Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pentagon Calls Paris Attack 'Lone Wolf'' Event, Twitter Hacking 'Cyber Vandalism'

    The Pentagon called the hacking of the Central Command's (CENTCOM) YouTube and Twitter accounts Monday "cyber vandalism" in a letter to service members and their families to allay concerns about the incident. General Lloyd Austin said that the FBI is investigating the "alleged breach" of the two social media sites by hackers who claimed to be aligned with the Islamic State (ISIL.) While Austin said that "CENTCOM network was not compromised and no classified information," he acknowledged that the hackers posted "information obtained from the accounts," though he did not go into further detail.
    Austin also referred to "the threat of ‘lone wolf’ attacks by individuals who align with or are sympathetic to radical Jihadist elements," examples of which, according to Austin, are the "recent tragedies in Paris..., New York City and Ottawa, Canada." The general acknowledged that Monday's hacking included threats, but said there were no "no credible threats made to U.S. military personnel or their families."
    In any case, Austin said, the military is taking the threats "very seriously" and will "take all possible measures" to keep military personnel and their families safe.
    The full text of General Austin's letter is here:
This week, hackers claiming to be aligned with the extremist group ISIL took control of CENTCOM’s Twitter and YouTube accounts for approximately 30 minutes. They posted tweets with information obtained from the accounts and they also posted threats against military members and their families. 
I recognize that this has caused significant angst among family and friends who are understandably concerned about their loved ones’ safety. I want to personally reassure you that we are taking this matter very seriously and we continue to take all possible measures to keep our personnel safe. 
With respect to the alleged breach of our Twitter and YouTube accounts, The Federal Bureau of Investigation is in the process of conducting a full investigation. However, you should know that the CENTCOM network was not compromised and no classified information was obtained by the group. Also, as yet, there have been no credible threats made to U.S. military personnel or their families. 
That said, we do not take these threats lightly, and we will do what is necessary to mitigate them. Unfortunately, the threat of ‘lone wolf’ attacks by individuals who align with or are sympathetic to radical Jihadist elements exists today, and we’ve seen this demonstrated with the recent tragedies in Paris and before that in New York City and Ottawa, Canada. We must all take the necessary precautions and be highly vigilant to protect against these threats. 
Our people are our most important assets and our top priority and that includes our family members. And, we need to make sure that we are looking out for one another. All of you are an important part of our CENTCOM team, and I want to thank you for your many contributions and your strong support. If you need anything or have additional concerns please do not hesitate to reach out to your service member’s chain of command or the headquarters. 
Be safe!
    Although General Austin referred to the Paris attacks as 'lone wolf' events, there have been some possible links to al Qaeda uncovered as Thomas Joscelyn reports in the January 19 edition of THE WEEKLY STANDARD, including an eyewitness account that one of the killers said "You can tell the media that it’s al Qaeda in Yemen" during the attack on Charlie Hebdo's offices.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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