In November 2007, Richard Oppel,a New York Times reporter described a set of documents, having been gained through a US military raid in Sinjar, Iraq. His consequent news article and an analysis of the files by Brian Fishman and Joseph Felter, from the Combating Terrorism Center, revealed information about the origin and demographics of the foreigners fighting for Al Qaeda in Iraq, which would, several name changes later, become the IS.
However, it was pointed out that, while valuable, the information was not as rich as it was hoped for. Indeed, the so called “Sinjar documents” also revealed criticism over the lack of management by AQI stemming from a weak bureaucracy.
However, as AQI evolved into the IS it apparently has learned some lessons, an interesting finding in itself. As such, when NBC managed to obtain 4.600 unique Islamic State personnel records the amount of information had significantly increased. An analysis conducted by the Combating Terrorism Center revealed, that the records had significantly expanded now also covering information: “regarding each fighter’s travel history, knowledge of sharia, education level, and even blood type.” A related analysis by the Combating terrorism center of 27 declassified personal files of IS fighters revealed a strong interest of the IS into the “radicalisation process” of its members, referring to it as commitment to the jihadi ideology or methodology.
As such, files or records by the Islamic State have continuously advanced the understanding of terrorism as a whole and the group in specific, seen in the research conducted by the Combating terrorism center.
More recently, a team of New York Times reporters led by foreign correspondent Rukmini Callimachi have uncovered 15.000 pages of internal Islamic State group documents. The Times has now partnered up with the Program on Extremism at the George Washington University. Together, they will digitize the documents and publish original Arabic and translated English versions on an open, searchable website, beside analysing them.
Through this advancements in the understanding of terrorism, propaganda and radicalisation could be made.
To stay updated and get information about already analyzed IS files you can visit the Program on Extremism´s website here.
Notes: This article is based on The programm of extremism website and a related New York Times report, beside the Combating terrorism center research linked.
Author: Niklas Hamann
The Program on Extremism (2019). ISIS files Available at: https://extremism.gwu.edu/isis-files
The New York Times (2019). ISIS files research partnership In: New York Times Available at: https://www.nytco.com/press/isis-files-research-partnership/
IS, Files, research