Tuesday, January 6, 2015

State Dept. Wishes 'RIP' to Living Captives of Terrorists, Then Apologizes

    The year began on a rough note for the U.S. state department's Think Again, Turn Away anti-terror program. On January 1, the state department used the program's official Twitter account to tweet a photo collage accompanied by the message, "Entering 2015, taking time to honor some of terror’s many victims of 2014 and their families – RIP." However, none of the individuals appearing in the photos are believed to be dead, but rather held captive by terrorists.
    The tweet, since deleted, appeared as follows, and is archived here:

    The photo collage was part of a feature on December 17 on Al Arabiya New's English website entitled "Remembering 2014’s captives still held by extremists." Per the caption on the photo that accompanied the article, those included in the collage (a collection of Reuters, AFP, and YouTube images) are (clockwise from top left): Nigerian school girls, a captive Lebanese soldier's mother, American journalist Austin Tice, British journalist John Cantlie, and Yazidi women and children. 

    The first paragraph of the Al Arabiya article notes:
Thousands of people, mostly women, continue to be held captive by Islamist militant groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate al-Nusra Front, and Nigeria-based Boko Haram.
    The state department's error was apparently first noted by the Daily Beast's senior national security correspondent Nancy Youssef, who tweeted the following two messages to the state department within a day of the original tweet:
    The morning of January 2, the state department posted the following two tweets apologizing for the mistake:

    A state department spokesperson replied to an email seeking additional information by repeating the tweeted apology, and then added:
We are assessing internal processes and will continue to work diligently to review and authenticate the information we post. 
CSCC and its English language “Think Again Turn Away” campaign have been actively and intensively engaged in an online effort against ISIL and other extremist organizations.
    The Think Again, Turn Away campaign has been controversial since its inception in 2014 for its shocking photos of terrorist atrocities. The stated goal of the campaign is to "expose the facts about terrorists and their propaganda" to try to discourage disaffected youth in the Arab world from joining terrorist organizations.

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

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