Intelligence: Life in the Jihadi Jungle

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May 8, 2007: Al Qaeda is finding the Internet to be an enormous intelligence liability. While the web is useful to get the message out, and attract new recruits, it is also provides an excellent opportunity for intelligence and police agencies to gather information. To a large extent, this is largely unavoidable. Only a small percentage of active Islamic radicals are trained in the tradecraft of counter-intelligence (preventing police infiltration.)

Naturally, neither al Qaeda, nor any security organizations are going to discuss this openly. But it is known that intelligence agencies constantly advise against shutting down the pro-terrorism web sites, especially those with message boards. It is possible to monitor who uses these web sites, and it's gotten out that many active terrorists have been caught because of information obtained from monitoring who visits and uses pro-terrorist web sites.

Al Qaeda has issued warnings to jehadis on the web, to be careful what they say, and to be aware that when they visit a web site, the computer they are using can be tracked. Most visitors are unaware of these warnings, or ignore them. Core al Qaeda operatives know to avoid revealing themselves so easily, but there are so many volunteers and helpers who are sloppy, that the careful guys are constantly put in danger of getting caught.

For recruiting, al Qaeda relies on people it knows to get some face time with promising prospects, and check their references. This puts the pressure on intelligence agencies to create "legends" (believable backgrounds), if they want to keep an Internet persona active. Legends are expensive to create and maintain, but apparently a few of them have been used to smoke out more senior Islamic terrorists.

Most of the Islamic radicals encountered on the web are posers and wannabes. But some of them are serious, and there's always the risk that some of the many you write off as harmless, turn out not to be. What is scary is the large number of young Moslems who see themselves as victims of Western aggression. Playing the victim is one thing, but many of these kids spout a pretty vile message of hate and aggression. Among many young Moslems, it's become fashionable to either agree with this bile, or at least tolerate it.

A lot of young Moslems don't go along with all the jihadi fantasies, and they are often the intel agents cruising the terrorist web sites, looking for information and potential terrorists. When the current outburst of Islamic terrorism has run its course, there will be opportunities to reveal more details of the hidden war that was played out on the Internet, and how important it was to keeping the terrorists impotent.

 


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