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Al Qaeda and the Internet

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Evan Kohlmann
International Terrorism Consultant
Monday, August 8, 2005; 3:00 PM

Terrorism researcher Evan Kohlmann was online Monday, Aug. 8, at 3 p.m. ET to discuss al Qaeda and its use of the Internet. Kohlmann is featured in a washingtonpost.com video report on this topic .

Read The Post's three-part series on al Qaeda and the Internet .

The transcript follows.

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New York, N.Y.: Will encryption and other methods of disguising Web site hosts always stay ahead of anti-terrorism efforts to find the source of Web sites? Could we ever use a posting on the Internet to lead us to the poster, say Al-Zarqawi or his network, after a posting about Iraq?

Evan Kohlmann: In short, the answer is no. Everyone operating on the Internet has an originating Internet Protocol (IP) address, whether they use encryption or disguises. Those IP addresses--which function something like conventional telephone numbers--are reasonably difficult to spoof or fake, and are typically kept in logs of Web sites and web providers. The trick is usually, to start, finding the terrorist Web site and then gaining access to voluminous log files hosted by its Internet provider. These files can be located on web servers in foreign countries where U.S. law enforcement holds little sway. In such cases, access to these logs is difficult and requires use of multilateral law enforcement assistance treaties.

Even when these Internet providers are located in the United States and access logs containing IP addresses can be obtained fairly easily, the end user responsible for distributing terrorist propaganda is very often located in a foreign country and merely is using American Internet resources to his advantage. We can shut down his or her Web server and perhaps negotiate with friendly foreign authorities to detain him, but ultimately, his or her fate is no longer in our hands.

These end-users often use Internet proxy servers to obscure their location. These days, they also layer their communications internally to provide an additional cover. Nevertheless, somewhere out there in cyberspace, there is still an originating IP address. Finding and identifying it is perhaps a difficult but rarely impossible endeavor.

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Dayton, Ohio: We frequently hear and read about these statements and videos which are posted on "Jihadist" or "Islamic" Web sites, but we never get any information about the actual Web sites themselves.

What countries are they located in? What are the URL's? What (if any) action is taken against the ISP's and/or hosting companies for aiding and abetting international terrorism? Have IP addresses been harvested and analyzed from postings to determine geographical locations?

All of these basic technical questions are fairly obvious, but seem to never be answered. If terrorists are using the Internet to organize, why is this not being disrupted? The equivalent battlefield tactic would be "area denial."

Evan Kohlmann: Ironically, these Web sites are most often hosted on Internet Providers inside the United States. As you might have guessed, the same is rarely true of the webmasters themselves, who are spread across Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. While we can temporarily disable Web sites such as these by forcing their Internet provider to close them down, within less than 24 hours, they can reappear on new providers that we aren't familiar with--also, most often, located in the United States.

Internet Service Providers (ISP)s are not liable for any terrorist propaganda posted on their systems unless and until they have actual knowledge of it. Internet vigilantes frequently report such propaganda to ISP administrators, and it is quickly removed by most ISPs. Unfortunately, the terrorist Web sites can jump providers faster than either system administrators or even sometimes law enforcement can track them. Anytime that an ISP is identified as hosting a terrorist Web site, it is a fair assumption that law enforcement or intelligence officials will send a request to the ISP for identifying electronic information (Internet Protocol addresses) that leave the equivalent of a digital footprint.

Then again, if the online terrorist is smart, has layered his communications, and is using an Internet proxy server, that footprint may yield precious few clues to his actual identity or location.

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Madison, Conn.: Given the accessibility of the Internet to everyone everywhere, it seems reasonable that the terrorists might be beaten at their own game. If we could organize a large international group of volunteers to find these sites and enter them, and even go to the extent of joining them and gaining trust, the terrorist organizers total control of their own Internet alliance could be jammed.

Evan Kohlmann: There are already such groups in existence on the Internet. Besides the well-known "Internet Haganah" Web site (Internet Haganah), there is a variety of hackers and other Internet volunteers who monitor these sites and report their location. Unfortunately, the results are typically short-lived. At least for now, the terrorist Web sites can jump around faster than they can be shut down. I would suggest you read a blog entry I wrote this past weekend about the brief takedown of two major terrorist web sites by a hacker, which lasted only for a few hours at most.

The Counterterrorism Blog.

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Bethesda,Md.: Obvious question but one that deserves an answer. Certainly the NSA and CIA have enough computer geeks to hack into these sites and disrupt them. Why are we allowing them to stay online?

Evan Kohlmann: The answer comes in two parts:

1.) The NSA is chock full of computer geeks. The problem here is to find computer geeks who also are familiar with terrorist groups and have an ability to translate Arabic on the fly. That's a much rarer bird, and there is a shortage of such individuals in almost every branch of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence--at least in my humble opinion.

2.) There are those of us both in the private and public arena who believe that monitoring these sites, collecting information from them, and using it to ultimately defeat the terrorists on the real battlefield--as opposed to the Internet--is a far more fruitful and valuable enterprise. Rarely in modern history have law enforcement or intelligence agencies had such unprecedented immediate access to authentic and credible information about terrorist groups, their recruitment, their financing, and their long-term intentions. Rather than frustrating the weekend hobby of a low-level terrorist sympathizer and Internet webmaster, it would seem more desirable to use the information he publishes to help track down elusive "big fish" like Al-Qaida's frontman in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or even his top media advisor, Abu Maysarah al-Iraqi.

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Netherlands: Dear Mr.Kohlmann,

Have you seen an English translation of the latest publication by Mustapha Setmarian Nasar, one of the main propagandists of al-Qaeda? Do you know how I can get hold of this translation? Do you agree that this publication will become a main source of inspiration for the next generation of jihadists?

Evan Kohlmann: I've read bits and pieces from Setmariam's new masterpiece, though personally, I found his direct statement to the U.S. State Department last December more interesting--particularly his insistence upon the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States. If you'd like to read more about this, check out: Document

Something to note--the original Arabic version of Nasar's book is currently offline as far as the Internet goes. It was first released via a hacked American Web site (carriagehouseglass.com), where it was secretly hosted in a hidden directory. This same hacked Web site also published over 700 megabytes of video lessons given by Nasar and numerous other documents written by him. There seems little doubt that those publications will become classics in the annals of the global mujahideen. Though, it should be noted that Nasar's re-release on the Internet of his other book criticizing the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) did deeply anger some current Algerian Islamists, including alleged representatives of the GIA's heir-apparent, the Algerian Salafist Group for Prayer and Combat (GSPC).

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Frederick, Md.: I don't understand why we (the United States) has not found Bin Laden, with all that we have going for us. My son was killed at WTC. NYC Firefighter.

Evan Kohlmann: I'm very sorry for your loss. Unfortunately, I don't know if I can give you a complete answer as to why we haven't captured Usama Bin Laden yet. The area that Bin Laden is most likely hiding in--the mountainous Pakistani-Afghani border region--is much larger and more expansive than you might think and boasts some of the most formidable high country in the world. This particular area is also inhabited primarily by conservative Muslim tribesmen who can be highly sympathetic for Al-Qaida and the Taliban. The central governments in Pakistan and Afghanistan are both weak and generally considered to be under siege by radical elements who support Bin Laden and Al-Qaida. Even the internal intelligence agency in Pakistan known as the ISI is riddled with fundamentalist sympathizers.

There are also some valid criticisms of past U.S. military strategy in tackling Bin Laden and his senior henchmen. When we had an opportunity to surround Al-Qaida's elite, we backed off somewhat fearing heavy casualties and believing that Bin Laden would become irrelevant with his organization destroyed. Perhaps we underestimated their resilience in this respect. In the interim, the remaining Al-Qaida hardliners have dug themselves in deep into the mountains and are awaiting a planned resurgence which is brewing from Islamist resentment over the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, the prison scandal in Abu Ghraib, and the Newsweek-Quran-desecration fiasco.

Ultimately, Bin Laden could be captured or killed at any time. It just takes one good informant or a solid electronic intercept. Thus far, or at least recently, we just haven't gotten those kind of breaks in time for us to act on them successfully. In Arabic, we would say, inshallah (God Willing), our luck will soon change in this regard.

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Washington, D.C.: Very interesting series. I have two questions. First, I realize it's virtually impossible to track down individuals who post information on the extremist Web sites, but isn't it possible to track down whoever owns and/or hosts the Web site? Can't this avenue be forcefully used to shut down these Web sites? Secondly, with all the havoc hackers unleash on other Web sites, it must be possible to hack into the extremist Web sites. Is anyone doing this? I think it would be a good job for some folks in the Department of Homeland Defense. Thanks.

Evan Kohlmann: Actually, I don't have the links in front of me, but several articles have been published recently in major media outlets discussing how the Department of Defense and other government agencies are trying to recruit such hackers for tracking and potentially disabling these sites.

You might be surprised, however, at the impressive level of technical sophistication of the terrorists. The reason, of course, is that not everyone responsible for distributing terrorist propaganda or setting up web sites is actually a terrorist. There is a notorious individual online who goes by the pseudonym "Irhaby007" (or, translated, "Terrorist007"). Though this person does not appear to be a member of any particular terrorist group, he volunteers his worthy skills as a cybermarauder to help terror groups in need, including Zarqawi's Al-Qaida faction in Iraq. What Zarqawi is unable to do on the Internet, Irhaby007 does for him. Unsettlingly, Irhaby007 also speaks perfect English and has even hacked his way into an unprotected file directory on an Arkansas state government Web site, using it to host beheading videos and other such propaganda.

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Silver Spring, Md.: In the situation resulting from the Bush administration's war of 2003, Al Qaeda has been reborn in Iraq after almost being wiped out in Afghanistan earlier. This seems to me to put it in a better position than it was in in Afghanistan to work for one of Bin Laden's primary aims--the overthrow of the Saudi regime right next door. There is already a flow of Saudi jihadists into Iraq and if there is a full-blown civil war between Shiites and Sunnis, many Saudis will back the Sunnis and view their government's Iraq policy as unacceptable. How powerful is the Internet as a possible tool for Al Qaeda in rallying the opposition of Saudis to the regime? How well-connected are Saudis to the Internet? Do we know whether jihadist Web sites are widely viewed in Saudi Arabia?

Evan Kohlmann: The Internet is used very frequently by terrorists and terrorist sympathizers in Saudi Arabia. One of the first authentic terror groups to go active on the Internet was Al-Qaida's Committee in Saudi Arabia, then led by the legendary former bodyguard to Usama Bin Laden Shaykh Youssif al-Ayyiri. Al-Qaida's Committee in Saudi Arabia was also one of the first terrorist groups to publish an online magazine, the infamous Sawt al-Jihad ("Voice of Jihad"), which even featured lesson plans for a would-be assassination plot targeting the convoy of Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayif. The Saudi Al-Qaida elite were also first to publish live footage of a suicide bombing attack.

There are loopholes in most terrorist Web forums which allow snoops to track the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of those who are perusing the material. I'm not going to go into the details of those loopholes for operational reasons, but suffice it to say, there is ample evidence of the participation of Saudi Internet users on the most popular terrorist web sites. Aaron Weisburd at Internet Haganah has done some valuable work tracking the nationalities of those who frequent terrorist Web forums. Again, I don't have the exact link in front of me, but his Web site is Internet Haganah

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Boonsboro, Md.: Why not set up dummy sites and monitor who hits them?

Evan Kohlmann: Don't be sure that people aren't doing exactly that. The former Al-Qaida Web site known as Azzam Publications openly accused a popular English-language jihad information Web site (Jihadunspun) of being a CIA intelligence gathering project. After reading the analysis of Azzam.com, even I grew to wonder whether jihadunspun wasn't just set up to monitor Web hits and sell videotapes online to would-be jihadis paying for them with a credit card number--very easy to track by law enforcement.

Similarly, there have been recent accusations that some popular Web forums--including Qal3ah.net, the Web site that featured the first claim of responsibility for the 7/7 London attacks--have been reconstituted after being disabled in order to serve as covert intelligence gathering projects. I think it is reasonable to assume that one or more governments may be considering if not implementing such plans.

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Washington, D.C.: I am stunned at how uncritical you were in looking at some of these "terrorism documents." I note that the Federation of American Scientists and GlobalSecurity.org have also criticized how you have taken ridiculous documents as being serious. Do you really believe you can make botulism from that recipe of mixing horse manure with dirt? The ricin recipes also are silly. The Post story's uncertain grasp of the underlying science was signaled early on when it twice mistakenly referred to a virus as the cause of pneumonic plague. Also please note that pneumonic plague which may or may not have been the cause of the Black Death in history, is caused by a bacterium, Yersinia pestis, not by a virus.

Evan Kohlmann: I'm not sure exactly what document you are referring to, but critical analysis is one of the most important elements of tracking this material. I am extremely careful about what I publish and how I describe it to accurately reflect what is known for certain at a given time. You are correct in pointing out that terrorist training manuals distributed online can offer ridiculous--if not downright invalid--information about producing explosives or toxins. That being said, there are often dozens of such manuals that have been carefully vetted by trained military experts working for extremist groups. For instance, the Algerian Salafist Group for Prayer and Combat (GSPC) featured links on its official Web site to "approved" military manuals, including recipes for the production of chemicals and explosives. In 1992, the World Trade Center bombing was nearly averted because one of the conspirators was intercepted by local authorities at Kennedy airport beforehand while carrying bomb-making manuals. Imagine how much easier it would be if he only had to access the Internet from anywhere in the world in order to obtain such materials--even in the Arabic language. The possibilities are astounding.

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Fairmont, W. Va.: Are terrorists using steganography to establish covert channels for communication to conceal their activities in cyberspace?

Evan Kohlmann: Steganography is one of the most controversial emerging arenas of cyberterrorism study. Depending on who you talk to, stenography is either frequently used or not at all. Ultimately, it is difficult to be certain either way. For those unfamiliar, steganography is the process of encoding non-descript image, movie, or audio files with secret coded messages that are virtually invisible except at the binary level. The difficulty in detecting possible coded documents and then running an exhaustive steganographic analysis on them cannot be understated. Law enforcement officials simply do not have the time or resources to thoroughly analyze all possible documents for steganography, so it is generally limited to single suspect documents. Given the wide variety of steganographic tools available for download for free off the Internet, we would be well advised to devise quicker and more efficient methods of analysis and decryption.

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Washington, D.C.: Is there any evidence that terrorist groups continue to use 'chat rooms' to communicate? If so, how adept are we at locating the rooms and listening in?

Evan Kohlmann: Yes, one of the most popular new chat mediums on the Internet is known as "PalTalk"--a free service that hosts dozens of chat rooms around the world. However, particularly in the Middle East, PalTalk technology has exploded and many of the same individuals who inhabit terrorist web sites and forums also populate similarly-themed chat rooms on Paltalk. In one chat room in particular, I have listened in to users describing in Arabic their experiences fighting with the Arab-Afghans in Afghanistan and alleged relatives of foreign fighters in Iraq discussing the "martyrdom" of their sons and nephews.

Here is a link to download an audio recording from one PalTalk chat room where British Islamic militants were discussing their support for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq.

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washingtonpost.com: Global Terror Alert: Video

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New York, N.Y.: Do you believe that in the years to come, the Internet will thoroughly eradicate the need for in-person terrorist training? Although al Qaeda no longer freely operates camps in Afghanistan, since 9/11, other camps have trained operatives in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, etc. We've also recently seen reports of terrorists training in France, Australia, and even seeking to set up camps in the U.S.

Evan Kohlmann: There are some analysts who are arguing exactly that point right now. There is also some evidence to suggest that is the case. Al-Qaida's Committee in Saudi Arabia has released video footage of underground training camps inside warehouses for small groups of militants. Even the French government has prosecuted several individuals who retreated from major French cities up into national parks and mountain ranges, where they established temporary makeshift Al-Qaida training camps. With the strategic and military knowledge now available on the Internet, you could literally take a correspondence course in terrorism--assuming, that is, that you can read Arabic. I don't know if your expertise would be the same as an operative who went through the experience directly in Afghanistan, but it doesn't take too much sophistication to carry out a relatively deadly terror attack--and I think that's why we've seen some initial suspicions after 7/7 that this potentially could have been the work of independent operators, or "lone wolves."

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Herndon, Va.: I noticed in the table of contents of Jihadi book that you had translated there was a chapter under the heading of SAVAK (Security Agency). That is interesting because SAVAK is a Persian acronym for words in Farsi (not Arabic) that stood for the previous Iranian secret police agency during M.R. Pahlavi. Can you explain?

Evan Kohlmann: Yes, Al-Qaida members frequently study the techniques of other terrorist groups or intelligence agencies and adapt them for their own use. Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian Al-Qaida recruit instructed at camps in Afghanistan, admitted during U.S. court testimony that during classes he attended taught at Al-Qaida's "Terrorism University", specific emphasis was put on studying past trends in terrorism and learning from them, including the Hizballah bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut and the failed assassination attempts targeting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa during the mid-1990's. In Al-Qaida manuals seized in the United Kingdom, enormous focus is put on learning the methods of Middle Eastern intelligence agencies and how to mimic or foil them.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Is there a method we could use to determine how they use IT in remote regions? What do they call their counter-terrorism?

Evan Kohlmann: Interestingly enough, some information is available on how extremists manage to access the Internet in remote locations. In Iraq, Internet Protocol (IP) addressing information has allowed us to track Islamic Army of Iraq (IAI) communications back to satellite Internet access providers, including at least one designated for use by the U.S. military. In other words, these guys are beaming a signal into space just like a satellite telephone. Russian officials claim that they have shut down numerous such satellite Internet signals in the troubled south-Caucasus region of Chechnya, where Islamic militants are engaged in a desperate guerilla war with Russian military forces.

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DeRidder, La.: How ironic a communications system initially developed by the U.S. Department of Defense to survive nuclear attack would become a vital operational tool for international terrorists bent on destroying Western Civilization.

Evan Kohlmann: Ironic, but not entirely unforeseeable. The DoD designed the Internet to provide a redundant information system that would continue to operate and share information even if several of its most critical nodes were taken offline. The terrorists have simply taken a page from the same book. The idea is to create redundant information systems, so that even if law enforcement or Internet vigilantes disable one terrorist Web site, there will always be somewhere to carry the jihad news of the day.

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Arlington, Va.: As you stated, a Web administrator can easily redirect his Web site to a new I.P. address when his service provider pulls the plug. However, the domain name itself (e.g. washingtonpost.com) is controlled by some bona fide registrar, as are the DNS servers which maintain directory maps to each domain. Why then, is it so difficult to pull the plug on a Web site? It would be fairly easy for any government to tell when a rogue web site was redirected to a new address, no?

Evan Kohlmann: It is intriguing to watch as these sites change not only their hosting providers, but even their domains. The popular Muntada al-Ansar forum has gone through at least four or five varying domain names as each previous one has been disabled. Finding the new domains is not typically a very difficult task. There are numerous mailing lists, chat rooms, and sympathizer web sites that immediately advertise the new locations to Al-Qaida supporters. Increasingly, these forums are being password protected and carefully vetted so that only apparently-genuine terrorist sympathizers get advance notice of new releases on the Internet.

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Lyme, Conn.: What is your sense on how well al Qaeda announces its plans (and I don't mean the details) before it acts? It has been suggested by some experts that they do announce who they intend to attack, and why, before they do so. I was wondering if you find this analysis to be correct.

Evan Kohlmann: This is another good, but complex question. We have indeed seen at least a few notable examples of authentic terrorist groups broadcasting their intentions just prior to launching an attack, including Al-Qaida. Last summer, Al-Qaida's Committee in Saudi Arabia issued an authentic statement specifically threatening Western commercial airliners entering and leaving the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Though no successful plot was ever carried out, strong evidence was uncovered by Saudi and U.S. authorities that Al-Qaida was indeed attempting to down Western aircraft--both civilian and military--with mobile, shoulder-launched surface to air missiles.

Generally speaking, however, it goes against the basic interests of terrorist groups to advertise their targets before launch. Of course, we can't immediately dismiss these threats--even if they come from an unknown source--but every such doom-and-gloom prediction has to be put into larger perspective. Over the last year, mainstream media has published numerous stories detailing would-be threats from terrorist groups that are absolutely incredible--to the point that even Abu Musab al-Zarqawi himself warned his followers to only pay heed when documents were released by his official spokesperson Abu Maysarah al-Iraqi.

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Montclair, Va.: To go back to your previous answer, why aren't there more Arabic language classes at the secondary level in the U.S.? There was an article this weekend in The Post re: difficulty of language acquisition by native English speakers and Arabic was on the most difficult list (88 weeks of intense training required). Wouldn't this be a better investment of Homeland Security dollars than some of the pork we've seen doled out to non-likely targets in Middle America?

Evan Kohlmann: Again, in my humble opinion, not nearly enough Homeland Security money has been spent on training the next generation of counter-terrorists, whether it be in technology or languages. Recently, senior FBI officials testified that they did not believe proficiency in Arabic or familiarity with terrorism were necessary qualifications for an agent to work with, or even lead the Bureau's Counter-Terrorism team. With all due respect, I strongly object to those statements. If we study the methods of our allies like France and the United Kingdom, we would learn quickly that the only reason they have developed such effective intelligence networks is because of the time and thought they have invested in creating a work force that has superior knowledge and skill than the terrorists they are hunting.

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Washington, D.C.: We should be going on the offensive on this, not just shutting down terrorist Web sites when we find them, but also making Web sites of our own. If we make convincing fake sites that contain subtle pieces of misinformation, potential terrorists will eventually learn not to trust everything they read on the Internet.

Evan Kohlmann: I agree... but unfortunately, there is also a downside to this. These web sites are valuable sources of information for our intelligence and law enforcement personnel. The Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) is a good indicator of that. FBIS works as the open-source information outlet of American intelligence, and these days, it regularly publishes translations of terrorist communiques and audio recordings downloaded from Internet web sites. This information goes directly to help shape ongoing military operations, intelligence work, and even future counterterrorism policy on Capitol Hill. In this respect, we must take care not to inadvertently poison our own information feast.

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Washington, D.C.: Even though you make clear we seek to exploit the sites, it seems to be a bad trade-off, especially if they are being used for recruitment, training, and command and control. Might it be a better strategy to prevent traffic in certain languages containing certain keywords from crossing national borders? Or national gateways, if you prefer that term? The Chinese seem to be having some success using such technology in their capacity as evildoers. Couldn't we as do-gooders use similar technology to fence these terrorists off from the civilized world? Are we even obligated to carry traffic encoded in Arabic? Seems a bit suicidal to me.

Evan Kohlmann: Your argument is well-taken, and I generally agree with your point. Unfortunately, at least in my opinion, I don't think it is a productive or fruitful strategy to filter traffic, nevermind the free speech concerns involved. The Chinese have indeed managed to block many pro-democracy web sites, but not all of them, and not even nearly all the chat rooms, web forums, and other areas on the Internet used by Chinese dissidents to congregate and discuss politics.

I should note that not everyone shares this opinion. Some others, including most prominently Aaron Weisburd at Internet Haganah, encourage a more aggressive approach and believe that routinely disabling such web sites or filtering material is a legitimate possibility. Realistically, given the chaos that you often find in the halls of the U.S. government, I think that might be expecting a little more law enforcement and intelligence coordination than is realistic--at least for the moment.

Not to mention, there are also pro-American web sites written in the Arabic language. I think this illustrates why it would be highly problematic to distinguish web sites merely on the basis of language, both legally and technologically-speaking.

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Arlington, Va.: Besides Babar Ahmad's Web site, is there any estimate on the number of other Web sites within England that promote terrorism? How about within the U.S.?

What are the major obstacles to eliminating these sites?

Evan Kohlmann: There are at least two (if not more) major terror-supporting web sites run by London-based jihadi webmasters: Qal3ah (run by Saudi dissident Dr. Saad al-Fagih) and Tajdeed (run by Saudi dissident Dr. Mohammed al-Massari). Both Al-Fagih and Al-Massari have long histories of providing support to Al-Qaida, and their Web forums were a haven for online extremists, including those who openly glorified beheadings and suicide bombings. Both web sites went offline shortly after the 7/7 bombings in London, perhaps because Qal3ah was the forum that featured the first claim of responsibility for the London attacks in the name of Al-Qaida. In order to re-appear, Dr. Mohammed al-Massari and his assistants had to switch to a hosting company in East Asia--a region that often has few constraints on hosting such controversial web sites.

In my opinion, the most significant major obstacles to eliminating these sites are their usefulness in ongoing intelligence operations, the difficulty in shutting down web sites hosted in many foreign countries, and the lack of trained intelligence and law enforcement personnel capable of tracking Arabic-language web sites run by radical Islamists--not to mention the often formidable legal barriers involved.

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Evan Kohlmann: Thank you all for the great response, I hope I was able to answer most of your questions. Many of you also asked about Islamic charities and alleged Saudi financiers. On that subject, I would recommend reading my book, "Al-Qaida's Jihad in Europe." I also regularly publish material dealing with terrorism and cyberterrorism directly on my web site, Global Terror Alert, and on the Counterterrorism Blog (The Counterterrorism Blog).

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