Prominent Islamic extremist groups are so far not reacting to the Senate Democrats’ explosive report on CIA interrogation of al Qaeda operatives, leaving responses to a smattering of their jihadi supporters on social media.
“I haven’t seen any official responses by these groups,” said Marwan Khayat, an analyst with the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Mr. Khayat said that five days after the report was posted on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s website, MEMRI has only noted one call to arms on any of the scores of prominent websites dedicated to the violent jihadi movement.
Robert Spencer, who directs the nonprofit Jihad Watch, which also monitors the world of Islamic terrorism, said he was “not seeing any huge reaction.”
“There was the prediction there would be a huge reaction. I think maybe it’s not as huge a deal as the Western media is making it out to be. After all, you’re talking about groups who are astoundingly brutal, and so a group that beheads people and enslaves ‘infidel’ women and so on is aware that sleep depravation is not going to play to their public as some horrible abnormality,” he said.
The Washington-based MEMRI is considered one of the world’s leading monitors of what is said by Islamic extremist groups such as al Qaeda, its band of affiliates and the ultragruesome Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS. MEMRI recently translated an Islamic State pamphlet giving permission to its fighters to rape women slaves.
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Westerners are expecting these terrorist groups at some point to unleash a wave of public condemnations and calls for Muslims to join terrorist groups across the Middle East.
Mr. Khayat said it is possible that al Qaeda, the Islamic State and others at a later date will prepare an audio or video that seeks to exploit the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program.
“Their decision-making process — they choose the timing,” he said.
MEMRI watches jihadi websites, social media and official pronouncements 24 hours a day.
“The only noticeable response that I saw was on one of the jihadi forums,” Mr. Khayat said. “It’s a pro-ISIL jihadi forum. It publishes the propaganda of ISIL on it. One of the forum members basically suggested that ISIL try to acquire the same torture methods used by the CIA against any Western — including American — hostages.”
The forum member said the Islamic State should video the use of CIA tactics on its prisoners “to show the world what the U.S. is capable of,” Mr. Khayat said.
“That was the only response we saw,” he said, adding the post did not attract other Islamic State supporters.
The tepid reaction is not to say all of America’s enemies have avoided capitalizing on the Democratic staff report on CIA interrogations of captives, such as Sept. 11, 2001, mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
In an over-400-page report, the Democratic staff relied on thousands of pages of CIA documents to describe harsh interrogation techniques that included waterboarding, long periods of sleep deprivation and threats of physical harm.
The big terror groups my be withholding comment. But another U.S. adversary is using the report to stir anti-American fervor at home.
Iran, with whom Defense Secretary John F. Kerry is immersed in nuclear arms talks, has published strident criticisms via its Fars News Agency.
Fars has ties to the regime’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, whose al Quds force is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and who trained Iraqi Shiite militias to kill Americans in Iraq.
Fars reported on comments from a senior ayatollah, Seyed Ahmad Khatami.
“Addressing a large and fervent congregation of people on Tehran University campus on Friday, Ayatollah Khatami said, ‘Their tortures are Medieval; Washington that talks about human rights is in the frontline of human rights violations in the world. Today the U.S. is a big exhibition displaying human rights violations; the U.S. police kills the black men and their court also exonerates them and instead they suppress those people who protest against the [U.S.] crimes and apartheid.’ “
Fars quoted Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham as saying, “The late confession of [the] U.S. Senate to inhuman and catastrophic tortures against security suspects is an obvious sign of breaching the human rights on phony security pretexts. The contents of that shocking report reveal the undercover, aggressive, extremist nature of the American security apparatus that has become a part of its character.”
The Islamic State relies greatly on social media supporters to spontaneously spread its violent message.
This weekend, numerous press reports from India on the arrest of an Islamic State supporter provide a window on how one follower helped the group.
Police arrested Mehdi Masroor Biswas, 24, who admitted running the Twitter account @shamiwitness. He was not officially linked to the Islamic State or to terror attacks but was one of hundreds, or even thousands, of sympathizers who have bolstered the group by spewing its propaganda in thousands of tweets since 2011.
His account now closed, Biswas attracted 17,000 followers as he relayed violent extremists’ statements and their videos. Authorities said he had a large following among Muslims who decided to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State.