So yes, the conflict with al Qaeda, like all armed conflict, invites tragedy. But by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us (with drones), and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.
Some of the briefs again reminded Mr. Bush that the attack timing was flexible, and that, despite any perceived delay, the planned assault was on track.
Yet, the White House failed to take significant action. Officials at the Counterterrorism Center of the C.I.A. grew apoplectic. On July 9, at a meeting of the counterterrorism group, one official suggested that the staff put in for a transfer so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place, two people who were there told me in interviews. The suggestion was batted down, they said, because there would be no time to train anyone else.
That same day in Chechnya, according to intelligence I reviewed, Ibn Al-Khattab, an extremist who was known for his brutality and his links to Al Qaeda, told his followers that there would soon be very big news. Within 48 hours, an intelligence official told me, that information was conveyed to the White House, providing more data supporting the C.I.A.’s warnings. Still, the alarm bells didn’t sound.
If terror challenges democracy, the answer is more democracy, not less; more accountability and openness, not less. The question is whether the secret power we have allowed to spring up in our name is under any kind of democratic control. Do our elected representatives keep our secret agencies under sufficient scrutiny? Does the press know what is being done in our name?
We have paid for sovereign failure with secret government. Most people accept this, because our enemies have not prevailed. The mastermind is dead, his remains scattered at sea. His followers are in hiding and know they will be pursued to the ends of the earth.
But they created the apocalyptic standard, and the risk now is not just al-Qaeda but any group with the desire and capacity to emulate it.
It comes as no surprise that Al Qaeda, the militant group founded by the now-deceased terrorist Osama bin Laden, has been using the Internet for around a decade to spread their propaganda in the form of news releases and videotaped messages.
But as the internet has evolved over the past five years away from stationary single-serving news websites to a platform of mass communication and recruitment through social media, so has the methods of Al Qaeda and its media branch, the Global Islamic Media Front or GIMF.
Shortly after the death of Osama bin Laden, I became curious as to how Al Qaeda was spreading its message of jihad through the Internet. I began tracking down various websites, web forums and blogs used by members of Al Qaeda and their supporters and made a few interesting discoveries, one of which being that Al Qaeda is beginning to use social media as a method of recruitment and broadcasting.
The other discovery made surprised me: Many Al Qaeda websites are hosted on American servers and are paid for with American dollars. Domain registration and hosting services trace back to American companies. Domains are frequently registered with American-based Yahoo and Microsoft Hotmail email accounts. American software, like Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop, is being used (and legitimately licensed) to create slick-looking videos and fancied-up press releases.
Videos are being published frequently to YouTube and the Archive.org project. Newsletters and press releases, such as this one released shortly after the death of Osama bin Laden and obtained by ProducerMatthew.com in May, are being uploaded MegaUploader and other file sharing websites — multiple times, just in case they’re discovered and deleted.
American services and American ingenuity is tapped into and frequently exploited by the Global Islamic Media Front, Al Qaeda and its supporters to spread propaganda, messages and to recruit.
These forums and blogs have become a lifeline for Al Qaeda and its supporters. There’s a web forum for Al Qaeda in Iraq, another for Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Conversations published on the forums range from a discussion of the will of a recently-deceased leader within the group to advice and support on Adobe Photoshop.
Tomorrow, I’ll publish a story both here and on Quotse detailing four months of investigation into these forums and revealing platforms the terror network uses to spread both its anti-American propaganda and its call for terror.
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