Thursday, May 21, 2015

If you want to join Al Qaeda, start here

Fed up with your current job? Feel you're not properly challenged? Bored of the 9-5 routine?

These questions come from a story just printed at BBC News. The story has begun to show up elsewhere, too.

I suspect you’ll see it later in the day (it’s now 3am ET). Perhaps you’ll see it on your morning news.

It’s about joining al Qaeda. It’s about how Osama Bin Laden ran his anti-US terror organization before he left his position as CEO in order to meet his maker.

If you haven’t seen this story, here it is. If you have seen it, here’s the BBC version. It’s called, “The al-Qaeda job application form”. It was written by Jon Sopel. It appeared at BBC News on May 20, 2015. I’ve rewritten and edited it:


Fed up with your current job? Feel you're not properly challenged? Bored of the 9-5 routine? Al-Qaeda has a job for you.

But you just can’t walk in to join al Qaeda. Before you join, you’ll have to fill out a job application form that looks like it’s been written by someone who has spent too much time working for Deloitte or Accenture. But then, bureaucracy exists in every walk of life - so why not on the path to violent jihad?

When Osama Bin Laden was killed four years ago (May 3, 2011), the US SEALs who did him in found a ton of documents, mostly on his computer. Some of those documents were declassified on May 19, 2015. Included in that release was one priceless document: a job application form for becoming a member of al-Qaeda. It was translated into English by US officials.

Here’s a breakdown of what the application looks like:

Points 1-3 are fairly unremarkable - please write clearly and answer truthfully - pretty much what you’d expect to find were you applying for a clerk's job at the local water company.

You then have to fill in your personal details - including name, date of birth, father's name, grandfather's name, profession etc etc.

That’s page one. Page two is where it starts to part company with the average job application form.

Amid the ordinary and prosaic questions like "What foreign languages do you speak?" "What education level have you attained?", there are the more unusual - "Date of your arrival in the land of jihad", "Which Shaykhs do you listen to or read often?", "Do you know anyone who travels to Western countries?"

On page three, the form gets down to the nitty gritty.

Have you ever been convicted by any court? Have you ever been in jail or prison?

In normal circumstances, the preferred - likely required - answer to those two questions is a big NO. I’m going to guess that this form is really looking for a YES.

And then these two questions appear -

Do you wish to execute a suicide operation? What objectives would you like to accomplish on your jihad path?
[on a different website, one reader suggested an additional question for this part of the application: 'any prior experience as a suicide bomber?']

At the end, the form returns to the - almost - banal.

Do you have any chronic or hereditary diseases? Who should we contact in case you became a martyr?

This last question is followed by lines for an address and phone number of the person who will be informed of your not-so-accidental death.

It’s hard not to read this without a slight sense of disbelief. But then I remembered my undergraduate studies of the German sociologist and philosopher, Max Weber.

His great piece of work was to identify the depersonalising effects of bureaucracy, and how it marked out a modern organisation.

Bureaucracies are organised according to rational principles. Offices are ranked in a hierarchical order and their operations are characterised by impersonal rules.

But who knew that in the dusty, arid mountains around Tora Bora, there was a cave devoted to al-Qaeda’s Human Resource facilities, codifying the skill-sets of every applicant?


My comment: I have no idea if this is a joke, or if it’s real. But if it’s real, it does suggest why ISIS is growing and al Qaeda isn’t: I bet ISIS doesn’t make you fill out a job application form.





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