Intelligence: June 18, 2002


The use of the Internet by Islamic terrorists is causing unforeseen problems for intelligence agencies. While it was easy enough to find all the terrorist related web sites (and those of the Islamic charities that provide a lot of funding), it has proven more difficult to deal with the cultural, and age related, differences in behavior. The web sites attract a lot of poseurs and people best described as "reality challenged." Some of this is due to cultural differences. In Arab media, there is nothing like "balanced coverage," the preferred method being for everyone to pile on the designated bad guys. Dissent is considered dishonorable and on the web this leads to a "can you top this" contest regarding intentions and accomplishments. A lot of this chatter is obviously just chatter. But you have to wade through it on the off chance that you have a real operator taking part, and getting sloppy enough to let drop some useful information. But it's not just the message boards and chat rooms. There are also pictures and messages posted to some of these web sites. Much of this material is propaganda or self-promotion, but some of it may be actual communication between real terrorists. Sorting all that out is another headache. There are tools a skilled cyberwarrior can use to trace who the people on the message boards and chat rooms are, but it is time consuming and not completely reliable. 




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