An essay on ISIS has grown to become a significant threat to the western world AND also well-supported by other groups

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Essay on ISIS

Collecting Data on ISIS

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) is a multinational Sunni Islamic terrorist and insurgent organization that has controlled and dominated vast regions of Syria and Iraq for the period spanning from 2014 to 2017 (Blanchard and Humud 2018). In the recent times, the organization has been receiving support from multiple factions throughout the world and, concurrently, the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdad, has acquired affiliation pledges from other groups spread out across the globe. Since November of 2015, hundreds of lives have been lost across four continents, including in the United States, all courtesy of the organization or its “mentees” (Blanchard and Humud 2018).Although the years 2017 and 2018 were generally a period when the United States and allied forces managed to successfully take control of large areas occupied by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the organization’s fighters seem to be undergoing a transformation that would see them become an insurgent force. Further, the leadership of the organization is still at large, which means that the group is still growing (Barron & Maye, 2017). Faced with these facts, there is a need to examine the various data collection techniques on the ISIS, while also exploring the IC members who are best suited to gather this information.

Data Collection Programs on ISIS

Intelligence is generally a product of collection, analysis and interpretation of the information gathered (FAS, 1996). It can also be viewed as a product of specialized information that supplies a country, in this case, the United States, or its enemies with information and data needed to pursue matters of national interest. Intelligence comes in handy in reducing the vagueness inherent in the monitoring of outside activities. While the ISIS has in the recent past lost vast portions of its territory, it is still dominant in Iraq and Syria, which makes intelligence collection easier. Intelligence collection is made even more straightforward by the several advantages enjoyed by the agencies fighting against the group. First off, in light of the fact that the organization controls regions with particular government organizations and with economic and military capabilities including gas and oil, it becomes considerably easy to gather information and target those areas (Combs, 2017; Stergiou, 2016). Additionally, ISIS collected a considerable chunk of military weapons during its encounters against the Syrian and Iraqi armies. All that the IC has to do, therefore, is to locate these weapons, which is pretty more straightforward to do rather than moving around trying to find vehicles or operatives. There has always been an aircraft presence in Syria and Iraq. Through this continuous and permanent visual coverage, collecting up to speed information becomes a walk in the park. 

Having looked at the various advantages the IC has over the ISIS, it becomes easier to brainstorm on the various data collection programs the IC can utilize when collecting information about the group. One of the notable data collection methods, whose potential is reinforced by the many civilians living in the ISIS territories, is the HUMINT sources. This method is further supported by the numerous foreign fighters entering Iraq and Syrian battlefields. HUMINT is generally the intelligence that is obtained from human sources. Even in the face of technical capabilities, human intelligence still comes in handy in revealing information that even the high-end technical competences cannot, including accessing compartmented data and internal memos (Mayer, 2016). In addition to providing internal information, human intelligence can also avail documentary evidence including, but not limited to, copies of policy documents and adversary plans and blueprints of facilities. With such information, the IC can locate attack targets and collect data on the placement of the group’s units and planned operations. Considering that the ISIS has numerous websites to its name, and that its leaders at times utilize electronic communication methods (Benigni, Joseph & Carley, 2017), the full potential of the WEBINT and SIGINT can be adopted. The former is primarily concerned with gathering information from the group’s multiple websites, while the latter capitalizes on intercepted communication transmissions to monitor key figures (S3, 2016).

IC’s best-suited members for Information Collection

Some of the best-suited members of the IC to collect information on the ISIS would undoubtedly be the Department of Defence, the FBI, and the CIA. The National Clandestine Service (NCS) is a department within the CIA tasked with the responsibility of gathering HUMINT intelligence. The CIA will be particularly instrumental in support of OCONUS activities with respect to intelligence collection. Through the clandestine HUMINT collection, the NCS strengthens both the foreign policy and national security objectives. To register success, NCS ought to understand the nature of humans; that is, intentions and emotions differ from one individual to the next and keep changing as time passes. A proper understanding of human complexities is vital in the collection of HUMINT. Within the borders of the United States, the FBI can facilitate CONUS operations linked to the collection of intelligence. In fact, some statements and efforts obtained from the FBI show the extent to which the organization is committed to collecting HUMINT. The FBI endeavours to build a vast army of informants: “Under Comey and the previous director, Robert Mueller, the bureau has transformed its domestic intelligence operations in the name of fighting terrorism, building up an army of some 15,000 informants and deploying those informants in recent years not only for aggressive sting operations but also to collect intelligence not tied to any particular criminal case” (Cushing, 2018). With the help of DHS staff and customs officials, the FBI has managed to coax immigrants into revealing information about terrorist activities, majorly through deportation threats or entry rejection. Further, with the enactment of the 2008 FISA Amendment Act, which conferred additional investigatory power to the FBI, gathering of information on the ISIS is relatively more straightforward. Aside from the FBI and the CIA, the Department of Defense (DoD) can also support the SIGINT, IMINT, and OCONUS HUMINT, through the United States Navy Seals. At the same time, the United States Airforce can utilize its UAVs to facilitate OCONUS IMINT. 

Strategies of Intelligence Analysis

Intelligence analysis entails gathering and creating intelligence from a myriad of sources. On its part, the Central Intelligence Agency defines intelligence analysis as the utilization of both collective and individual cognitive techniques to weigh information and test hypotheses within an undisclosed social-cultural setting.  Intelligence analysis is crucial as it keeps a country safe from potential threats. Several strategies can be used to analyze intelligence, with the major ones being brainstorming analysis, analysis competing hypothesis (ACH), and red teaming. The ACA is generally an eight-step technique that helps the judgement of essential matters that need careful and well-thought consideration of substitute conclusions or elucidations (CIA, 2008). It applies the concepts embedded in decision analysis, scientific techniques, and cognitive psychology. Analysis of competing hypothesis is primarily based on the premise that the analyst should explicitly find all the logical options and let them compete concurrently, rather than using a “one at a time” method to determine their plausibility. Through this method, perceptual and cognitive biases can be eliminated. Red teaming views a problem through the lens of an adversary, and, and such, the intelligence collection bodies can put themselves in the shoes of the ISIS and obtain a fresh perspective with reference to the provided information. Red teaming has over the years been proven to improve the decision-making process, either through highlighting the preferences of the enemy or merely playing the devil’s advocate. The brainstorming analysis is often applied concurrently with ACH when faced with multiple theories, and additional minds are required to figure out the situation. During brainstorming, individuals think freely, thus enabling them to suggest numerous ideas. No idea is criticized whatsoever, and an evaluation of all the noted ideas is done after the brainstorming session.


ISIS is a global soon that is not about to vanish anytime soon. While the group has been in existence for roughly a decade or so, it has grown to become a significant threat to the western world. The organization is not only well-funded and well-armed but also well-supported by other groups in other parts of the world. In nearly all aspects, the group is growing, and perhaps it is about time that proper data collection programs on ISIS are adopted. As outlined, these include HUMINT, WEBINT, and SIGINT. Members of the IC that are best suited to collect intelligence information include the FBI, the CIA, and the DoD. With reports indicating that the ISIS is more than willing to launch attacks on the United States, the agencies dealing with the gathering of intelligence ought to always remember that collection of information does not mark the end of the mission; a thorough analysis of the collected data is equally important.

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