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Finger points to British intelligence as al-Qaeda websites are wiped out

London Times | July 31, 2005

Over the past fortnight Israeli intelligence agents have noticed something distinctly odd happening on the internet. One by one, Al-Qaeda’s affiliated websites have vanished until only a handful remain, write Uzi Mahnaimi and Alex Pell.

Someone has cut the line of communication between the spiritual leaders of international terrorism and their supporters. Since 9/11 the websites have been the main links to disseminate propaganda and information.

The Israelis detect the hand of British intelligence, determined to torpedo the websites after the London attacks of July 7.

The web has become the new battleground of terrorism, permitting a freedom of communication denied to such organisations as the IRA a couple of decades ago.

One global jihad site terminated recently was an inflammatory Pakistani site, www.mojihedun.com, in which a section entitled How to Strike a European City gave full technical instructions. Tens of similar sites, some offering detailed information on how to build and use biological weapons, have also been shut down. However, Islamic sites believed to be “moderate”, remain.

One belongs to the London-based Syrian cleric Abu Basir al-Tartusi, whose www.abubaseer.bizland.com remained operative after he condemned the London bombings.

However, the scales remain weighted in favour of global jihad, the first virtual terror organisation. For all the vaunted spying advances such as tracking mobile phones and isolating key phrases in telephone conversations, experts believe current technologies actually play into the hands of those who would harm us.

“Modern technology puts most of the advantages in the hands of the terrorists. That is the bottom line,” says Professor Michael Clarke, of King’s College London, who is director of the International Policy Institute.

Government-sponsored monitoring systems, such as Echelon, can track vast amounts of data but have so far proved of minimal benefit in preventing, or even warning, of attacks. And such systems are vulnerable to manipulation: low-ranking volunteers in terrorist organisations can create background chatter that ties up resources and maintains a threshold of anxiety. There are many tricks of the trade that give terrorists secure digital communication and leave no trace on the host computer.

Ironically, the most readily available sources of accurate online information on bomb-making are the websites of the radical American militia. “I have not seen any Al-Qaeda manuals that look like genuine terrorist training,” claims Clarke.

However, the sobering message of many security experts is that the terrorists are unlikely ever to lose a war waged with technology.

 

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