Blame “Abu Sulayman al-Nasir”, Not Will McCants

Electronic Intifada carries an attack on Will McCants, describing him as a “clueless ‘terror expert'”. The author, Benjamin Doherty, complains that McCants had drawn attention to a statement posted by a certain “Abu Sulayman al-Nasir” to an Arabic-language Jihadi forum, Shmukh, in which a group called Ansar al-Jihad al-Alami took responsibility for the Oslo/Utoya tragedy. Doherty opines that:

The threshold for a terrorism expert must be very low. This whole rush to disseminate a false, unverifiable and flimsily sourced claim strikes me as a case of an elite fanboy wanting to be the first to pass on leaked gadget specs.

This strikes me as misplaced. “Abu Sulayman al-Nasir” had made a posting of interest on a relevant forum. If McCants hadn’t noted it, someone else would have. And McCants treated the material responsibly, cautioning readers on Twitter and on his blog about the provenance of the posting (“Could just be forum user blowing hot air. forum members also confused abt who this guy is”).

I’ve written a lot about bogus terror experts on this blog (as a result I’ve been accused of being financed by George Soros or Islamic extremists). However, McCants isn’t someone who should be categorised in with the charlatans. His blog is scholarly and measured, and he first came to my attention on Twitter in June when he wrote of the need to improve counter-terrorism training (including drawing attention to the Lieberman-Collins letter).

Insofar as there has been inaccurate speculation of Islamic involvement in Oslo/Utoya, we can be rightfully scathing of those who would use the bombing and shooting to whip up anti-Muslim feeling, or who have jumped the gun irresponsibly – but it was manifestly reasonable to suspect that this was Jihadi operation. McCants was doing his job by flagging up the kind of material he regularly monitors. Electronic Intifada would be better off blaming (1) “Abu Sulayman al-Nasir”; (2) whoever controls Shmukh, for running a Jihadi forum (although the post was eventually removed); (3) Islamic extremists in general, for threatening to make such attacks and for past acts of terrorism.