Why Pentagon isn't scared by latest Islamic State threat

The Pentagon is confident that the Islamic State didn't hack its networks to get the names of 100 American service members. Troops just need to be smart, an official says.

Hasan Jamali
In this Thursday, March 19, 2015 file photo, U.S. sailors and pilots walk on the flight deck, checking for any debris, aboard the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. U.S. aircraft aboard the Carl Vinson as well as French military jets aboard the nearby French carrier Charles de Gaulle are flying missions over Iraq in the fight against Islamic State militants.

The Islamic State’s latest threat to 100 American troops has so far elicited no great concern from the Pentagon, which is encouraging its service members to be smart but not scared.

The Islamic State claims that its “Hacking Division” obtained names, photos, and addresses for 100 Marines, sailors, and military pilots through incursions into Department of Defense networks, and it has called on sympathizers to kill these troops “in their own lands.”

But the Pentagon dismisses the bold claims, and the threat “doesn’t change our level of concern,” says one United States military official, who could speak to the press only on condition of anonymity.

Officials are convinced that the names came from “open source” postings, like newspaper articles and social media sites. And the Pentagon doesn't want its troops to stop talking to the press or to shut down their social media accounts.

“We want troops to tell their stories,” the military official said. “We’re not going to stop telling stories about what we’re doing in the military.”

Service members simply need to use common sense when on social media sites. “These sites are tools that many of our service members and their families use,” to stay in touch during deployments, the official adds. 

“We want to help people who want to be on social media to share information in a manner that’s going to be a good experience for them, and to feel as safe as they can be.”

The Pentagon has long encouraged service members to take care with their Facebook and Twitter accounts. To this end, it has published tip sheets with basic suggestions including “don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.”

“Becoming friends with scammers allows them access to span your Timeline, tag you in posts and send you malicious messages. Your real friends may also end up being targeted,” reads a Pentagon “Guide to Keeping Your Social Media Accounts Secure.”

It also reminds troops to “never give out your login info,” even if people “promise to give you something (ex: free poker chips) if you share.”

The Pentagon and the broader American security apparatus are concerned about “lone wolf” terrorists. A recent study by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that three-quarters of the 60 terrorist incidents it studied involved a single person without accomplices.

But military officials say they are confident that the Islamic State did not hack into any Department of Defense (DoD) networks.

“We don’t believe that there has been any intrusion into any DoD networks,” says the military official. “We’re looking into it, but it looks like a compilation of open source information on social media.” 

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