­da­tion of reli­gious prac­tices in the Armed Forces, was designed “to ensure the pro­tec­tion of rights of con­science of mem­bers of the Armed Forces.”  The updated guid­ance sought to strike the proper bal­ance between mil­i­tary readi­ness and reli­gious free­dom for ser­vice mem­bers.   But it fell short in not pro­vid­ing a suf­fi­cient accom­mo­da­tion for some fun­da­men­tal aspects of minor­ity reli­gious practice.  120407-M-KX613-023.jpg

For exam­ple, the guid­ance lays out a for­mal process so that Jew­ish and Sikh sol­diers may request an accom­mo­da­tion for their required head cov­er­ings (a kip­pah or a tur­ban) and incor­po­rates groom­ing stan­dards that pro­vide a path for approval for beards.   How­ever, each sol­dier must still request an indi­vid­ual, case-by-case accom­mo­da­tion under the guid­ance – a daunt­ing and stress­ful prospect for some, with an uncer­tain out­come.   In the name of “…main­tain­ing uni­form mil­i­tary groom­ing and appear­ance stan­dards,” the effect is to exclude some indi­vid­u­als who would oth­er­wise wel­come the oppor­tu­nity to serve their coun­try in the military.  

In Jan­u­ary, the House Armed Ser­vices Sub­com­mit­tee on Mil­i­tary Per­son­nel held hear­ings on reli­gious accom­mo­da­tions in the mil­i­tary. ADL, the Sikh Coali­tion, and the ACLU, (among oth­ers) raised this issue in their state­ments.  And Holly Holl­man, Gen­eral Coun­sel for the Bap­tist Joint Com­mit­tee on Reli­gious Lib­erty, artic­u­lately described  the del­i­cate bal­anc­ing act fac­ing the mil­i­tary in address­ing reli­gious lib­erty concerns. 

Impor­tantly, more than 100 Mem­bers of Con­gress have weighed in on reli­gious accom­mo­da­tion in the mil­i­tary in a let­ter to the Pen­ta­gon, coor­di­nated by Rep. Joseph Crow­ley (D-NY).   

And this week ADL, the Sikh Coali­tion, and the ACLU coor­di­nated a let­ter to the Pen­ta­gon from an unusu­ally broad coali­tion of twenty-one national groups with real reli­gious lib­erty cre­den­tials and sub­ject mat­ter exper­tise.  The inter­faith coali­tion let­ter stated that the cur­rent guid­ance “need­lessly infringe on the rights of these reli­giously obser­vant ser­vice mem­bers and prospec­tive ser­vice mem­bers” and urged the Pen­ta­gon to fine-tune the Instruc­tion to bet­ter accom­mo­date reli­gious practices. 

The same com­mand struc­ture that pro­vides unique pres­sure to con­form within the mil­i­tary – and poten­tial for inap­pro­pri­ate pros­e­ly­tiz­ing and reli­gious coer­cion – also makes the direct involve­ment of the Pentagon’s lead­er­ship in pro­mot­ing effec­tive, uni­form guid­ance and solu­tions to this prob­lem crit­i­cally important. 

The sig­na­to­ries to the coali­tion let­ter are: 

Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, Amer­i­can Jew­ish Com­mit­tee (AJC). Amer­i­cans United for Sep­a­ra­tion of Church and State, Anti-Defamation League, Bap­tist Joint Com­mit­tee for Reli­gious Lib­erty, Becket Fund for Reli­gious Lib­erty, Chap­lain Alliance for Reli­gious Lib­erty, Chris­t­ian Legal Soci­ety, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Epis­co­pal Church, Forum on the Mil­i­tary Chap­laincy, Gen­eral Con­fer­ence of Seventh-day Adven­tists, Inter­faith Alliance, Mus­lim Advo­cates, National Coun­cil of Jew­ish Women, Sikh Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund (SALDEF), Sikh Coali­tion, South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Together (SAALT), United Methodist Church, Gen­eral Board of Church and Soci­ety, Union of Ortho­dox Jew­ish Con­gre­ga­tions of Amer­ica, Union for Reform Judaism

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