A defector from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a U.S.-designated terrorist group, reportedly has provided authorities with information on more than 22,000 members of the organization.
Associated Press said that “Britain’s Sky News reported it had obtained 22,000 Islamic State files that detail the real names of fighters for the group, where they were from, their telephone numbers and even names of those who sponsored and recruited them (“Islamic State member data surfaces in Europe,” The Baltimore Sun, March 11, 2015).”
According to AP, Sky News was given the files at the border between Syria and Turkey by Sulayman Dawud al-Bakkar, a former ISIS member. Germany’s federal criminal police, which is also in possession of the files, have stated they appear to be authentic.
The documents appear to have been collected near the end of 2013. For this reason, AP notes “they may not provide information on the group’s current membership but could offer insight into fighters recruited in 2013 as well as its bureaucratic systems.”
The documents reportedly include 23 questions to be filled out by prospective ISIS members. Sky News said that nationals from “at least 51 countries, including the U.S. and Britain” filled out the forms.
According to CNN, Germany’s interior minister said the documents “could allow authorities to prosecute people who joined ISI and then returned to their home countries (“Leaked ISIS documents reveal recruits’ blood types, obedience levels,” March 10).”
Questions on the forms range from standard job application fare such as birth dates, addresses, education and previous job held to the more specific, such as whether applicants would rather be suicide bombers or fighters and “previous jihad experience.”
The terror group’s large and advanced bureaucracy has been noted before.
Writing for McClatchy newspapers in 2014, reporter Hannah Allam said the group had “a sophisticated bureaucracy that was almost obsessive about record-keeping. Its middle-managers detailed, for example, the number of wives and children each fighter had, to gauge compensation rates upon death or capture, and listed expenditures in neat Excel spreadsheets that noted payments (“Records show how Iraqi extremists withstood U.S. anti-terror efforts,” June 23, 2014).” Allam made these observations based on 200 Iraq-related documents that were declassified by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.
The advanced bureaucracy of ISIS was inherited from its predecessor, Al-Qaeda in Iraq. It also may reflect the influence of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party, some of whose leaders and members, joined or partnered with AQI and/or ISIS. Under Hussein, the Ba’ath party took on even greater levels of bureaucratization and record keeping, as Georgetown University professor Joseph Sassoon noted in his book Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party (Cambridge University Press, 2011).
Kyle Orton, a Middle East analyst who runs a blog called The Syrian Intifada, has noted the role Hussein’s henchmen and his policy of Islamization played in creating the jihadi terror group (“How Saddam Hussein Gave Us ISIS,” The New York Times, Dec. 23, 2015). Orton writes that beginning with Hussein’s so-called Faith Campaign in 1993:
“The government imposed a version of Shariah law: Thieves had their hands cuts off, homosexuals were thrown from rooftops and prostitutes were behead in public squares. Numerous mosques were built, Quran study became a national focus and midlevel clerics acquired new roles as community leaders.”
The Daily Mail, a U.K. newspaper, reports that some counterterror analysts have speculated that ISIS purposely leaked the documents to prevent its fighters from deserting following pay cuts (“Were the names of 22,000 ISIS fighters deliberately leaked to stop them from deserting?” March 11). The paper quotes analyst Elijah Magnier as saying that ISIS “intelligence service are exposing the family members so fighters defend the land to the last breath.”
The motive behind why an ISIS fighter has purportedly provided authorities with more than 22,000 files from the terror group remains to be seen. But evidence of the Islamic State’s meticulous approach to terror is abundant.