The terrorist group ISIS is really good at social media. Even though every major social network has policies against posting terrorist messages, ISIS still manages to spread its message and recruit new followers.
However, like any person or group using social media, it just takes one stupid post to cause problems. I constantly tell you to watch out what you say and post on social media because it might come back to haunt you. ISIS just learned that message in a big way (not that I mind if it turns out to be a slow learner).
It started when a no-so-bright ISIS terrorist decided to post a selfie in front of an ISIS headquarters building in the Middle East. He then did a little bragging about what the building was used for.
Half a world away, Air Force personnel with the 361st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group out of Hurlburt Field, Florida, spotted the photo. The Air Force won't give all the details of how they tracked the photo location, but that doesn't change what happened next.
Director of Air Combat Command Gen. Hawk Carlisle gave the story at a recent breakfast in D.C.
"The guys that were working down out of Hurlburt, they’re combing through social media and they see some moron 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."
Yep, the Air Force spotting the photo, tracked the geographic location and put bombs on target in less than 24 hours. That's almost faster than an order delivery from Amazon.
This explains why in February the Air Force created the 363rd ISR Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, which the 361st now falls under. One of the 363rd's major jobs is to scour the Internet and generate targeting information from social media posts and other online clues.
Of course, it's important to remember that ISIS and other terrorist groups can do the same thing. In fact, back in Iraq in 2007, terrorists destroyed four brand-new Apache helicopters with precise mortar fire after soldiers took photos of the helicopters and posted the photos, with embedded GPS information, online. Learn how to strip GPS information out of your photos before posting them online.
The U.S. military has learned a lot since then and put rules in place to prevent this kind of thing in the future. However, if you're a military member or military family, always be careful what you post online.
You should also take care because the FBI and other government agencies have warned that terrorists could strike at you using information you post. America appreciates everything you give up to defend us, and we want you to be as safe as possible.