1 May 2016 – From this weekend’s Sunday Times of London:
Islamic State hackers have published a “hit list” of dozens of US military personnel purportedly involved in drone strikes against terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
At the weekend, a group calling itself the “Islamic State Hacking Division” circulated online the names, home addresses and photographs of more than 70 US staff, including women. It urged supporters: “Kill them wherever they are, knock on their doors and behead them, stab them, shoot them in the face or bomb them.”
The group also claimed that it might have a mole in Britain’s Ministry of Defence and threatened to publish “secret intelligence” in the future that could identify RAF drone operators. The claim could not be verified.
The hacking division was previously led by Junaid Hussain, a computer hacker from Birmingham who was killed by a US drone strike in Syria last August after he was discovered to be orchestrating attacks against the West.
Inquiries made by The Sunday Times suggested that the names on the US hit list are genuine.
However, the information published by Islamic State does not appear to be the result of a leak or a genuine hack.
Instead, the group seems to have painstakingly gleaned the names of Reaper and Predator drone operators from news articles and military newsletters, before matching them to addresses, photos and other personal details from publicly available sources on the internet.
Some of the information appears to have been taken from social media sites, including Facebook and LinkedIn.
Among those named on the list are Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland, the US commander leading the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. His identity and role are already in the public domain.
Coalition drone strikes have been highly effective in killing senior figures within Islamic State and putting the terrorist group on the back foot in its self-declared “caliphate” in the Middle East.
The US drone program is mainly run from bases in Nevada and New Mexico.
The hit list features the Islamic State flag above the heading: “Target — United States Military”. Circulated via Twitter and posted on the JustPaste website, it states: “You crusaders that can only attack the soldiers of the Islamic State with joysticks and consoles, die in your rage!
“Your military has no courage, neither has your president as he still refuses to send troops. So instead you press buttons thousands of miles away in your feeble attempt to fight us.
“A nation of cowards that holds no bravery as you resort to sending your remote-controlled unmanned Reaper and Predator drones to attack us from the skies. So this is for you, America.”
The group claimed that it had “acquired” information “to expose the location of your drone personnel”. It continued: “These 75 crusaders are posted as targets for our brothers and sisters in America and worldwide to hunt down and kill.
“In our next leak we may even disclose secret intelligence the Islamic State has just received from a source the brothers in the UK have spent some time acquiring from the Ministry of Defence in London as we slowly and secretly infiltrate England and the USA online and off.”
After mini-biographies of each of the targeted US personnel, an apparent disclaimer states: “A few of the addresses may not be current due to the databases being outdated.” At the bottom of the document is an image of the Statue of Liberty with its head cut off.
Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said: “We are aware that ISIL and other terrorist organisations have periodically purported to release personal information on US service members and military members of our coalition partners involved in operations against ISIL.
“We take proactive measures to protect our service members and their families and keep them apprised of changes to the security situation.
“We will not comment on the authenticity of the information in question, and this will have no effect on operations against ISIL.”
Britain’s Ministry of Defence said: “We do not comment on alleged leaked documents.”