Marine Team Collects ISIS Data for Exploitation
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — A team of Marines with special human intelligence skills found itself gainfully employed in Iraq last year, so much so that its tour of duty was extended twice.
An Exploitation and Analysis Cell, a group of law-enforcement Marines — military police — was organic to the Special Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (SPMAGTF-CC-CR) during its deployment from April to December, Lt. Col. Jonathan Bossie, operations officer for the SPMAGTF, said in a March 16 briefing to the Potomac Institute, an Arlington-based think tank.
“They have specific skill sets and specific equipment that allows us to exploit captured enemy [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS] materials,” Bossie said. “They can very easily exploit documents that are found, [also] hard drives [and] cell phones. They [capture] a weapon and can fingerprint it and run biometrics on it. We used them to exploit captured enemy materials and deliver them either to Al Asad [Air Base] or TQ [Al Taqaddum Air Base].
“It really became well-known in theater,” he said. “As the clearance of Fallujah happened, a bunch of ISIS convoys were leaving Fallujah and coalition forces struck those convoys as they were leaving. We were able to use our human-intelligence Marines, as well as this Exploitation and Analysis Cell, to collect thumb drives [and] hard drives that came out of those convoys and they were able to exploit about 80 gigabytes of data from that one particular strike.
“We then forward-postured that Exploitation and Analysis Cell in Taji and in Irbil where they were able to work with SOF [special operations forces] and conventional forces to conduct exploitation of captured enemy materials that were coming out of Mosul,” he said. “When the clearance of Mosul kicked off, those Marines were in place to be able to exploit that enemy material and send it to higher intelligence [organizations].
The Exploitation and Analysis Cell initially was to be in Iraq for 90 days.
“They did such a great job they got asked to stay for another 90 days,” Bossie said. “We left, and they were still there. So I think there’s probably going to be another extension before a national-level entity can get in there and take a look. It was a good-news story for us.”