The existence of terrorist groups — and terrorist Web sites — is indisputable. The sites are plain to see, and the hundreds of groups running them hail from all over the globe. Examples range from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in the Middle East to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Europe and the Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN-Colombia) in Latin America.
Some experts say that U.S. intelligence agencies are surreptitiously infiltrating “chat rooms” — or online discussion groups — on these terrorist sites.
“It's easier to infiltrate the ranks over the Internet than face-to-face, because people cannot tell who you really are,” says George Smith, a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org. The program in Ohio is part of the National Academic Consortium for Homeland Security.
“I know — but only in an unofficial way — that counterterrorist agencies are monitoring many (terrorist) chat rooms and forums, and pretending to be members of the ‘clubs,’” says Gabriel Weinmann, a professor of communications at the University of Haifa in Israel.
Expert opinions differ dramatically, though, about how else terrorists might be using these sites, as well as about what — if anything — can and should be done to stop terrorists from keeping toeholds on the Web.
“On a videotape, Osama Bin Laden said that he wanted to destroy the U.S. economy. The entire U.S. economy is built on computer chips. What better way to bring it down than through cyber-terrorism?” suggests Rebecca Ehrenfeld, director of the American Center for Democracy, Internet researcher, and member of the anti-terrorism group Committee on the Present Danger.
Some, on the other hand, question the whole notion of “terrorism on the Internet.”
“There's been a big culture of forecasting cyber-terrorism, but a lot of that's been consigned to the funny files. During the Clinton Administration, Richard Clark used to spend a great deal of time appearing before Congress and various industry groups, telling people that terrorists would use the Internet to shut off electricity,” Smith says.
“But you can't destroy real-world things in the infrastructure over the Internet, where you're only dealing with software. There's something immutable about roads and bridges,” he adds.
Read it all here.
I'm been thinking about this a good deal lately. The internet is a valuable tool for gathering information, especially when you know what to search for.
If I were a terrorist wanting to get into the USA, I would learn Spanish and come in as a Mexican. One way to do this is to study online Spanish short stories with English translations. I've noted that 15% of visitors reading these Spanish short stories are from Iran, Morocco, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. All these visitors are reading the same Spanish short stories. Interesting, huh?