Al-Qaida proving elusive on the Net

by admin October 14, 2005 at 1:54 pm

An American-led military invasion of Afghanistan took just months to uproot al-Qaida from the rocky slopes of Tora Bora and the White Mountains.

But nearly four years later, even the combined might of the United States and its allies have had a far more difficult time scouring the Internet for the shadowy network of Islamic fundamentalists. The British government’s announcement in July that it planned to clamp down on people who run Web sites that incite terrorism has had no noticeable results to date.

“For al-Qaida, the survival of the ideology is a lot more important than the survival of any of their physical assets or members, and the Internet is a way to ensure the propagation of that ideology,” said Rebecca Givner-Forbes, an analyst for the Terrorism Research Center, which provides research services to the federal government.

Al-Qaida has adopted online tactics that mirror its offline techniques for evading discovery: reliance on a constantly shifting collection of Internet sites and hostile takeovers of Web servers where propaganda can be posted. Last year, a server operated by the Arkansas highway office was hijacked and used to distribute 70 files including videos featuring Osama bin Laden.

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