Use Espionage to Destroy ISIS

Sun Tzu's Art of War admonished more than 2500 years ago, "Hostile armies may face each other for years, striving for the victory which is decided in a single day. This being so, to remain in ignorance of the enemy's condition simply because one grudges the outlay of a hundred ounces of silver in honors and emoluments, is the height of inhumanity." In other words, noting that it probably costs our armed forces millions of dollars to kill one enemy (the figure was purportedly $200,000 during the Vietnam War), six-figure outlays for collaborators and spies are dirt cheap.

Utopia and a World without ISIS

Sir Thomas More's Utopia described very explicitly how a government can destroy a corruptible enemy organization.

"As soon as they declare war, [the Utopians] take care to have a great many schedules,that are sealed with their common seal, affixed in the most conspicuous places of their enemies’ country. This is carried secretly, and done in many places all at once. In these they promise great rewards to such as shall kill the prince, and lesser in proportion to such as shall kill any other persons who are those on whom, next to the prince himself, they cast the chief balance of the war. And they double the sum to him that, instead of killing the person so marked out, shall take him alive, and put him in their hands. They offer not only indemnity, but rewards, to such of the persons themselves that are so marked, if they will act against their countrymen. By this means those that are named in their schedules become not only distrustful of their fellow-citizens, but are jealous of one another, and are much distracted by fear and danger; for it has often fallen out that many of them, and even the prince himself, have been betrayed, by those in whom they have trusted most; for the rewards that the Utopians offer are so immeasurably great, that there is no sort of crime to which men cannot be drawn by them."

There is no need to carry the messages secretly today because social media, as used by ISIS itself for recruiting purposes, is even more effective. The basic idea is to foment distrust among enemy personnel, and there are several ways to do this with social media along with the Deep Web. If criminals can get into the Deep Web, law enforcement and intelligence agencies should have no trouble doing so either.

(1) "Out" ISIS Internationals as Collaborators

U.S. and other Western intelligence agencies can create fake social media IDs for purported ISIS sympathizers, and even fabricate extensive backgrounds for them. These purported sympathizers can then warn ISIS that identifiable foreign nationals who have joined ISIS are really CIA, MI6, or Mossad operatives whose mission is, for example, to leave tiny locator beacons in ISIS camps to mark them for drone attacks. A similar technique was illustrated in the Red Dawn movie, in which the invaders implanted a beacon in a prisoner's body and then released him, but an infiltrator obviously does not want the marker for a drone or missile strike anywhere near him when the world of hurt arrives.

These operatives could also poison ISIS's food and water, or taint the supplies with a deadly disease that has in fact killed hundreds of terrorists. Who is to say that the Leishmaniasis was not, in fact, delivered to ISIS by an American, Briton, or other international who joined purportedly to cut off heads and rape women, but was really earning a free college education from whatever spy agency recruited him or her?

The purported informer could tell ISIS of a new recruit, "I met So-and-So in college, and he interviewed with some kind of government agency." Intelligence agencies can go even further. If a movie can depict Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump shaking hands with John F. Kennedy, it should be easy enough to send ISIS photos or video of the targeted international walking into CIA headquarters or even shaking hands with the King of Jordan. It is quite likely that ISIS would kill the internationals in question on the spot.

"Secret" messages could be sent to the targeted internationals with the intention that they be intercepted by ISIS. A commentator on The Art of War described how an army sent a secret message to an enemy general while setting up the courier to be captured by the enemy. The enemy king then had his loyal general executed for "receiving messages from the enemy." The Nazis purportedly used this method to get Stalin to execute one of his best commanders.

(2) Pay Rewards for Setting up ISIS Personnel to be Killed

U.S. and other Western intelligence agencies could imitate the Utopians by posting a reward of, for example, $100,000 per ISIS fatality due to an informer's actions. A cell phone call that indicated where ISIS was going to be might well be adequate to arrange a rendezvous with some drones, cluster munitions, or whatever. Another method would be for the infiltrator to use a laser designator to "paint" an ISIS camp for a missile strike. (The armed forces would, of course, confirm the target as hostile before shooting, lest ISIS try to set up innocent people to be killed in this manner.) The reward would then be paid secretly in any manner the informer chose. It is difficult to envision how any terrorist organization could survive when any recruit could make himself or herself a millionaire in a single day, as long as he caused the deaths of enough terrorists.

 (3) Use Social Media as Bait for ISIS Sympathizers

Fake ISIS social media accounts could be used as bait for internationals who seek to join ISIS. The individuals in question could then be arrested and prosecuted for material support to a foreign terrorist organization, which is a felony. (If Congress were to actually declare war on ISIS, "material support" would become treason, which is punishable by death.) It is important, however, that law enforcement agencies never initiate or encourage the contact because that might constitute entrapment. If, however, somebody seeks to join ISIS through social media, he is not being entrapped if an FBI agent who is posing as an ISIS terrorist says, "Meet me here so we can travel to Iraq together." Law enforcement agencies already use these techniques to catch child predators, e.g. by posing as minors who are available for sex.

Is it poor judgment to advocate these methods where ISIS might see them? It doesn't matter because there are no realistic countermeasures against them. It is one matter to be aware of the danger, and another to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Miyamoto Musashi wrote in his Book of Five Rings, "…you must make fullest use of your weaponry. It is false not to do so, and to die with a weapon yet undrawn." ISIS has, like the hordes of Genghis Khan, declared war on the entire civilized world. We must use every weapon at our disposal to put ISIS down like a rabid animal, and this includes the psychological arm.

William A. Levinson is the author of several books on business management including content on organizational psychology, as well as manufacturing productivity and quality.