A Skirmish in the War of (Videotaped) Ideas

on June 9 | in ODNI, Terrorism, War of Ideas

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Two short films from two rather different organizations were released last weekend implored people to take direct action. The first was an 8-minute short starring Dan Payne, the deputy director of the ODNI’s National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), asking federal workers to take certain precautions on the internet & in real life after Chinese hackers stole millions of gigabytes of personal data from the Office of Personnel Management.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 10.48.56 AM

A screenshot from NCSC.

The second was a 20+ minute ISIS production named “Honor is in Jihad” imploring Bosnians and Albanians to either commit attacks in their homeland or move to the Islamic State. (I was asked to discuss this latest video on CNN the other day.)

You can watch both productions on Youtube. Guess which one contained a more audience-focused message.

To use that shopworn quote from al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, “We are in a battle, and more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media.” The U.S. is spending over $70 billion on the intelligence community for FY2016, and it just breaks my heart to see uninspired government video production presented to the public.

America has the best videographers & communicators on the planet, and many of them live within driving distance of suburban Virginia. The intelligence community ought to hire a few of these persuaders, or at least keep them on retainer. If it’s a matter of getting these folks security clearances, surely some of the Obama for America (sorry, “Organizing for Action”) whizkids from 2008 or 2012 have punched the right tickets to craft effective video messaging and counter-messaging.

I realize baby steps are required for the intelligence community to find its bearings in the ever-changing world of social media. But for right now, when it comes to a head-to-head videography competition between the Islamic State and NCSC…well, ISIS is blowing away the competition.

photo: screenshot from ISIS’ “Honor is the Jihad” video


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