US Air Force Targets and Destroys ISIS HQ Building Using Social Media

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq.

Much has been made about the ability of ISIS to master social media to recruit and broadcast their victories. But the U.S. Air Force is turning the militant group’s eagerness to share on social media into that intelligence that produces targets.

Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, described Monday how airmen at Hurlburt Field, Florida, with the 361st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, recognized a comment on social media and turned that into an airstrike that resulted in three Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) bombs destroying am Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) headquarters building.

“It was a post on social media to bombs on target in less than 24 hours,” Carlisle said. “Incredible work when you think about.”

Carlisle was careful not to share all of the Air Force’s secrets to include the location of the building but this is how he told the story at the recent breakfast meeting in Washington D.C. hosted by the Air Force Association.

“The guys that were working down out of Hurlburt, they’re combing through social media and they see some moron standing at this command. And in some social media, open forum, bragging about the command and control capabilities for Daesh, ISIL. And these guys go: ‘We got an in.’ So they do some work, long story short, about 22 hours later through that very building, three [Joint Direct Attack Munitions] take that entire building out.”

The vignette on how this airstrike came to be offers a broader picture into the intelligence gathering being done by Air Force intelligence specialists back at home and stationed forward. Many observers have questioned how the U.S. is producing targets in Iraq and Syria for coalition fighters and bombers with few boots on the ground. Carlisle offered a window into at least part of the process.

The story also offered a view into the Air Force’s updated intelligence organization.

In February, the Air Force stood up the 363rd ISR Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., — a new wing that provides “cross-domain targeting and analysis” that produces targeting products. The wing is subordinate to 25th Air Force, which had been the Air Force ISR Agency before it became a Numbered Air Force under Air Combat Command. The airmen assigned to the 361st in Hurlburt have fallen under the 363rd since it was stood up.

Air Force intelligence officials have said their collection efforts must utilize a wide network of tools to include social media in order to keep up with the enemy. It appears these re-organization efforts are producing targets.

Carlisle also used the vignette to highlight how the Air Force doesn’t need to deploy as many airman as it may have in the past. Of course, many have discussed how many Air Force pilots are flying MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers out of U.S. bases like Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.

But Carlisle pointed out how that also can extend to intelligence units. He said the Air Force still needs a presence in deployed locations, but maybe not as large a footprint as the service required in the past.

“It’s about how can you build that system for the future?”

However, he warned that wars and conflicts in the future won’t allow the U.S. military as much freedom to pass on intelligence like the social media tip collected in Florida as easily in the future. Carlisle suggested that satellite communications will be a target for more advanced enemies and militaries in future conflicts.

Until then, it appears the Air Force is happy to collect intelligence on ISIS militants in Florida and turning that into targets in Iraq and Syria.

— Michael Hoffman can be reached at


About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • blight_

    And this is how posting a picture gets people bombed.

    I suppose it’s better their guys doing it and getting hurt than ours.

  • oblatt23

    While the USAF was looking at twitter, ISIS was taking Ramadi.

  • John

    Remember the Apache helicopters attacked in Afghanistan from a photo with a geotag? It works both ways so we need to be just as careful.

    • John_B

      Like tracer rounds, social media work both way.

    • USMarine64

      Absolutely especially since the dumb Air Farce general blabbed about the capability. Our enemies and potential enemies (e.g. Russia and China) have the ability to figure stuff out if given substantial clues. The idiot general gave them the key to the clue locker!

  • Lance

    Good crash there web sight and drop a 1000lb bomb on them.

    • grammar nazi

      “there web sight”

      I think you mean “their website”



    • NGNeer

      Because of the bad spelling and a missing comma, I didn’t know what you were saying. I had to read it two or three times before figuring out what you meant to say. I really had never expected spelling and punctuation to be that important.

    • ubuntuarmy

      And to be picky…If they were to bomb their website (Twitter in this case), then you would knock Silicon Valley out. Since that’s where the website is based.

    • blight_asdf

      You can’t bomb a website, you can only bomb a server.

  • Mitch S.

    Nice of Gen Carlisle to remind ISIS to be more careful about what they post online.
    Hopefully the social media thing isn’t true and is a cover for other means.

  • steve

    Akmed Ahmahd has posted a new profile pic.

    U.S. Air Force likes this post.

    • lol

      laughed so hard at this.

    • steve


    • Your Father

      What the fuck did any of that mean?? Are you one of those bastards who is on the receiving end of these bombs, and does not know English? CAPS IS ANNOYING BRO!

    • Frank


    • Ray

      Do I need to read this backward or is this substituion code breaking or do I need to take LSD to understand this gibberish….always got to have 10 percent….

      • CaptObvious

        You have to reference the words relative to any punctuation in the message.

  • Gdawg

    Yes! lets continue to let the cat outta bag everytime we have intel success…F&%# tools!…

    • USMarine64

      Exactly. Generals should know better than to release this type of info. Potential targets lost and our bigger enemies now have an idea of how to hit us should we ever go to war with them (e.g. Russia and China). Our troops are so hung up on cell phones and tablets that they are a threat to themselves and their units.

      Frankly, as far a I am concerned, whenever a unit deploys to a combat zone, ALL cell phones are collected and held until the unit returns to CONUS. Anyone caught with one is busted in rank and/or officially reprimanded. Dumb is one thing. Totally stupid is another!

    • sw614

      You guys are missing one large point in all of this. ISIS uses social media extensively as a recruiting tool and to publish their propaganda Maybe one reason for disclosing the info is to change that.

    • nubnub

      doesn’t take a genius to know that the US uses social media to find the enemy.its seriously not a secret

    • Chuckles97

      My thoughts exactly. Keep it quiet how we identified the locale….. that way other “Morons” can make the same mistake and we can capitalize on it. Instead we give it to the media and they announce it to the whole world.

  • Jay

    The true meaning of “Photobomb”……

  • Bronco46

    Let me add my voice to large number that have condemned the release of this information. Is this administration this desperate to look good?

  • John

    How long will it be before ISIS create a false target with several photos outside a make shift hospital, child care centre, or other civilian building. They could even put a few actors in place to “confirm” the target for the drone or satellite pass. With less than 24 hours turn around I can see mistakes being made.

    • blight_asdfljsadf

      Better…use a command center, and then scoot. Then let US intel drop a bomb on it.
      Americans routinely commandeered homes in Iraq for hours to days, then moved on. ISIS may just adapt the same play

    • Marine1

      Hey, it’s war. People die in war, both enemy and inocent. That’s just the way it is.

    • InHocSignoVinces

      Good point.

    • mridontknowoverhere

      I really don’t think our intelligence services are very good, but even then I don’t think they’re incompetent enough to blow up a hospital without doing a thorough check to make sure. It would be the Israelis to do that.

      • blight_asdf

        And that is why the Geneva Convention extends its protection only to nation-state soldiers, who avoid using active hospitals and mosques as fighting positions, fight with uniforms, do not commit atrocities against civilians and are accountable through a chain of command. The rest are amenable to the firing squad (spies, francs tiralleurs, etc).

        • blight_asdf

          Of course, I must note that one point German soldiers were taken as disarmed enemy combatants, thus rendering Geneva protections void. A sad echo of the “enemy combatants” ploy pulled in the 2000’s. The fact that people thought it was new is a sign of national ignorance of the truth of how things were done in the ’40s.

  • Sod White

    That sure is a nice headquarters you’ve got there. Would be a shame if somebody lazed it.

  • Highguard


    Important details for future articles would be which type of JDAM bombs (not missiles) were used. Were they 2K-lb GBU-31 JDAMs, 1K-lb GBU-32 JDAMs or 500-lb GBU-38 JDAMs?

    For weapons buffs the difference is important.

  • cato

    Wow, another empty building bombed.
    Chalk up another victory for Obama.

  • Big-D

    “only” took them 24 hrs eh, this must’ve had to go all the way to the Johnson, er excuse me, the O whitehouse for personal approval by Valerie

  • found source; audio recording of the event

    still downloading… will hear what the general said exactly

    • drdave215

      Thanks for the link! I just listened to his talk, and Mike Hoffman’s transcript and description in this article seemed extremely accurate.

    • Retired_intell

      Good find . . . I’m listening to it now. My vomit bag is ready.

  • sweetolbob

    The reporting seems to act sorry that this intelligence activity can’t replace all other forces.
    Of course, that is bull. It’s purpose, which it is fulfilling very well, is to make those other forces more effective.
    Good job, Air Force !

  • Cat Jones

    I don’t really get it: even if one could think that social media is combed, WHY does the military speak about how the process really works?????
    “they’re combing through social media and they see some moron standing at this command. And in some social media, open forum, bragging about the command and control capabilities for Daesh, ISIL. And these guys go: ‘We got an in.’ ” etc etc

    And then: who the heck cares that the location of the destroyed HQ was not disclosed; important is that the way to find it was already disclosed: “Carlisle was careful not to share all of the Air Force’s secrets to include the location of the building”.

    Outstanding work! Very smart….

    • blight_asdf

      I suppose the two things that might not be true are:

      -Use of manual combing (unsupervised machine parsing of the internet?)
      -Discovery of an “open forum” (likely closed, or IRC, less likely to be Twitter, Snapchat, Vine, Facebook these days)

      • Retired_intell

        it doesn’t matter. That source has dried up as a result to Carlisle’s remarks.

    • “JD”

      Everyone that has even mentioned how this unfolded should be fired! Obey the same rules I do and shut your mouth!!!!!!!!!! The public does not need to know everything we do. If someone does not like that my next question is are you the tip of the spear, are you getting shot at, are you helping keep people that would like to cut your head off from doing so? If not shut your ass up and get out of our way!!!!!!!!

    • Retired_intell

      Yea. I guess ISIS doesn’t know which of their HQs was destroyed. It’s great we didn’t disclose THAT to them. But it’s FINE to disclose the name and location of the intelligence unit that helped target it….and it 100% ok to reveal the sources and methods used to direct the bombers. Carlisle should be courts martialed.
      I’ll bet he was drunk when he said these things…..either that or he has suffered a severe blow to the head in the recent past.

  • blight_opsec

    “Acting on an intelligence tip, a target was destroyed by aircraft”

    • Retired_intell

      That’s how it should have been discussed. Gen Carlisle should be courts martialed.

  • PlainSpoken

    And in a forum open to social media, an even bigger ‘moron’ reveals the key elements needed to target that HQ, and the timeframe required to do so.

  • ToBeSeen

    Either way, ISIS is not your family forgiving type people…if our bombs did not kill the poster of the picture …then I am sure ISIS has identified and beheaded him (and his buddies) for his(/their) lapse in judgment in exposing the HQ that was targeted by their enemy…as a lesson for others….. (remove EXIF data and only stand in front of endless sand or a blank wall with no graffiti…..)

  • davy

    All such operations should be keep confidential and not allowed in the public media until this enemy is annilated to kingdom come===

    • Retired_intell

      100% correct!

    • Todavy

      Obama loves to take credit for all things.

      • Capt Obvious

        Politicizing everything just gets old for intelligent people.

  • German

    oh my god using Social Media and that was really HQ ? Not a school ?

    usa need really the show ?

  • Nicky

    ISIS post a selfie

    US Air force Likes the picture

    Target is gone

  • be original

    same comment? why?

  • Big-D

    doesn’t the air farce realize that ISIS was only testing them to see how long it takes them to react to intelligence, that “building” was long emptied before the air force finally got there. 24 hrs, it might as well been 24 days

  • PenPal1940

    And one of our morons goes outside the command center and blabs about how we hit this target. Why would we reveal methods? As I say, one of our morons….

  • Here we go again

    Seriously… possibly killing several dozen lives due to an internet comment that could be faked/staged/incorrect.

    Lives lost really means that little, compared to justifying a broken intelligence system?

    Seeing as they released the entire story, please release the technical details, the pictures, source of the information, the validation of said information, the actual considerations taken before bombing a building that contain hundreds of people. Please let us see how this is yet another fuck-up not recognized.

    • blight_

      If they’re using Zello, GroupMe or Slack to coordinate their operations, then they’re already screwed. The less we talk about how thoroughly American tech companies are penetrated…

    • NoThanks

      Fucktard. Sure, tell them exactly how we found them so they can never find them again. This entire story should never have been written.

  • doug

    I’m sure Isis was long gone 22 hours later!

  • Regats

    FUCKING IDIOTS!!~ Reporting on how we got intel to bomb this target.

    Those Islamic terrorist are 100 times smarter than whomever was responsible for making this information public. You can bet they’ll send a phony Twitter post bragging about valuable assets inside what is actually a school or hospital, take some pictures with terrorists posed in front and draw U.S fire resulting in another huge propaganda victory.

  • prtet

    They can run but they cant hide, eagle bomb will always find you and prevale

  • Ron Hyatt

    This is a Vietnam Strategry. We know who the enemy is, KILL THEM ALL.

  • Ron Hyatt

    This could be fixed in 60 minutes. KILL THEM ALL. We don’t have the will so WE WILL DIE. DEATH TO ISLAM.

  • Pete

    And now, thanks to the good General and the news release, they know how we found out about their HQ and they are out plugging all the Social Media leaks and cutting off heads of those that accidently leaked information. During WWII this General would have become a private and be awaiting charges for revealing this type of information so vital to aid the enemy in learning how we operate and the secret to how we manage to attack their HQ. It was nice to put the personal touch on it of adding specifically what installation discovered the information also. Might as well paint that bull’s-eye with a broad brush and give them all the info at once. There are ways to recognize these folks without letting the bull out of the corral.

  • Richie 1

    Our military is far from weak

    • jwmatthews155

      Well you know, conservatives will tell you that ISIS is winning the war and that it’s only a matter of time before the Muslim family down the street cuts your head off in the middle of the night. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  • jwmatthews155

    Did ISIS check in using Yelp or something?

  • troy

    Take Ramadi back, blow up the dam or actually recapture some territory then write a story about it. Is our intelligence agency really exposing our surveillance methods to the press, doubtful.

  • Bill

    Well gee, what used to be called OPSEC works BOTH ways as I recall. So yeah, the ISIS dude was a doofus, but so was our guy telling any part of how the info was gathered and handled. Hope that 22 hour time delay included verifying that the structure was a legit target before they bombed it back to the (small) stone age.
    Executive Summary: Nice work. Now how about a cup of STFU!

  • Al Far

    If to “look good’ was all Air Force goal was. They could have made-up any story, we are not going to investigate it, or did they? But then again; Cops disclose too, how they convict, all the time.

  • Retired_intell

    While I’m happy about the success of the air strike, there are two thing that really bother me about this news report. First, an AF general officer revealed the intelligence “sources and methods” we used to kill ISIS’s leadership. This is a courts martial offense! ISIS isn’t stupid; they have certainly plugged that hole in their operations making it much harder for us to continue killing them. Second, the name and location of the intelligence unit involved was made public. While this isn’t a crime, per say, I’m pretty sure the men and women in that unit don’t appreciate the target Gen Carlisle just put on their backs. Intel folks are used to working in anonymity. (It’s great to get a stroke for a job well done, but NOT in public like this.) In my opinion, Gen Carlisle should be hung out to dry for his remarks.

  • Ben

    Information is the most powerful tool in intelligence, politics, business, anything involving negotations. do you think this general would actually reveal something that is considered sensitive information? HIS JOB IS DEALING WITH SENSITIVE INFORMATION EVERY DAY.
    Do you understand military strategy at all? This was an interview that was scheduled ahead of time to talk to an approved topic. They probably had to submit their questions for approval ahead of time. The questions were mundane. Of course he meant to say that! Anyone would expect to explain the “how” in an interview.

    For months the media has been reporting problems with these guys recruiting using social media and would this not be a great opportunity to limit their use of social media and limit the fallout of losing more Westerners to their cause? These things are planned. How can attribute so many insidious power plays to the government and IN THE SAME BREATH, say their to stupid enough to not plan for a routine question at a scheduled event to talk about a approved topic?

    Really people?

    • Ramstein7883

      Hope your righ, Ben. But this General is a tool of the Obama Adm that frequently violates standard military strategies and tactics like it did when announcing the group serge in Afgan. was only for a specific length of time, this enabling the enemy to plan around it…

  • Buro Brein

    Talk about a Photobomb 2.0

  • Vector

    Opps, this means if I post my selfie and if US Air Force will like my pic, then I will just have 22 hours :'( But Thank God that USAF is not tracking me :)

  • KY Steve

    I am impressed but seems it would be better to not release this and let them wonder why hell fell out of the sky on them instead of writing them a manual on how to avoid it again! Allah mad?Great but stupid. Just gotta blow your own horn … and cover!

  • Dave in Dublin


    ISIS will now issue warnings of execution to its soldiers if they post pics online,therefore jeopardising future opportunities to eliminate these murdering sub-human scum!!

    First it was ‘accidentally’dropping supplies into ISIS controlled areas and now this.

  • Russell R Griffin

    Kill ’em as you find them. I would find their training areas also and unload.

  • KenS

    Do most of you really think we’re giving away a precious and covert intel source by saying we found the info on Facebook? Seriously?

    Social media has been a cat & mouse game for the last decade. We know the vulnerabilities and so do they. This was a fluke error committed by someone who should have known better. They obviously tell their foot soldiers the same thing we do, “Watch your OPSEC and keep the geo-tagging turned off.” (It’s obvious since we don’t have more of this type of info showing up on social media.)

    The Russians also tell their soldiers the same thing but it happens to them too. Our guys occasionally do the same thing. People, including soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, do stupid things.

    But this isn’t some huge classified bucket of information that we’re regularly finding intel in. It’s just Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and sometimes we get lucky because our enemy screws up. That’s all.

  • Intel Junkie

    I just laughed and laughed and laughed at the comments here. Having worked in military intelligence there is this concept called Disinformation. Our military does it all the time. More importantly, I note there is not one comment that fully understands that ISIS/ISIL are using social media on a massive scale to recruit. Did anyone consider that we are attempting to reduce that footprint within social media to limit recruitment? Seriously, don’t believe all you read. Especially if our military is pushing info out to the masses.

    • CliffB813

      Let’s hope you are correct.

    • blight_

      We need more honeypot operations targeting recruiting, supply delivery and money transfer. If we can’t cut off the head of the snake, we cut the rest of it up, then go for the head.

  • Harold Ziel

    So there are supposed to be 103 or more comments? I have not been able to find those comments. I would like to interact with those who are commenting. I have a
    suggestion or two for better use of large drones. I served in Germany and VietNam.

  • KenLand

    Why should we advertise the tactic?

  • Frank

    Why disclose how you got this lead? Maybe others would have done the same.
    Really not any smarter than the person sending the picture.

  • Badbonz

    I don’t believe most people grasp the true evil literally dying to get at us and our resources, I am so sick of losing our boys to this religious war, that has nothing to do with my beliefs (catholic) or true Islam. I’m glad we can fight ISIL with technology it does save the lives of U.S. soldiers. I like to think that if social media successfully recruits here in the U.S that we as Americans no matter what religion has the balls to take up arms and do the right thing.

  • Mark

    Nice !
    My only question is why are we compelled to tell the world how we were able to take out

    the bad guys shouldn’t we keep that under wraps ? With ISIS sympathizers running

    around popping up from this global war on terrorism environment. I’m just concerned

    about the safety of the personnel that’s all.

  • hdbadbob

    Sooo, good idea to announce this to wise up the enemy. Can no one just keep their mouths shut!!!!!

  • jamie

    Social Media is recruiting strategy for ISIL. Discouraging them from using social media is a bigger setback than hitting the headquarters. That’s why you run the story.

  • Michael Montana

    Thanks to our daffy US media ISIS will now have to train their recruits,
    especially the teenagers, the proper use of social media
    The military needs to resist the urge to broadcast successes and
    leave the media in the dark. Nobody really needs to know..

  • steve

    Thanks, I try to ruin keyboards and screens on a daily basis.

  • crystalclearsolutions

    This whole story and comments need to be pulled Now

  • blight_asdf

    What we really need is aggressive honeypot operations to interdict their “foreign fighter” recruitment. Once people are discouraged from joining out of fear of being caught by the Americans, they’ll send money. Honeypots for that, and then after running out of manpower, money and weapons the whole thing should subside.

    But not after a large number of people die. I’m dreading the horror stories that will come out of Raqaa after it is liberated.

  • keh62

    Wish this hadn’t been broadcasted. It’s all over the news. Could force a behavior change within ISIS regarding taking selfies.

  • Brace

    Good Job, Keep up the good workshop.
    Beter them thans us.

  • Chiefpace

    The only Moron in the vignette is the Flag Officer for revealing source techniques. Let’s hope he is publicly disciplined for such a stupid OPSEC breach.

  • CliffB813

    What is it about today’s military — they inform the world about how they do everything. how they determine enemy locations, conduct SOF raids, carry out rescues, etc. I know n the past we classified far to many items, but today’s military seems to have proceeded to far in the opposite direction.

    One should presume that ISIS will now be more careful about what they post on-line, say goodbye to that source of information — or maybe they will provide false information next time, or lead you into a trap, if they have any surface to air capability.

  • mark

    Were there any check to ensure there were only ISIS people in the building at the time of attack? Or don’t other lives count as much as American lives. Technology aside, it just seems that in this article you adopt a tone of glorifying war, and don’t treat this in terms of the tragedy it really is!

  • Marjorie Frost

    Remember the Navy phrase “loose lips sink ships”? Maybe the Air Force never heard it. Maybe Gen. Carlisle needed/wanted a juicy story for his luncheon speech. Maybe THE ADMINISTRATION directed the telling, as was the case with revealing the existence of SEAL TEAM SIX.

    Hopefully, the story was a hoax, a cover measure to protect intelligence sources. Lets hope so!

  • Ray

    Hawk must be hawking for the new ISR wing attention normally OPSEC. Bad idea regardless to be so overt, those techniques have been used for years too. He is probably excited the AF was able to do something incredible like break the ATO 72 hour bomb planning cycle in 22 hours, now that is worth babbling about!

  • Norman31

    Just think it only took 22 hours to get authorization for an attack. Imagine if on D Day the allies waited off shore for 22 hours before they landed. Or if Patton waited 22 hours to relieve the troops at Bastogne.

  • Shawn McFadden

    Good Job Air Force!!!! As for daesh, those fools are idiots!!!

  • retired462

    I can’t believe that Sec. Def. & Dempsey were not briefed on the info of this briefing! The general should be fired immediately if this was not cleared!
    I think Ash Carter has more going for himself.
    I could believe Dempsey knew of this brief.

  • J Motes

    Loose Lips Sink Ships. That goes for BOTH sides

  • Colin

    Loose lips…..

  • JIM

    I agree with Mitch, and John why give this info out…..

  • hawkeye

    An ISIS ‘selfie’
    Got some hits on the internet
    Some were this an some were that
    but one was The Cat in the Hat

  • Robert House


    You have a valid point !!

  • JHeller

    Learning goes both ways

  • Anonymous

    Nice to know we still have what it takes to get info, however; have to think there was a good reason for the press release…don’t think our Intelligence people are stupid enough to release anything that would be detrimental to future reconassance .

  • flying ducthman

    Is there some kind of career crashing program we can use to remove people who blab our war fighting secrets and operational methods. Its time to remove the enemy from within.

  • jrrbigsgt

    ISIS doesn’t need intelligence personnel: we are handing them the information they need to quit doing what they are doing as far a communications goes. Osama went to couriers when it was published that the US was intercepting their cell phone traffic.

  • M1A1

    this makes my 17 year old want to join the U.S. Navy for THIS type of “Intel work”.
    is there any proof any bombs went off or are we going strictly by word. Cause, we got a problem if that’s the case….and many more questions.

  • That sure is a nice headquarters you’ve got there. Would be a shame if somebody lazed it.

    Read more: