by Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. and Ahmet S. Yayla, Ph.D., December 3rd, International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE)
Thirty-eight ISIS defectors from Syria, Western Europe, and the Balkans interviewed over the last year in our ISIS Defectors Interviews Project reported about life inside ISIS and their reasons for ultimately risking their lives to escape. The defectors also shared their observations of the ISIS intelligence operation—known in Arabic as the “Emni. ” From the defectors’ detailed stories, supplemented with journalists’ reports, and our own experiences interviewing terrorists over the years, we have been able to piece together a chilling view of the structure, leadership, duties, funding, and patterns of communication of the ISIS Emni. Relying primarily on first person accounts, this article sheds light on the highly organized activities undertaken by the Emni, since the first days of the “Islamic State’s” inception, to become one of the most totalitarian and brutally efficient terrorist organizations to date alongside its aspirations for attacking the West (what the Emni labels as “external operations”).