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Make yourself aware, terror threat is real

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Don’t be scared, be vigilant. That is the message the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, 8th Field Investigations Squadron wants to get out concerning the Islamic State group and domestic terror.

OSI held a briefing addressing the IS group and homegrown violent extremists, their history, tactics and trends, July 19 in the base auditorium.

The group uses social media as its primary way to get its message out, said Special Agent John Knittel, OSI 8th FIS. They use thousands of different media platforms to publish more than 50,000 messages each day.

IS also publishes an online newsletter featuring articles detailing how to kill Americans, how to create bombs to blow up American targets, and other such topics.

“They have groups that do nothing but search (online) for military related people,” said Knittel.

A so-called kill list was released by the group in 2015. Knittel said another one with about 8,000 Americans listed was released in June. About 80 of the people on the new list live in Colorado. The best thing to do in combating the threat to your personal information is to minimize your social footprint, Knittel said.

Things like making social media accounts private or not using full names, but rather only your first and middle names, go a long way in protecting personal information. Using caution in what is posted, such as not making military status known, or not posting current location are things Knittel highly recommends.

“Remember, the things you do and say now may cause problems later,” he said.

Social network LinkedIn, for example, is notorious for keeping information about you even after an account is closed or not used, so be aware of the information about you on the Internet. Other sources like GooglePlus also require attention where personal security is concerned.

It is difficult to track how many fighters belong to the IS group. Knittlel said it could be anywhere from 20,000-200,000. The group is funded mainly through oil, whether it is hijacked or from facilities taken over by force. Estimates claim the group pulls in around $58 million per month, he said, but their financial haul has dropped about 30 percent over the last couple of years due to U.S. and allied bombing efforts.

Al Queda, it is rumored, is preparing to get back on top of the terrorism world. No specific details about how the group plans to accomplish that are known, however.

“Word is that they want to do something big,” said Knittel.

There are some external indicators that a person is involved in groups such as IS or Al Queda, and Knittel offered some red flags to be aware of in identifying such people. Things like talking about Dabiq (IS) or Inspire (Al Queda) magazines, posting terror group’s material online or getting friend requests on social media from foreign nationals that come from out of the blue are all potential warning signs.

There also are domestic terror groups to be aware of. Knittel said the FBI breaks domestic terror groups into six categories. There are Sovereign Citizen groups who believe they do not answer to any U.S. government authority; militias; anarchists who believe government and laws are unnecessary; white supremacists; abortion extremists; and animal rights/environmental extremist groups.

Being aware, remaining vigilant and contacting the proper authorities when necessary are the key to preventing terrorists acts, Knittel said. He encourages anyone who sees any suspicious activities, especially those related to the red flags mentioned, to call local police and OSI.

The briefing will be held again Aug. 11 at 11 a.m. in the Air Force Space Command auditorium, and 2 p.m. Aug. 23 in the base auditorium. For information, call 554-2822.

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