Jihadist militants imprisoned in the United States are receiving cash and legal assistance from a website similar to Facebook that connects them with terrorist sympathizers and publicizes their location, including "GPS-coordinated satellite imagery of the facilities at which the inmates are held," according to a watchdog group.
"At least two incarcerated ISIS operatives maintain registered profiles on the website, suggesting the accounts were generated by the operatives themselves," according to a new investigation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a watchdog group that tracks jihadist behavior online. "Online ISIS supporters have raised awareness about ISIS operatives' profiles on the website, raising potential security risks." MEMRI is withholding the website's direct address to avoid aiding in its recruitment.
ISIS uses social media and the internet as a recruitment tool, and its online efforts to assist convicted terrorists in American prisons raise domestic "security risks," according to MEMRI. ISIS wants to establish a direct line between imprisoned terrorists and their supporters across the globe, allowing them to exchange information and potentially plot attacks. The prisoners are also receiving monetary support from the website, raising concerns that these funds are coming directly from ISIS affiliates.
The website allows these convicted terrorists to connect with other militants and ISIS sympathizers who can provide them with monetary assistance and legal help, according to the report. In-depth information about the federal detention centers where these inmates are held also is available on the site, making these locations vulnerable to a possible attack or other ISIS-backed operation.
"Chatter in pro-ISIS chat rooms about the website may raise security concerns for the facilities where the operatives are held," according to MEMRI. "The website provides addresses and GPS-coordinated satellite imagery of the facilities at which the inmates are held."
Inmates who join the site can "claim their criminal records" by providing photographic documentation and verifying their identity. Entries include contact information, links to similar websites, writings from these terrorists, and other information about their crimes.
The website works similarly to Facebook: It "generates a profile based on the incarcerated individual's criminal record, which includes a profile photo and name; a Federal Bureau of Prisons identification number; demographic information; the district of arrest; a mailing address; the location of detainment (including GPS coordinates); [and] contact information for the federal detention facility."
There also is a "fund transfer option" that facilitates payments via MoneyGram, the mail, and Western Union directly to the prisoner’s commissary account.
ISIS supporters online have been promoting the website, raising another security risk, according to MEMRI. Earlier this month, an ISIS-run chat server linked to the website, prompting users to seek additional information and ask about contacting the incarcerated terrorists.