UPDATED: The ISIS Grand Central Station Photo

The alleged note photographed by an ISIS supporter in front of Grand Central Station in New York City has been making the rounds on social media for the last couple of days.  Well, as with most things that get passed around social media when it comes to politics, war, and terrorism, I smelled a rat.  Something about the photograph struck me as wrong.  I couldn’t really tell you what that was, but I have trusted my instincts for several decades now and they rarely fail me.  So, I posted the downloaded image to my Facebook page and put out a call for help to my diverse and experienced group of friends.  All of the links to this image seem to point back to one originating locations: WeaselZippers.com.  I have no idea what that website is all about but with a name like that I have to assume it is full of asshats and hacks.

You can view their original posting HERE.


The original image attached to the post on WZ.  Pretty scary - a supporter of terrorism threatening to march on Grand Central Station.

The original image attached to the post on WZ. Pretty scary – a supporter of terrorism threatening to march on Grand Central Station.

Let me first state that I can take no credit for the information my merry band of investigators uncovered during the frantic search for truth that took place on my facebook page.  I have the privilege of having many investigators, detectives, special operations veterans, and spooky types who I have no idea what they do for a living among my social media friends.  Thus far, this is what we discovered.


My friend Ed, a private investigator, searched weather reports and discovered that, on the day the photo was allegedly taken, NYC had clear skies and mild temperatures.  The photo, as you can see above, appears to have been taken on an overcast day.  It is clearly right about noon in the photo because the shadows are directly beneath the vehicles and pedestrians shown.  The photo should have been brighter with more sun glare bouncing off of the various items captured.

Then, several of us performed a perimeter search of Grand Central Station in New York utilizing Google street view and reached the same conclusion:  That isn’t a photo of Grand Central.  We then searched several of the surrounding blocks thinking perhaps it was an adjacent building.  We came up empty.  Then, one of the pursuers of truth remarked that taxis in New York are not green like the one shown in the photograph.  Perhaps Chicago, “Watchmaker” offered.  Bingo.  Moments later, we had direct confirmation that the building in the photo is actually the Old Republic Building on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.  Therefore, the initial assertion of the photograph and associated article were proven false.  Now, this in no way means there isn’t a threat out there.  It just means the person responsible for the article either intentionally, or unintentionally, tried to scare the bejebus out of New York City.  Chicago, at this stage, should be very concerned.


I can also take no credit for the translation.  A friend of Ed’s, a Pelestinian, gave it his take.  For all intents and purposes, the original translation of the note included with the WZ article appears to be correct.  The upper half states that:  “The army of the Islamic country of Iraq will pass by here soon.”  The 2nd sentence appears to be a verse from the Quran.  It says “The lord said, God give his light even though hated the sinners.”  So, essentially, it is the same as the originating article.


Something about the look of the photo still bothered me so I ran it through a service at www.imageedited.com to see what it could find.  The website analyses the metadata embedded in a photo and searches for irregularities.  This is the result it offered:

“There is nothing in the file metadata that indicates this file has been edited. Careful editors can fix the data and erase their tracks though, so this means you’ll have to look at the photo and decide if it looks correct and not edited.

It determined that the photo was most likely taken with a Sony Cybershot camera or a Samsung Galaxy S II phone.  The S V (5) now.  Either this terrorist wannabe is very frugal and takes very good care of his older phone, or this photo was not taken recently.

I also ran the photo through FotoForensics.com and found nothing of interest there.  Both of those forensic links are free to try and are pretty interesting and easy tools for those not familiar with photo forensics.  The latter performs various functions including an Error Level Analysis (shown below) that seems to indicate that there were no modifications to this particular photograph.  At least none that appear during normal evaluation.

Here is the ELA photo:

ELA testing grand central

And a negative image I created using PrintShop Pro:

grand central note negative

Until further analysis is done, we have to assume the photo is genuine, but it was taken in Chicago, not New York.  I will update this post if any new information comes to light.

UPDATE 2215 HOURS 6/29/14

Watchmaker did some further digging and located a jihadist fan page that appears to show numerous photos of people holding up pro ISIS banners in various locations around the world.  That page can be found HERE if you want to risk browsing to a jihadist website.  Here is a sampling of some of the other photos found there.

grand central paris

grand central romegrand central unknown 4

grand central unknown 3

MORE – 0600 EST 6/30/14

Further digging by Watchmaker may have found the originating Twitter account that posted the ISIS photo. It was posted by @msn291 which is either an ISIS member, or a supporter. He currently has 14,300 followers to his Twitter account. This doesn’t confirm that he took the photo, only that he posted it to the web. Here is a screencap of his account that still requires translation:



UPDATE: 2200 6/30/14

David Banic had an interpreter friend translate part of the Twitter profile. According to the interpreter, it states..

“To the sheik who is lower than scum, that follows the leader who is a dictator… To every sunrise, there is a sunset .. and your chair of leadership is not for you forever. One day we will come back even with chains around us.”