Michael S Smith II is an internationally recognized expert on the influence operations of Salafi-Jihadist groups, open source intelligence (OSINT) specialist, and an international consultant in the fields of preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE).
Prior to beginning his PhD research in the Department of War Studies in 2021, Mr Smith’s work with prominent think tanks and as chief operating officer of Kronos Advisory, a security consultancy he co-founded in 2011 with Medal of Honor recipient Major General James E Livingston, USMC (Ret), was at the nexus of strategic and tactical threat analysis, technical mitigation support, and the formulation of United States national security policy.
His insights on al-Qa’ida’s and Islamic State’s activities, along with opportunities to more effectively manage threats posed by them, were regularly sought by members of the US Congress, officials with the Executive Office of the President of the United States and governments comprising the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh, for which Mr Smith served as a keynote speaker during a counterterrorism practitioners conference hosted at the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s headquarters in London in March 2017.
Notably, in October 2017, he delivered expert testimony during the high-profile US Senate hearing focused on online influence operations waged by extremists and Russian intelligence services. His investigative reports prepared for members of the US Congress have also been entered into the Congressional Record and used as a source document for US national security legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama, titled The Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012.
Mr Smith’s work investigating the activities of al-Qa’ida, ISIS and their supporters, as well as his perspectives on issues affecting international security have been covered extensively by major news media in the US, Europe, Canada, Australia and the Middle East, including, among others, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel, Vice, AP, Newsweek, Bloomberg, VOA, BBC, The Times of London, The Guardian, Channel 4, AFP, France24, CBC, CTV News, ABC (Australia), 9 News Australia, and The National (UAE). In 2016, for his innovative collaborations with anti-ISIS hacktivists focused on funneling tips about attack plots to counterterrorism officials, Foreign Policy magazine listed him among the “Moguls” in its annual list of the “100 Leading Global Thinkers” and Fast Company magazine ranked him 14 on its annual list of the “100 Most Creative People in Business.”
Mr Smith has also authored and coauthored works published with a diverse mix of influential policy and news platforms, including Foreign Affairs, Lawfare, CNN.com, FoxNews.com, The Times of London/Sunday Times and The Christian Science Monitor, and his scholarly work includes a chapter on ISIS in the first edition of the Routledge Handbook of International Relations in the Middle East (2019).
Mr Smith’s professional background also includes work in intelligence education programs. From 2019-2021, he served as an adjunct member of the faculties of Johns Hopkins University’s MA in Global Security Studies and MS in Intelligence Analysis programs, for which he developed and taught a course focused on the OSINT discipline’s utilities for governments and nonstate actors, including terrorist groups. During this time, he also served as a consultant with the International Spy Museum, where he assisted education staff with developing an interactive OSINT practitioner simulation exhibit focused on how intelligence professionals investigate potential terrorist threats identified in social media posts.
Mr Smith received his MA in Intelligence and Security Studies, with Graduate Certificate in Intelligence Analysis, from The Citadel. He received his BA in Arts Management from the College of Charleston. In recognition of his academic accomplishments as a graduate student, he was inducted into the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. His participation in professional organizations includes membership in the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.
- Terrorism and Violent Extremism
- Radicalization and Terrorist Recruitment
- Extremists’ Uses of Social Media
- Salafi-Jihadists’ Online Influence Operations
- Contemporary Intelligence Operations
- Intelligence Errors, Failures and Successes
- Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)
- Anticipatory Intelligence Analysis
- Security Policy
- Multinational Intelligence Collaboration
- The “Special Relationship”
- Intelligence History and Education
A View To OSINT’s Utilities in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism
Like participants in other social movements, Salafi-Jihadist groups engage in a variety of public relations activities to cultivate awareness of and encourage adherence to the ideology that informs their violent agendas. With the rise of the Internet and social media in particular, al-Qa’ida and ISIS have realized expanded capabilities to wage global influence operations aiming to build and reinforce support for their agendas—including support furnished in the form of terrorist attacks perpetrated here in the West. During recent decades, the overt nature of much of this activity has increased the potential utilities of open source intelligence (OSINT) in efforts to anticipate, detect and mitigate threats posed by al-Qa’ida, ISIS, and their supporters. Yet, despite increased investments in OSINT capabilities since 9/11, there are indications that OSINT’s full potential utilities in preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) initiatives have not been realized by the United States and its closest allies.
With this PhD research project, Michael S Smith II is examining OSINT’s past, present and potential future utilities in P/CVE initiatives. He is conducting historical and primary source research to explore ways the OSINT discipline and OSINT products have been, and can be used by governments of United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia to manage threats posed by the Salafi-Jihadist movement. While conducting this proposed research, Mr. Smith is considering factors that may influence the extents to which OSINT has been and could be utilized in P/CVE initiatives other than its theoretical and practical applications. These potentially relevant factors include perceptions of the OSINT discipline and the value of OSINT products relative to other intelligence disciplines and products within decision-making echelons in government agencies, as well as among policymakers providing oversight of these agencies’ operations.
Current and former intelligence professionals who are interested in participating in this research are encouraged to contact Mr Smith using the e-mail address provided on this profile page or the Contact form on his personal bio site.
Primary Supervisor: Professor Huw Dylan
Secondary Supervisor: Professor David Easter
See Michael S Smith II's PURE Profile
- Islamic State: Aberration, or Accelerant of System-wide Changes to Come? Chapter In Shahram Akbarzadeh, editor, Routledge Handbook of International Relations in the Middle East, Routledge/Taylor & Francis (2019) ISBN 9780415317283
- Fitna, a Failed Coup and a Squandered Opportunity to Undermine the Islamic State’s “Intangible Power”, Lawfare, 24 March 2019
- Is President Trump Enabling the Islamic State’s Power of Persuasion?, Lawfare, 4 February 2018
- Undeterred: Islamic State’s Global Recruitment and Incitement Campaign, Prepared testimony for US Senate hearing titled “Extremist Content and Russian Disinformation Online: Working with Tech to Find Solutions,” 31 October 2017 (Hearing footage, testimony in panel 2, 2:43:30)
- Was ISIS Responsible for the Las Vegas Attack?, Foreign Affairs, 9 October 2017
- Containing ISIS’ Online Campaigns After Manchester: The Simple Tools We Can Use But Choose Not To, Foreign Affairs, 27 May 2017
- Social Media Jihad 2.0: Inside ISIS’ Global Recruitment and Incitement Campaign (Recorded Briefing), New America, Washington, DC, 18 January 2017