CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) -It’s been five months since Springfield native, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan was shot and killed in a home-grown terror attack in Chattanooga. Today the FBI confirmed the gunman was inspired by terrorist propaganda, something that has become a popular form of recruiting terrorists via social media.
The FBI says the terrorism model is changing. FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday social media and the internet are making it harder to both track terrorists and prevent mass attacks. Sites like “Twitter” allow groups like ISIS to spread their messages world wide and recruit.
The FBI found that Mohammad Abdulazeez, the man who killed four Marines and one sailor in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was inspired by terrorist propaganda. He reportedly searched the internet for martyrdom.
- FBI: “Terrorist organization propaganda” inspired Chattanooga shooter
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Some people might think it’s easy for government officials to watch someone’s social media because everything is public, but that’s not exactly the case. A terrorist can use false information, they can write any messages in code, and they’re often deleting their accounts.
ISIS has been using Twitter as a crowd sourcing device to recruit. Criminal Justice Professor George Michael at Westfield State University said it’s ironic that terrorist groups against westernization, like ISIS, are using western technology, but it works.
Prof. Michael said, “There have been some Americans like Anwar Al-Awlaki and Adam Gadahn. They have been featured very prominently in this radical Islamist propaganda. They were very effective in reaching out to jihadist lone wolf terrorists.”
Years ago, terrorist wanna-bees went to online forums, which were easier to track. Now, social media allows aspiring “lone wolf” terrorists to stay hidden. “They have no formal connections to the organization, and exhort them to commit acts of terrorism based on their own initiative, says Micahel.”
Michael also says, if the government increases social media monitoring, it could affect everyone’s access to the internet, and could even limit access. “Some people are fearful of that. They’re fearful of greater intrusion of the government, but that’s just a necessary fact of life. There’s still a real security risk.