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Hacktivist Group Anonymous Declares War on ISIL

As you may know by now, the Belgian branch of Anonymous has declared war on al-Qaeda and ISIL after the attack on Charlie Hebdo, which took the lives of twenty people, including the terrorists. On January 9, Anonymous posted the following video.

This is a press release by anonymous.

In the case of the terror attack against Charlie Hebdo, as we had previously told you, we plan on shedding light on all these events and give homage to those innocent killed.

The anonymous of all the planet have decided to declare war on you terrorists. We will track you down to the last one and will *kill (destroy) you. You allowed yourselves to kill innocent people. We will therefore avenge their deaths.

We will track all of your activities online. We will close your accounts on social networks. You will not impose your Sharia in our democracies. We will not let your stupidity kill our liberties, and our freedom of expression.

We have warned you. Expect your destruction. We will track you everywhere on the planet. Nowhere will you be safe.

We are anonymous.
We are legion.
We do not forget.
We do not forgive.
Be afraid of us, Islamic State and Al Qaida. You will get our vengeance.


On January 10, an English version was posted, telling the world, “Attacking freedom of speech is attacking Anonymous. We will not permit it”:

Simply put, though ISIL is currently fighting Iraq, the Kurds, and the United States, they may have finally pissed off the wrong people. When Anonymous says they will “shed light” ISIL need only ask the KKK what, precisely, this means.

Bad blood exists already. ISIL hacked an Anonymous Twitter account in June, and Anonymous has already announced @opiceisis a campaign called Ice Isis, “Aiming to destroy ISIS propaganda and influence on the internet,” as a representative of the group explained to France 24 back in September.

Though this representative said that the United States is “not free of blame” for its contributions to the crisis (a reference, at the very least, to Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 and its bungled aftermath), he also made clear that Anonymous does not see ISIL as representative of Islam but instead, “gangsters who hijacked the Islamic religion,” marking Anonymous as not only more intelligent, but having more integrity, than the Republican Party. As if this will come as a surprise to anyone.

It is well to consider how effective might be Anonymous’ declaration of war. Besides “attacking their ideologies with truth and logic,” as was explained to France 24, theirs is exactly the sort of response to which ISIL’s campaign of terror has no answer. You cannot torture, rape, or behead, a computer hack, which, by its very nature, is not only virtual, but untraceable. For ISIL, this will be like being shot at by soldiers they cannot see.

The representative told France 24,

In the video we released, we plan to attack several countries that were knowingly supporting ISIS financially, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia. We warn that if they continue to support ISIS, we would be forced to destroy their virtual infrastructure, and yes, we have those who can do this.

Since the United States cannot bring the full weight of its powerful conventional arsenal to bear, and the Iraqi army seems ill-equipped to face ISIL on the battlefield, the terrorists’ weak link would seem to be its financial infrastructure.

It takes a huge war chest to run an operation like the Caliphate’s, and this is not a chest full of gold sitting in the back of a tent in a remote desert, or even in an opulent palace. In today’s economy, this money is in banks, in investments, and will leave an electronic trail.

According to Matthew Levitt, director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington, D.C., ISIL is “the best-financed group we’ve ever seen.”

And according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen, speaking in October,

[ISIL] has amassed wealth at an unprecedented pace, and its revenue sources have a different composition from those of many other terrorist organizations. Unlike, for instance, core al-Qa’ida, ISIL derives a relatively small share of its funds from deep-pocket donors, and thus does not, today, depend principally on moving money across international borders. Instead, ISIL obtains the vast majority of its revenues through local criminal and terrorist activities.

The mainstream media has done its fair share of reporting on ISIL’s finances.

Newsweek examined on “ISIS’s robust, sprawling, and efficient financial operation” in November, telling us of the terrorist organization’s “currencies of choice—cash, crude oil and contraband,” which “allow it to operate outside of legitimate banking channels.”

The reach of ISIS’s financial portfolio is broad and lucrative. Highly localized and multiple revenue streams feed the terrorist organization’s coffers—generating up to $6 million a day, according to Masrour Barzani, head of Kurdish Intelligence and the Kurdistan Regional Security Council.

Where does this money come from? Some sources are obvious: Kidnap, extortion, and other criminal activities, says the Brookings Institution, though revenue from ransoms has diminished as ISIL runs out of likely victims.

CNN points to ISIL’s oil sales, explaining that “sources told CNN, the group probably makes between $1 million and $2 million per day, but probably on the lower end.” This oil goes not only to the Assad regime in Syria, but across the border to Turkey.

David Cohen points out that following the money trail is not a straightforward process, that this oil money travels via black marketeer to bank.

ISIL also receives money from sympathizers in various Muslim states, Kuwait, and especially Qatar, ironically enough, Qatar being a Western ally and Kuwait being the country the U.S. moved in to liberate in the First Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein invaded and occupied the country. Saudi Arabia is another source of funding for the terrorist group.

Saudi Arabia is an important if problematic US ally in the war on terror. Federal options may be limited, but, of course, Anonymous may be an answer for this:

ISIL also has a sizeable area it can not only plunder, including banks, including $430 million alone from a bank in Mosul, though this is a resource ISIL can tap only once when they occupy a city, and also taxation. Business Insider revealed in August that “For example, ISIS brings in nearly $12 million a month in revenues from extortion and other shady practices in the Iraqi city of Mosul alone.”

Time Magazine informed us back in October that,

The U.S. Treasury recently confirmed plans to try to bankrupt the militant group by targeting its oil businesses and imposing sanctions on those financing them.

And David Cohen revealed,

I will expect that we will have an impact on ISIL’s financial situation long before 36 months. But this is not going to be a case of, we flip a light switch and all of a sudden all of their financial resources have disappeared.

Certainly the American intelligence community has shown its own cyber chops in the recent (if virtual) tête-à-tête with North Korea. But how much more effective would Anonymous be using a somewhat less straightforward approach?

What will #OpCharlieHebdo mean for ISIL’s prospects? Certainly the military struggle must continue. But given Anonymous’ declaration of war, democracy’s struggle – and that of the United States, though it is no doubt help the federal government does not want – might have just become a great deal easier.

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