A U.S. Air Force Intel team turned a comment on social media into an airstrike on ISIS building

Jun 04 2015 - 9 Comments

A comment on a social media can attract three JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions).

It looks like the imprudent use of social media cost ISIS an air strike and three JDAMs dropped by U.S. attack planes on one of their buildings.

According to Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, airmen belonging to the 361st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, at Hurlburt Field, Florida, were able to geo-locate an ISIS headquarters building thanks to a comment posted on social media by a militant.

As Carlisle explained to Defense Tech:

“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.”

Although the U.S. Air Force did not release any further information about the location of the headquarters or the aircraft that carried out the attack, the story is quite interesting as it proves that not only are social media used by ISIS for propaganda and recruiting purposes, they are also used by U.S. intel team to identify ground targets, supplementing ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) activities conducted with the “usual” platforms, like satellites, spyplanes and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

U.S. and NATO soldiers are always made aware of the risk of using social media and, generally speaking, digital technologies which embed information that can be exploited by the adversaries in various ways. Still OPSEC (Operations Security) breaches occur.

In 2007 four Apache helicopters were lost in Iraq because of smartphone geotagging: insurgents were able to determine the exact location of the AH-64s and successfully attack them because some soldiers had taken pictures on the flightline and uploaded them (including geotagging data) to the Internet.

Now even IS militants have experienced how dangerous an incautious use of social media can be.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

  • InvaderNat

    Remember kids, social media kills. It’s scary how it’s becoming a literal battlefield.

  • AndrewZ

    If they really found out about it that way, why publicise it? Surely it would be more sensible to keep quiet and wait for more such mistakes to be made?

    We have to consider the possibility that this is a cover story to hide the real source of the information, e.g. informants inside ISIS or a politically-sensitive source like Iran. The most effective way to stop the Western media asking inconvenient questions is simply to feed them a neat story. Make it good enough and they’ll be so keen to use it that they won’t want to consider any reasons why it might not be true.

    • Larry J

      If the story is true and not disinformation, it was stupid to publicize it. OPSEC works both ways.

  • tomando

    > “According to Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, airmen
    > belonging to the 361st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, at
    > Hurlburt Field, Florida, were able to geo-locate an ISIS headquarters building thanks
    > to a comment posted on social media by a militant.”

    Why not STFU about how you were able to do this GENIUS, so you would have the capability to do it again?

    You’ve just given away the trick General by doing the equivalent of what ISIS did in the first place: giving away secrets in social media posts.

    “Military intelligence”, the ultimate oxymoron.

    • tjohn6041

      Seems like this could be a tool that ISIS could even use against their enemies. Change the goetagged location (I am not sure how hard that is to do, but if it is anything like changing the file information, pretty easy), and have a US plane take out a group of Kurds, Iranian. or Syrian fighters. It would be effective tactically and would also hurt relations between the US and countries we don’t already get along with. If nothing else, they blew it, this is the only time this will work.

  • tomando

    > “According to Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, airmen
    > belonging to the 361st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, at
    > Hurlburt Field, Florida, were able to geo-locate an ISIS headquarters building thanks
    > to a comment posted on social media by a militant.”

    And now the General, through commenting on this, has the trick exposed on social media thereby duplicating the ISIS mistake of exposing secrets on social media: now, ISIS won’t make this mistake again.

    Great job, General…

  • Terrance Seman

    The ‘idiot’ in this case is General Carlisle. How many future photos does the General think the ‘bad guys’ will post knowing that the General can geo-locate them. Sir, with respect, do your job and keep your mouth shut. I am retired Air Force, 25 years, two tours in Vietnam; I would never think to talk about my missions. Terrance Seman, Captain, USAF (retired) After my initial comment, I viewed the official fact sheet for General Carlisle. I now understand his naivety better; the General has never flown combat missions, most of his assignments have been staff positions.

    • tjohn6041

      Seems he doesn’t realize that ISIS is on the internet. I have seen that a lot among military officials and politicians worldwide, it seems they don’t realize that the enemy can see what they are saying, or that the general public can fact check what they say.

  • ElMinimo

    > I believe that each JDAM costs…

    In the range of $25,000 – $30,000 for the hardware.