Jihadis have learned from Internet pirates

AP has a story out reporting that the number of Arabic-language jihadi websites has declined markedly since the Sept. 11 attacks from 1,000 to around 50. Meanwhile, the number of English language sites sympathetic to al-Qaida has grown.

This article may fuel the growing hysteria over the Fort Hood shootings. The suspected shooter, Maj. Nidal Hasan, had e-mail contact with a Yemeni preacher who ran an English-language Website and called Hassan a “hero” on his blog.

It is easy to get the wrong impression from the AP story. The jihadis are much more sophisticated than this article implies.

It’s true that radical websites such as al-Qaida’s official site, alneda.com, have been shut down, but Osama bin Laden’s followers have figured out new ways to communicate with audiences in the Arabic-speaking world, which — let’s face it — supplies the overwhelming majority of recruits.

Jihadis have adopted the tools of Internet pirates who illegally share music, movies, software and porn, according to a report from West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center:

 The process works as follows. When a new official jihadist group notice, video or audio file is released, multiple users upload the file to various file-hosting websites, creating hundreds of URL links to where that file can be downloaded. A large list of links, or virtual library of hyperlinks, is then posted on multiple jihadist web forums. Once a user reads the post, they then duplicate the forum posting on another forum. This practice is welcomed and encouraged by the rest of the readers, which allows the original user to gain prestige and continue ascending in the forum’s “roster.”

These files can be easily and anonymously uploaded from Internet cafes to file-sharing sites like Rapidshare. Many of these links expire quickly or are disabled by the file-hosting company, yet the sheer number of hyperlinks uploaded makes it almost impossible to stop the message from spreading.

Read the latest issue of the CTC Sentinel here (.pdf)

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