James Foley, Syria, 2012.

The High-Tech Manhunt for James Foley’s Killer

Journalist James Foley's beheading video at the hands of ISIS wasn't as anonymous as you think. Here and there, small clues were left

The world watched in horror last week as a masked man brutally beheaded freelance photographer James Foley.

As investigators began trying to identify the killer, there didn’t seem to be much in the way of clues. The man in the video was completely masked, and there were no buildings in the background. The killer didn’t identify where he was or the people he was with.

But British military officials apparently came “close” over the weekend to determining the killer. “I do know from my colleagues at home that we are close,” Peter Westmacott, the British ambassador to the United States, told CNN. “But I can’t go much further than that at this point.”

He added: “And there are some very sophisticated technologies, voice identification and so on, which people can use to check who these people are.”

One of the prime suspects in the case is actually a prolific British rapper named Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, aka L Jinny. According to multiple reports, Bary had become radicalized in recent years and began fighting with ISIS, now the Islamic State, last year in Syria. Two weeks ago, he posted a picture of himself and a severed head on Twitter, writing, “Chillin’ with my homie or what’s left of him.”

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According to The Independent, his voice might be what gave him away. “A sound expert who compared the footage of the brutal killing with Bary’s rap songs told the paper there was a ‘big likeness’ between the voices,” the paper reported.

The military is no doubt pursuing Foley’s killer through old-school intelligence channels. But you might be wondering: Which “sophisticated technologies” is Westmacott talking about?

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