December 02, 2006

Cyber Jihad: Giving Up Before We've Begun to Fight

Tom Allard has an extensive article about the rise of the cyber jihad and the internet as a tool for planning, recruiting, and disseminating terrorist propaganda. For those of us interested in winning this war, it's a must read.

The only problem? The experts who claim we cannot fight the cyber jihad have given up before we've even begun.

So there are 5,000 radical Islamist websites now. That's too many websites to shut down, say the experts. Wrong. Try killing upwards of 30,000 jihadis in Iraq at this very moment. Yet we are engaging the enemy wherever we can.

Hmmm, let me see.....which is tougher? Killing 30,000 jihadis or taking down 5,000 websites? And, yeah, for each one we take down another will pop up. But for every terrorist we kill, so does another. The fact that the fight will be tough does not mean it shouldn't be fought.

You do the math. Biggest problem? The compaints that it is difficult to find the cyberterrorists behind the internet jihad. Why is that a problem? Because it tells you we're still in law enforcement mode. We should be on a war footing. And that means treating the internet as both a tool of war (like a gun) and a space where that war is fought (a battlefield). First rule of combat: deny your enemy space to operate. Second rule: the fewer the weapons they have, the better.

Still, read it all. Here are some excerpts: MORE BELOW

Professor Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University academic and one of the world's foremost terrorism analysts, says the use of the internet by jihadists has fundamentally changed the ground rules of terrorism. For the first time, the monopoly of commercial and state-owned media over the mass communication of a terrorist group's message has been usurped.

The implications, Hoffman says, are "enormous", not least because terrorism, at its core, has ultimately been about generating publicity, communicating a message through a violent - and preferably spectacular - act to achieve a political outcome.

"The art of terrorist communication has evolved to a point where the terrorists themselves can now control the entire production process," he says.

The target audience ranges from potential recruits, financial contributors and passive supporters to Western governments and their voting public. Young or old, male or female - Islamic extremists will have a tailored message only a mouse click away.

Blogs, chat rooms, and video and audio files - there is little from the online world that jihadists have not employed to spread their message....

In September the Global Islamic Media Front released a video game, The Night of Bush Capturing, which can be downloaded off the web. As songs of praise to jihad play in the background, players work their way through six stages, including "Americans' Hell" and "Bush Hunted Like a Rat". The final mission is to slay George Bush, in one-on-one combat.

Adam Raisman, an analyst who monitors extremist Islamic websites for the SITE Institute in Washington, says the internet is the most potent tool terrorists have....

Raisman points to a recent publication by the al-Fajr group, another communications arm of al-Qaeda and its fellow travellers. He said it contained a very sophisticated manual on internet security, how to avoid hackers, secure personal files and ensure any computer that is captured is of little value to Western authorities.

Then there are offensive cyber operations, the possibility of terrorists bringing down critical electronic systems that underpin key sectors such as energy and banking....

Jihadist claims that they are winning the war are often accompanied by graphic images of terrorist blasts and the agonising deaths of hostages and soldiers.

In testimony to the US Congress earlier this year, Hoffman warned the US was "dangerously behind the curve" in dealing with the terrorist presence on the web.

Indeed, when police and ASIO agents swooped on the homes of 19 alleged terrorists in Sydney and Melbourne last year, they found an astounding array of violent material on their computers. Their electronic library was as voluminous as it was disturbing, including recipes for homemade explosives, poems in praise of jihad and grisly video and audio files of beheadings and terrorist attacks.

If shutting down the jihadists on the internet is impossible, Ramakrishna says, the West needs a multifaceted and integrated approach to sell its "counter-story".

"To discredit the story, you need to undercut it by showing their mistakes and a positive message about the West."

The internet is our space. The internet is our tool. Let's take it back and win this fight.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 08:47 PM | Comments |