US gets creative in online battle against Al-Qaeda

US officials championing freedom and democracy are well aware that they cannot try to silence Islamist militants by censoring or blocking the growing number of Al-Qaeda related web sites. Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University, said the Internet has created a "largely borderless world. Internet chat rooms are now supplementing and replacing mosques, community centers and coffee shops as venues for recruitment and radicalization by terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda." To fight that, Cilluffo noted that "it is possible that an intelligence officer posing as a sympathizer could infiltrate an online extremist community. Seeds of confusion, doubt and distrust could then be planted in order to chip away at the ties that bind individual extremists into a cohesive and dangerous group."

Other tactics he proposed included "deepen(ing) our understanding of the process of radicalization." Cilluffo also lamented the lack of Arabic-speakers in US intelligence services. "The ability to speak, understand and translate Arabic is crucial to prevention and response efforts, yet US government capacities in that regard are much weaker than they should be."

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Felter, director of the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States military academy at West Point, concurred that attempts to close down the sites have proven futile. "An open society in the information age offers opportunities for asymmetric warfare that cannot be taken away, only countered. Know your enemy -- read what the terrorists are telling us online. We can monitor them ... follow the networks and assess their operational capacity. We can sabotage them by infiltrating their networks and flooding the web with bogus information. And we can anticipate their attacks by reading their strategic literature and following trends on their web forums and discussion boards," Felter said.

News source: Physorg

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