Authorities the world over are finding it harder and harder to track down Muslim extremists and possible terrorists because they use the Internet to communicate and plan attacks.
As every parent in America knows, the Internet is full of useful information, but is also rife with dangerous information that the general public has no business being able to access. Potential terrorists can learn how to make bombs, how to break into secure buildings, how to sneak through airport security checkpoints, or even how to murder a soldier or dignitary, without ever leaving their home. This is a growing serious problem everywhere around the world, because extremists who may not ordinarily move beyond being merely fascinated with terrorism are actually learning concrete ways to carry out attacks they previously would never have considered.
Experts say that one of the most worrying aspects of easy access to terrorism-related information on the Internet lies in the fact that orders can be encrypted in videos or programs that Islamists can download and decipher in order to carry out attacks. Arabic television network Al-Arabiya has aired videotapes from Al Qaeda that show terrorists training for attacks on American and coalition troops in Afghanistan, and those videos have been widely circulated on the Internet.
Internet chat rooms are secret virtual conference rooms where experienced and would-be terrorists can hatch plots and recruit people. The terror network in the Netherlands that was responsible for the killing of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, and other terrorist attacks in Holland, met regularly on Yahoo to devise and discuss their plans.
A spokesman for Al Qaeda has told officials that the Internet is not the ‘lifeblood’ of the jihad movement, and that when it comes to extreme hardcore terrorist attacks, the groups do not communicate at all except for within the confines of small cells scattered around the world. Still, anti-terrorism analysts say that the Internet is definitely a real breeding ground for terrorism, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to control.
“It begins with things like not having enough translators in the security services,” said Peter Neuman, a terrorism expert at Kings College in London. “So there’s a lot of material that doesn’t get translated, so we don’t even know what they are talking about.”
Michael Clark, a terrorism expert and director of the International Policy Institute in London, says that a large part of the threat from the Internet lies in simply inciting terrorists to continue planning and carrying out larger and more devastating attacks. Video sites, including Yahoo and YouTube, offer up to hundreds of images of Muslims talking about the suffering they are enduring because of wars against Islam. “Most of these videos show 15 minutes of Muslims all over the world suffering apparently at the hands of Western powers,” Clark suggests. “And then they show the other side of it, attacks on the West, bombs going off in Iraq and this is presented as a freeing of the world of Islam from the humiliation of this constant oppression from the West.”