There’s a feverish debate going on in the Twittersphere and blogosphere about why/how the Oslo massacre was initially linked to what turned out to be a fraudulent AQ-related group.
On the one side are the CT analysts who were first out of the chute to report on the faux claim of responsibility that was posted on the PW-protected Al-Shumukh jihadist forum under the name, “Abu Sulayman al-Nassir” (also, Abu Suleiman al-Nasser). The jihadist monitoring site receiving the most attention on this issue, Jihadica, had published both tweets and a translation along with heavy qualification about the veracity of the claim.
International media outlets took the translation and ran, dropping much of Jihadica’s qualification about whether that claim could be believed and it became the dominant theme in the press until the identity of perpetrator was revealed to be non-Muslim.
A small but vocal backlash cadre of bloggers and Tweeters has emerged that is indicting CT analysts broadly and Jihadica specifically for posting the claim and stoking anti-Islamic sentiment around this story. In response, a vocal counteroffensive of CT analysts on the Twitter have rallied in support of Jihadica – arguing that the site responsibly posted the initial reports/translation and promptly alerted the press about the fact that the claim had been pulled down.
I’m approaching this debate from a different perspective than either side. Jihadica did it right by reporting on the claim. We CT analysts are looked to for the exact thing that Jihadica did: cover the latest happenings within jihadist web forums. So, kudos to Jihadica for getting it out there.
Where my focus lies is on the identity of the claimaint: ”Abu Suleiman al-Nasser.” I have been Tweeting about the fact that a review of previous posts from Abu Suleiman on Shumukh would have led everyone, from CT analysts to journalists covering the story, to take significantly more pause before giving his claim any coverage.
To be fair, my Tweets warning about lack of credibility of “Abu Suleiman” didnt start until after the story had been moving for several hours, but I chalk that up to me being locked in a room w/ no comms technology allowed. I was called out on this point publicly: ”needed 2 see those tweets when it mattered” (@will_mccants) and I’ll take the criticism. It’s always harder to be out front, particularly when time is of the essence so I’ll concede the point that Jihadica had the harder job.
That said, I think the point is being missed on both sides that nutter claims of responsibilities in the aftermath of major attacks like this are going to be made; and ought to be covered; but that as much granularity about the claimaint should be provided up front by everyone reporting on it.
Abu Suleiman has been posting nutter ideas on random things including arson to hacking to attacking troops and threatening impending attacks that never happened for some time now on Shumukh. In my analysis, he’s not the senior AQI official but uses his name to blur the difference and give himself more credence.
On DEC 31 2010, Abu Sulayman wrote:
“Our brothers in God, this is a message inviting you to participate with your mujahidin brothers in their war against the nonbelievers and apostates. Programming and internet technology can be used as weapons in the battle between the truth and falsity. We say to all Muslims who have the ability to hack and infiltrate electronic sites on the internet: Support your Muslim brothers and participate with your capabilities in support of Islam and its people….We say to the countries of non-belief: We will not stop our jihad against you until you fulfill our conditions. You will not enjoy peace until we experience it as a reality in our Muslim countries.”
He’s since been covered in Finnish press time and again for random yelps about arson and Finnish troops in Afghanistan and so on. His postings in Finnish are reportedly garbled and quixotic.
Here’s one Finnish report from June 2011 on him: http://www.hs.fi/kotimaa/artikkeli/Lehdet+Al-Qaida-johtaja+kehottaa+iskem%C3%A4%C3%A4n+heikkoihin+suomalaisjoukkoihin/1135266575954
He talks about himself on this pro-AQ forum: http://www.hanein.info/vb/showthread.php?t=211524&page=1
Evan covered Abu Sulayman in mid-December 2010 defending himself against false posts for New Years attacks: http://twitter.com/#!/IntelTweet/status/14763320456257536
And even Jihadica itself had run a piece covering Abu Sulayman, back in 2010 suggesting that he might be just a virtual poser who is trying to blur his identity with the AQI leader by the same name: http://www.jihadica.com/stockholm-2/
For me, it’s pretty clear that the Jihadica did nothing wrong by posting the claim/statement. In fact, Jihadica did what it’s looked to do: post on jihadist internet activity. When it became clear that it was a hoax, Jihadica did the responsible thing and notified the press.
My concern is that there was so much out there in the open source, including on the Jihadica website itself, to doubt the credibility of Abu Sulayman al-Nasser’s post that I am baffled how the entire community of journalists and CT analysts let it slide. It was a collective, systemic and pretty major F-up.
Yes, I came in late on this, but I tried to do what I could as soon as I had access to the Internet to show that Abu Sulayman al-Nasser was a first-class media junky whose claim should have been discounted at the outset as expected jihadi post hoc propaganda. That’s my two cents.