ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
After the attack, many analysts said, pretty quickly, that it seemed to be the work of ISIS. The group took responsibility for it the following day. NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre has been looking into whether that claim is reliable and how those who track ISIS determine that.
GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Rita Katz follows the Islamic State obsessively. She runs the SITE Intelligence Group, a private operation near Washington that tracks social media to monitor ISIS and its followers for hours on end. She's developed a grudging respect for the way it handles information.
RITA KATZ: We have not been able to find, like, a real lie from ISIS. Despite the fact that they are a terrorist organization, they want to provide their followers and supporters authentic information.
MYRE: Katz believes ISIS was directly involved in the Manchester bombing, and here's why. When the group orchestrates an attack, it usually releases its own statement through the encrypted messaging app telegram. And that's exactly what happened.
KATZ: ISIS central command wanted to claim the responsibility before anything else.
MYRE: In flowery language, the group said a soldier of the caliphate detonated the bomb at a profligate concert. British authorities are still investigating but also believe the bomber likely had help.
The Islamic State takes a different approach when a lone wolf carries out an attack in the name of the group. In these cases, ISIS tends to step aside and lets the Amaq News Agency take the lead in putting out a report.
KATZ: Amaq, on the other hand, is the state media what we call - it's ISIS state media news agency.
MYRE: Which means Islamic State propaganda. This may sound like a distinction without a difference, But Katz says this has proven a reliable way to tell whether ISIS was or wasn't directly involved in an attack. And that distinction can help determine how a country fights back. In the Manchester case, British authorities want to know if there's still an ISIS bomb maker on the loose. So far, they've made several arrests.
Katz doesn't claim to do the job of a government. But James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, recently told Congress that given the importance of ISIS messaging online, the U.S. needs to get better at battling back.
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JAMES CLAPPER: Countering the message from ISIS, who is very sophisticated at conveying messages and proselytizing and recruiting people. Our efforts to counter message are too fragmented, in my own opinion.
MYRE: Greg Myre, NPR News, Washington.
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