Cyberspace Gives Al Qaeda Refuge

An update on the Internet jihad from the LA Times, with thanks to Peter Rockas:

Since Osama bin Laden and his followers were driven from their bases in Afghanistan, the Al Qaeda terrorist network has demonstrated an increasing ability to exploit the Internet as it reconfigures itself as a semi-leaderless global extremist movement far more elusive than the original incarnation.

Websites run by Al Qaeda and its backers have become virtual classrooms for terrorists, offering instructions for activities such as kidnapping and using cellphones to set off bombs, like the ones used in Madrid. Independent Al Qaeda cells and the network’s loose hierarchy use easily available encoding programs and simple techniques to exchange virtually undetectable messages between Internet cafes in Karachi and libraries in London.

The Internet’s importance to Al Qaeda was highlighted this month by the disclosure that Pakistani authorities had apprehended Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, a suspected Al Qaeda computer engineer, and collected a wealth of electronic material.

E-mail and other information from Khan’s computers led to the arrests of 13 suspects in Britain and sent investigators scrambling to unravel electronic links among militants in Pakistan, Europe and the United States, British, U.S., and Pakistani authorities said. The discovery of files on financial institutions in New York and Washington among Khan’s trove also played a role in prompting the Bush administration to issue a terrorist warning.

Although it has long been known that Al Qaeda used the Internet to conduct reconnaissance on potential U.S. targets, the disks and hard drives taken from Khan disclose much about the resiliency and adaptability of a far-flung network hiding in plain sight, said U.S. and foreign intelligence officials and outside experts interviewed for this report.

“The Internet allows the organization to become a virtual self-perpetuating and changing entity in cyberspace that provides technological guidance and moral inspiration to a new generation,” said Magnus Ranstorp, a counter-terrorism expert at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Note also, later in the article, the keen political analysis from the jihadists:

But the posting that called for attacks on U.S. allies in Iraq “” and its chilling effectiveness “” has proved the most startling.

“It shows that they are very strategic in what they are doing,” the U.S. national security official said.

The document was posted on a website run out of the Middle East. Its language, religious references and other telltale signs convinced U.S. experts that an Al Qaeda member wrote it, though they have not identified the author.

Titled “Jihad in Iraq: Hopes and Dangers,” the posting advocated attacking countries aligned with the U.S. that were most vulnerable to pressure to withdraw their troops from Iraq. Italy and Spain were singled out, with a special mention of Spain’s approaching elections.

“Withdrawal of Spanish or Italian forces would put immense pressure on the British presence in a way that Tony Blair (news – web sites) might not be able to bear,” it said in one of several paragraphs underlined for emphasis. “In this way the dominoes will begin to fall quickly.”

At another point, the posting said, “We think that the Spanish government could not tolerate more than two, maximum three blows, after which it will have to withdraw as a result of popular pressure.”

The posting was available on one of the hundreds of Arabic-language websites that cater to extremists and moderates alike. Many of them are watched by intelligence and law enforcement agencies, but experts say there are far too many to monitor thoroughly.

Evan Kohlmann, a Washington-based terrorism analyst who has been a consultant to the U.S. government, said he was monitoring an Internet chat room frequented by Islamic extremists last month when someone posted copies of the complete Windows desktop of a U.S. soldier serving in South Korea.

The soldier had apparently installed a program to access his work computer through another computer and the hacker found a back door and took control of the machine by using simple techniques, Kohlmann said.

Simplicity seems to work best. One common method of communicating over the Internet is essentially an e-mail version of the classic dead drop.

Members of a cell are all given the same prearranged username and password for an e-mail account on an Internet service provider, or ISP, such as Hotmail or Yahoo, according to the recent joint report by the Treasury and Justice departments.

One member writes a message, but instead of sending it, he puts it in the “draft” file and then logs off. Someone else can then sign onto the account using the same username and password, read the draft and then delete it.

“Because the draft was never sent, the ISP does not retain a copy of it and there is no record of it traversing the Internet “” it never went anywhere, its recipients came to it,” the report said.

Secure messages also can be transmitted using widely available encryption tools.

Slightly more advanced methods allow messages to be embedded in image, sound or other files transferred over the Internet through a process called “steganography.” The files cannot be distinguished without a decoding tool.

The difficulty of intercepting and deciphering messages has given rise to a game of cyber cat and mouse, according to government and independent experts.

In an effort to gather information on potential recruits and donors, U.S. law enforcement agencies operate websites that are set up to resemble extremist Islamic sites. Visitors leave an electronic trail when they enter the site.

On the other side, Al Qaeda can transmit false information to determine whether its members are being monitored by law enforcement.

The Internet offers stealth to its users, but authorities can get valuable information if they can get their hands on data stored in computers or on disks.

U.S. and foreign investigators still are sifting through the material taken from Khan. By cross-referencing the data with old files on people, places and methods of attacks, they hope to get a new picture of the organization’s operations and identify its operatives, senior U.S. law enforcement officials say.

They also are getting a closer look at the role of the Internet in Al Qaeda’s strategies “” and a rare chance to turn the tables on the organization’s computer prowess.

“Al Qaeda relies on the Internet just like everyone else, and increasingly more so,” a senior Justice Department official said. “But that reliance could also come back to bite them.”

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  1. says

    I heard on the weekend that one of the northern European countries is thinking about passing a law that would make it a criminal offence to slander Allah. Has anyone else heard this?

    Political correctness seems to be running wild and the lunatics have the keys to the asylum .

    May I say – before I am legally forced to pay homage the dictates of the PC assholes, that

    “Allah is a fraud and a criminal”

    With a “god” like this who needs the devil?


  2. says

    Am happy to say I haven’t heard anything on making
    Murderous MO wholly PC…yet! Have sent detailed
    information about Islam to Minister of Ethnic Affairs here, hopefully he gets to read it.
    Wonder if Jihadunspun was one of those Intelligience websites mentioned?

  3. says

    My husband works for a large international corp. and just this morning their computer network is full of spam from Indonesia. Don’t know if this is related or not but I’d bet money it is.

  4. says

    Ali Dashti and all-
    There’s a great list of websites providing “alternative” views of Islam (including Jihad Watch) at – it’s well worth a bookmark.

  5. says


  6. says

    Been neglecting that bunch of nutters Al Margarine
    Muhjahdeen so went to their website for a look.
    Well, can you imagine it…!Some wicked people have been circulating leaflets in Central Birmingham Mosque to incite young men to become Jihadists and signing them ‘Al Muhajiroun!!’ Al Margarine denies this and says it is an attempt by Blair and His Lackeys to incriminate their ‘peace loving ‘ organization. A.M spokesman goes on to virtuously say ‘it has always been their policy to stress to Muslims in Britain that they are living under a convenant and that in return for Muslim lives and wealth having sanctity, British Muslims are prohibited from targeting Non Muslim lives and wealth of their host country.’ Gee, I though have this lot REALLY
    given up inciting violence and jihad??Then I see familiar articles by Al Margarine still on their webpage saying that ‘terrorism is part of Jihad’ and ‘yes, it’s okay to bomb kuffar…’

  7. says


    Below is a link to a recent article on a Arab website, a Canadian Muslim praises fatboy Sadr and seems to project a different persona
    of himself in the Canadian media or on his Islamic site
    that gets read by the mainstream non-Muslim citizens.
    Here’s a interesting update CAIR never wants to see in the media.The article below shows the outrage from CAIR and a demand from the Government to condemn a Islamophobic and racist attack on a Mosque in Hamilton.
    Today(08/16/04) there was a story from Hamilton about a few fire bombing on Government
    buildings and a Cop just happen to nab the guy on the third Molitov cocktail toss.
    Guess what,his home had bomb making materials and is now linked to past arson or vandalism.
    Now I’m not trying to blame a Muslim or Islam,but since CAIR made a issue of the Mosques in Hamilton being vandalized, it may be backlash
    for the Mosque damage since the Police wouldn’t give any name or discription for the arrested male.
    We all know that when a criminal appears on the news from a serious offence and the race or religion is excluded from the report,that’s because it’s a non-white/non-Christian/non-Citizen/non-jew/ that will create unfair negative-bias towards a minority group.
    CAIR wasted no time assuming any vandalism
    must be Islamophobic and racist,but when a Muslim is arrested and actual confesses to a crime,CAIR calls for calm and not to make muslims a scapegoat for all crimes because one
    crime was commited by a Muslim.
    I’m really getting sick of these hypersensitive
    Satan worshippers screaming racism at any minor statistical crime as a victim. Lots of bad things have happened to me but I don’t scream “it must be the jews” that did it,I truely believe a large portion of “Hate-crimes”
    are bogus since we never see arrests or there are never other witnesses.

  8. says

    First off; concerning the article:
    I use the net in the library most days and if ever I have someone of middle-eastern decent sitting next to me I always try if I can to keep one eye on their screen , the idiots are so rapt in what they are doing they never notice. I give any helpful details to local police.

    Secondly going out to Ali Dashti,
    The apostatesforislam website is an interesting one, and concerning the issue on the first page you come to, I’d like to say that I stop at nothing to try and open as many peoples eyes ,to what islam really is, as possible every day.So far my girlfriend and most of her friends, my sister, mother and 2 brothers and at least 25 family friends as well as my girlfriends family have had the “wake-up call” ( my mates are already on my wave length).But one problem with this seems to be that , although some people are easy to convince what an evil cult islam is, it’s unlikely that they are going to take any action themselves. There are far too many pacifists in the west who are obliged to live and let live until they are directly threatened.And likewise there are the ones who agree, or already know,but are just not interested and until we have muslims running around the UK shooting people, are unlikely to change their stance.
    Not to say that we should give up though, even alerting as many as possible what we are up against is far better than simply bending over and taking the full length of Allah up our rectums. And who knows , if another terrorist attack takes place, newly “islamicly-aware” pacifists could even turn nasty.

    Last but not least; Morgane,
    My Kiwi chum, try not to worry to much about “el margerine” believe me when I say their every move is being watched. All the right media have been alerted and the only reason they’re being allowed to continue is to be allowed to dig their own graves.

    And to everyone else reading this:
    Anything that can be severely damaging to islam; whether it be an article on jihad watch or like-minded websites or something incriminating or shocking on an islamic website GIVE IT AS MUCH EXPOSURE AS POSSIBLE, SEND COPIES TO THE NEWSPAPERS YOU TRUST THE MOST OR EVEN THE POLICE.

  9. says


    I could not agree more.

    We must wake up our families, friends and neighbors and expose the satanic Islam, the Koran, Allah and Mohammed in the full light of day.

    It is far easier to be a PC with your head stuck in the sand and it is going to take effort. But it is absolutely essential that we create a movement.

    Once that occurs, we will have the convictions of our cause that we as a society have not seen since the Second World War.

    Islam is the Naziism of the 21st Century and PC’ism is our Neville Chamberland.

    Those who died to save the world would be disgraced that we do so little now to protect their cause.