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A Democratic congressman called out President Donald Trump’s travel ban from seven majority-Muslim countries as counterproductive in the fight against terrorism.
ISIS has already used the executive order in its recruitment propaganda, said Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.
"Improvements to the vetting process are something that you'll find bipartisan support for here in Congress. What Trump has done in contrast is just put this blanket ban that will be used against us and our troops," said Moulton, who served four tours of duty in Iraq as a Marine Corps infantry officer. "In fact, ISIS is already using the rhetoric from the Trump administration, the text of this executive order, to incite attacks against us and to recruit more terrorists to their side."
We previously confirmed that Trump was featured in terrorist propaganda videos for comments during the presidential campaign.
But is the text of his executive order now being circulated to incite attacks against the United States and for terrorist recruitment?
Experts said there have not been official releases from major terrorist groups, though their supporters are talking about it on social media.
Trump’s executive order
About a week into his presidency, Trump signed an executive order banning immigrants and nonimmigrants from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the United States for 90 days. The order also banned refugees for 120 days, and Syrian refugees indefinitely.
The order was quickly challenged in courts and as of early Feb. 7, there was a temporary restraining order on Trump’s mandate ruled by a federal judge in Washington. The issue is now before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
We had not seen reports of ISIS using the ban for recruitment during that week, so we asked Moulton’s office for support for his claim. They directed us to a Jan. 29 Washington Post article headlined, "Jihadist groups hail Trump’s travel ban as a victory."
A comment on a pro-Islamic State channel on a social media platform, Telegram, compared Trump’s executive order to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, "which Islamic militant leaders at the time hailed as a ‘blessed invasion’ that ignited anti-Western fervor across the Islamic world," the Washington Post reported. Other comments described Trump's order as one that would convince American Muslims to align with extremists, the article said.
It also includes comments by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on the Jan. 29 edition of CBS’ Face the Nation: "The effect will probably in some areas give ISIS some more propaganda."
McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R.-S.C., released a similar, forward-looking statement that said: "Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism ... Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security."
Katz’s tweets posted Feb. 3, a few days after Moulton’s comment, said:
"First official #AQ response to #Trump presidency calls him"foolish" says "the flame of Jihad has been ignited & reached the East & West"
"2) #AQ on #Trump's vow to "eradicate radical Islamic terrorism": "not directed only to the mujahideen...but also to the Muslims in general"
Katz told PolitiFact her Feb. 3 tweets were about a statement by al-Qaida, not ISIS, and that the statement she was referring to only mentioned a botched Yemen raid and Trump’s vow to "eradicate radical Islamic terrorism," not the ban specifically.
"At the official level, there have been no direct mentions of the travel ban by ISIS, al-Qaida, or any other major jihadi terrorist organization," Katz said. "Even the sixth issue of ISIS’ monthly Rumiyah magazine, which was released this past Saturday, did not mention it."
Katz said silence from such groups is "absolutely noteworthy, and goes against the conventional jihadi propaganda practice to exploit any event—especially high-profile ones like that of the travel ban—by which Muslims are affected."
Terrorist groups' supporters, mainly al-Qaida supporters, have discussed the travel ban citing deceased al-Qaida recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki’s statement that the United States will "turn against its Muslim citizens," Katz said. She tweeted about that Jan. 29.
Pro-ISIS social media channels are largely posting links to articles with very little commentary, Katz added.
Moulton’s office also linked us to a tweet from @theosint, identified on its Twitter bio as a contributor to open source and social media investigation group Bellingcat. The tweet, posted Jan. 28, reads: "ISIS doesn't even share its own propaganda anymore. It just shares CNN and NYTimes articles about the @POTUS muslim ban on Telegram."
Rukmini Callimachi, a New York Times correspondent who reports on ISIS and al-Qaida, asked @theosint to name what channel was sharing New York Times stories, because she had not seeing that happen. @theosint replied to her clarifying that the New York Times article wasn't specifically about the ban.
On Jan. 30 Reuters reported that an Islamic State supporter in response to Trump’s order posted on Telegram: "Your decision will do nothing. Attacks will come at you from inside America, from Americans born in America with American parents and grandparents."
Several channels on Telegram and on which Islamist militants posted about Trump’s order have been taken down, Reuters noted.
Still, some experts are cautious about reading sympathizers’ support as official communication.
Terrorist organizations are emboldened by statements or actions from elected officials, "but not always in as visible or simple a way as is often implied," said Charlie Winter, a senior research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, based in London.
"I am in no doubt that Trump's executive order will make the lives of ISIS and its like-minded rivals easier, but I would be wary of drawing too linear a link. So far at least, ISIS has made no official pronouncement on the policy, nor has (al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula)," Winter said via email Feb. 6. "That said, supporters of the former have expressed that Trump is something of a ‘useful idiot’ to their group and official propagandists for the latter have written extensively about why Trump bolsters the salafi-jihadist worldview."
Terrorist groups like ISIS use Trump’s "anti-Islam rhetoric to say that the U.S. is waging war on Islam," said William C. Banks, director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University College of Law.
However, Banks said he was not aware of specific incitements or attacks based on Trump’s executive order.
A New York magazine profile story on Callimachi, the New York Times correspondent focused on ISIS and al-Qaida, also notes that ISIS still had not made an official statement, though militants applauded the order. The New York piece published online Feb. 5.
J.M. Berger, a fellow at International Centre for Counter Terrorism at The Hague, said that while he hasn’t been tracking Islamic State activity daily since Trump’s inauguration, claims like Moulton’s "often get out ahead of the actuality." But he agrees with concerns that Trump’s order may endanger America.
"There are several levels at which the travel ban makes things worse. It furthers the jihadist narrative that America is broadly at war with Islam. It also creates new tensions with countries we should be cooperating with," Berger said.
Moulton said, "ISIS is already using the rhetoric from the Trump administration, the text of this executive order, to incite attacks against us and to recruit more terrorists to their side."
Experts we communicated with said they believe the order plays into terrorist groups’ message that the United States is at war with Islam. Terrorist groups' sympathizers have discussed the ban on social media channels. However, experts said that neither ISIS or other major groups had made official announcements on Trump’s policy.
We rate Moulton's statement Mostly False.https://www.sharethefacts.co/share/908e9926-88fe-485f-abcd-3d3c6039568b
CNN, The Situation Room transcripts, Jan. 31, 2017
Washington Post, Jihadist groups hail Trump’s travel ban as a victory, Jan. 29, 2017
Reuters, Jihadists mock Trump travel ban, vow more attacks, Jan. 30, 2017
PolitiFact, Why comparing Trump's and Obama's immigration restrictions is flawed, Jan. 30, 2017
Los Angeles Times, U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to decide quickly on Trump's travel ban, Feb. 5, 2017
White House, executive order, Jan. 27, 2017
Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, joint statement, Jan. 29, 2017
Twitter, @theosint tweet, Jan. 28, 2017
CBS, Face the Nation transcript, Jan. 29, 2017
PolitiFact, Donald Trump now being used in terrorist propaganda videos, Hillary Clinton says, May 20, 2016
New York magazine, Heading to the Airport with the New York Times’ ISIS Expert, Feb. 5, 2017
Email interview, J.M. Berger, a fellow at International Centre for Counter Terrorism at The Hague, Feb. 3, 2017
Email interview, William C. Banks, director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University College of Law, Feb. 3, 2017
Email interview, Charlie Winter, a senior research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, Feb. 6, 2017
Email exchange, Rep. Seth Moulton's media office, Feb. 3, 2017
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