Feeds

TV's cyber-jihad slot exposes al Qaeda's web ops. Or not

Time for a 'losing to e-Qaeda' re-run, says 60 Minutes

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

By recent example from February, Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown University delivered "Challenges for the US Special Operations Command Posed by the Terrorist Threat: Al Qaeda On the Run or On the March" to the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventioanal Threats and Capabilities." (A basic summary of it was also published as an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times.)

Yes was the answer, al Qaeda was marching, particularly if one didn't recognize the bodies buried in the footnotes.

Looking closely one noted citations of the London ricin plot and Operation Rhyme. The latter constituted gas-limos plotter Dhiren Barot's ludicrous computer files, heavily redacted by authorities except for idiotic parts on making dirty bombs from smoke detectors or, possibly, an exit sign containing trivial amounts of the radioactive isotope of hydrogen, tritium. This was certainly real treasure from al Qaeda's vaunted cyberspace division. Further, this reading of the terror tea leaves came from culling news items in big newspapers.

60 Minutes found a general, John Custer, to put it in perspective. "... [W]ithout a doubt, the Internet is the single most important venue of radicalization for Islamic youth," he said. Custer added "we" see the terror-inspired youth on the battlefield where they are subsequently killed. As head of intelligence for Central Command, it's an interesting claim since the man's in Tampa, FLA, which as far as can be determined, is not in the grip of a sectarian civil war.

In any case, while there appear to be a few degrees of truth to Custer's statement, like the claim that a steady diet of hip-hop videos seems to have inspired young white boys to act stupid and buy ill-fitting clothes, it's also more than fair to say that declarations from the war-on-terror apparatus are served with helpings of exaggeration for effect.

Custer maintained that al Qaeda was waging a war of perception on the Internet. We don't get it, they do, and we better start learning.

That's true, too, but backwards, which is consistent and even expected from those who got everything wrong in Iraq. The newsmedia and terror assessment industry do understand wars for perception. They use al Qaeda's websites and their files as virtual ammo for their terror infotainments at a pretty fair clip. And it's not something anyone can have missed.

After all, have you ever seen a news program from the States showing even one terrorist as an incompetent, if troublesome, dreamer? Ever read an opinion piece that said al Qaeda might be having trouble? Ever heard a terror expert say, "Hmmm, the signs aren't clear, ask again later."

How absurd. That would mean no viewers or readers. Worse, what's a terror expert without an utterly remarkable menace to tell about?

Unemployed. ®

* Editor's note: A previous Katz 60 Minutes outing, allegedly involving a wig and a false nose, prompted lawsuits from Saudi charities and a Georgia poultry company. Katz, by a remarkable coincidence, was one of the star witnesses in Peter Taylor's woeful The New al Qaeda, broadcast by the BBC almost two years ago. By even more remarkable coincidence, Taylor claimed that after being bombed out of Afghanistan al Qaeda had transformed itself into a media- and Internet-savvy organisation, and trotted out a general in support. But his was John Abizaid. Taylor also produced an amateur sleuth who'd entrapped a dysfunctional national guardsman into a long stretch for wannabe terrorism, but we surely can't be talking about the same jihadi as Katz's here, can we?

George Smith is a Senior Fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny, he blogs his way through chemical, biological and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighborhood hardware stores.

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu
Traffic flows up 20% as motorway middle lanes miraculously unclog
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.