Scary stuff, especially given the heightened concerns about radical Islamic terrorism in Minnesota. Local CBS affiliate WCCO reports that MEMRI discovered the publication of personal information for dozens of law-enforcement officers in the state, along with a call to target them for assassination. The FBI and local authorities have begun tracking the hack, which appears to have originated with automobile insurance applications through their professional association:
An email from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association that WCCO obtained may shed light on what the officers have in common.
It let its members know their site had been hacked. And, according to the email, the FBI told the organization hackers captured the names and personal data of members who had requested a quote for auto insurance.
The list, purportedly created by a group of hackers affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, includes the names, addresses and telephone numbers of officers from across Minnesota. Authorities acknowledge that they are still gauging the seriousness of the threat posed by the group, which calls itself the Caliphate Cyber Army.
The personal information of at least 36 law enforcement officers — apparently including a Sauk Rapids police officer, five St. Paul police officers and a St. Louis County sheriff’s deputy — along with instructions to kill were recently posted on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, according to news reports and screenshots of the list obtained by the Star Tribune. The screenshots depict what appears to be an ISIL logo superimposed over a photo of masked fighters. Along with the personal information, the message says “Wanted to be killed.”
“It is on our radar and we have been working with the various agencies which have been both named and unnamed,” FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said of the list. “We’re proceeding forward with this matter and treating it as a serious threat.”
Loven said that agents from the FBI’s Minneapolis field office began working this week with several local agencies to track down the hackers.
The strategy seems intended more for publicity than for real damage. Current and retired law-enforcement officers routinely arm themselves and secure their property, as terrorists are hardly the only people who might want to do harm to them. As one source told WCCO, they prepare for this anyway, and this just means that they will have to exert a little more vigilance. “Lone wolf” attackers are more likely to die than succeed, especially now that law enforcement knows of the situation.
Still, this shows what happens when terrorist networks are allowed to grow and attract recruits and resources. The forward strategy employed by George W. Bush in fighting terrorists where they live rather than where we live was intended to prevent these kinds of threats from emerging, as well as to tie up terrorist resources by fighting our military rather than police or civilians. Bush’s strategy was controversial, as was the supporting strategies used in it, but it did result in nearly destroying al-Qaeda in Iraq before we withdrew in 2011 — and AQI came back as ISIS. Perhaps it’s time to start considering that forward strategy once again.