December 10, 2007:
In Saudi Arabia, the kingdoms
intelligence agency is wants new laws that make it illegal to spread terrorist
ideas. The intel people are particularly unhappy with the growth of pro-Islamic
terrorist web sites. The Saudis believe there are 17,000 such sites out there,
which is far more than what Western intelligence agencies come up with
(5-6,000). Saudi counter-terrorism officials want to go on the offensive, with
official web sites to counter the pro-terrorist propaganda on the net. The
kingdom is already having prominent religious figures denouncing Islamic
terrorism, and shutting down any clergy who still support terrorist violence.
The Saudis have been very effective in catching Islamic
terrorists before they can carry out planned attacks. There have been no
successful attacks for three years. But in 2003-4, there were several, all
triggered by the U.S. invasion of Iraq. This led to Al Qaeda breaking the long,
and unofficial, truce it had with Saudi security forces. The basic deal was
that al Qaeda operatives could live in the kingdom as long as they did so
quietly. No violence, although discreet fund raising was tolerated. The
terrorists were enraged by the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and went on a rampage.
Since the Saudis had a pretty good idea who the pro-al Qaeda people were, and
most Saudis became much less tolerant of al Qaeda terrorists after terrorist
bombs started going off in their midst, the Saudis were successful in rounding
up the terrorists. This was accelerated by the replacement of the leadership of
Saudi counter-terrorist organizations (the guys who lad long tolerated the
"truce") in early 2005.
Since then, there have been several gun battles, as
police close in on armed terrorists. In addition, there have been several major
roundups, and a lot of individual arrests. Most of the fifty or so "most
wanted" Saudi terrorists have been arrested or killed, either in Saudi Arabia
or elsewhere. The Saudis have provided U.S. forces in Iraq with DNA material of
wanted terrorists, and the Americans have confirmed the death of several wanted
Saudis. The Americans also returned the bodies (or body parts) of those men,
partly as a courtesy, partly as a way of showing thanks for Saudi cooperation.
Many of these terrorists were disowned by their parents, but it was still a big
deal to get the body back and give it a proper burial.
But now the Saudis see the Internet as a major
instigator of terrorism sympathies among young Saudi men. Radical Saudi clergy,
the kingdom can handle (all clergy are on the state payroll, and must be
approved by senior clerics who are on good terms with the king). But the
Internet is another matter. Internet access in the kingdom is already somewhat
restricted. Not as bad as China, but it look like that will change. Now,
radical Islamic propaganda will be as hard to get at as porn. That is to say,
difficult, but not impossible.