By Judi McLeod
When it comes to capitalizing on the Worldwide Internet, Al Qaida has shot up to the top of the list in the savvy category.
Jihadists working the Internet are prolific, so much so that they could easily borrow a line in popular use during the Cold War: “They’re everywhere!”
“In six years I have bookmarked some 6,000-+ Jihadist websites and the list is still growing,” says Archangel, code name for an online Jihadist-tracking expert.
Finding terrorists in cyber space has become a popular pursuit on the Internet with scores of cyber sleuths up late at night searching on-line for terrorists while their families sleep.
Terrorists who recruit online transcend both the paperback spy novel and the silver screen. They are the latest real time reality in the ongoing International War Against Terrorism.
Cyber Jihadist Indeed, Jihadists on-line was a natural fallout after Western troops hit the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“It has removed the need for a physical terrorist training camp,” says Archangel. “When the United States went into Afghanistan after 9/11 the primary targets being bombed and raided were the long established training camps scattered through Afghanistan. Once we had destroyed the camps, al Qaeda simply went on-line.”
“It gave them mobility, secrecy and allows for training new recruits and allows for further training of existing members.”
Until recently Jihadists have been communicating with impunity on untold thousands of websites. They post actual training manuals, films, documents and data, all for each other to use freely to further the cause of Islamic Jihad.
When exposed in stories, Jihadist websites can disappear over night, as was the case with the self-touted “al Qaeda media website”, Global Islamic Media Website, operating from pastoral, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. When Canada Free Press (CFP) wrote about it on July 6, 2007, operators of the website could be emailed at: email@example.com.
One of the most effective counter-terrorism organizations fighting Jihadists on-line is the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a non-profit, non-partisan research organization. A sort of Scotland Yard of Cyberspace, MEMRI bridges the language gap, which exists between the West and the Middle East.
The respected organization provides timely translations of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish media, as well as original analysis of political, ideological, intellectual, social, cultural, and religious trends in the Middle East.
Founded in 1998 to inform the debate over U.S. policy in the Middle East, MEMRI is a 501 © 3 organization.
MEMRI maintains copyrights on all translations and materials may only be cited with proper attribution.
Up to speed on the latest in counter-terrorism, MEMRI recently launched an Islamist Website Monitor, which focuses on the major Jihadist websites. The new initiative is part of MEMRI’s Jihad and Terrorism Studies Project.
MEMRI will be regularly releasing translated news, analysis, and videos from these websites. The URLS of the sites will be available on request.
Hard to believe that MEMRI is banned from employee office use by some American government departments.
Cyber sleuths aiming for success in the hunt for terrorists online should bookmark http://www.memri.org.
Some cyber sleuths working the net have distinguished themselves by turning on-line terrorists over to the FBI for prosecution.
Indeed, moonlighting as a volunteer terrorist hunter, former municipal judge Shannon Rossmiler recently collared two suspects in the United States. One happened to be Michael Reynolds, an unemployed ex-con found guilty in federal court in Scranton last month of offering to help al Qaeda blow up U.S. pipelines and refineries.
Other U.S. authorities are joining the jihadist online fight.
Detective Jeff Duggan, of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), recently wrote to CFP about LAPD’s latest initiative on Internet Jihadists: “I am currently in the process of creating a unit on the LAPD that specifically addresses this Jihadist issue,” Duggan wrote. “Rather than waste time and resources, by attempting to “reinvent the wheel”, I am looking to establish relationships with other persons/ entities so that we can work together to tackle this vast and seemingly endless problem.”
Jihadist sabotage of Western websites that post anti-terrorism stories could someday find help from those working in the field of cyber Jihadist counterintelligence.
Terrorists don’t just recruit on-line, they use the Internet to fund terrorism and to disseminate propaganda.
What is to stop them from sabotaging Western websites?
Posing as benign western business types, Jihadists could, for example, place advertisements on unsuspecting websites. Websites count on traffic for advertising in a highly competitive industry. Search engines like the ones operated by Internet giant Google, categorize some sites as “bad neighbours”. Linking to a bad neighbour can get you dropped by Google. What if a Google decreed “bad neighbour” found a way to have ads placed on unsuspecting websites through slight variations of the name under which they originally had been Google-declared as a “bad neighbour”?
Jihadists are capable of that kind of cunning.
Meanwhile, cyber sleuths hunting terrorists on-line are a valuable tool in the ongoing International War Against Terrorism.
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