Archive for the ‘Propaganda’ Category
img courtesy of XKCD http://xkcd.com/
With all the alleged revelations over the drift net surveillance happening to us all by the government I and others have been pondering the processes needed to protect one’s communications online and over the phone. Wired and other venues have put out reasonably ok articles on this but generally I think they have lacked on the ROI factor for the varying degree’s of surveillance that has been carried out for some time now, not just the NSA with PRISM. The immensity of it all I think can put one off on the idea of being able to keep their privacy especially given the pains that one must take to keep it on the nation state scale. However, there is much that could be done to have a modicum of privacy but one just has to understand the idea of OPSEC and have some technical base to work from in order to use the technologies such as TOR or CRYPTO in the first place. It is another thing altogether to keep that mindset every day and to understand the import of their use and the cause and effect that comes from failing to use them.
PRISM and NATION STATE SURVEILLANCE
As Ali (@packetknife) alluded to on the “Loopcast” recently with me, the idea that someone can completely deny the nation state program of surveillance is a tough one to swallow today. We all are connected to the net in some way whether it be your smartphone or some other connected device that we carry with us 24/7. In the case of the smart phone the utter and total pwn that goes on there is spectacular to think about. There is no need for tinfoil hat conspiracies about barcode tattoo’s on one’s neck here, all you really need is an iPhone and connectivity to know quite a bit about a person. This is why the metadata issue is a big one and people are seemingly unable to comprehend it. Let me clarify this for you all by also saying that not only are the calls to and from being easily monitored and mined (stored later for perusal when needed) by the NSA it seems, but also the GPS data as well. Remember the hubbub over the Apple collection of GPS data on the phones a couple years back? Remember the outrage on some parts over this? Well, now look at that in relations to how much of that data is accessible by the government too in this program. More to the point and this has not really been talked about, but are they correlating that data as well in the phone surveillance being carried out? My assumption is yes but like I said that seems to have been dwarfed and drowned out by the PRISM revelations.
Ok so now we are being data mined and correlated on the phone calls we make (metadata). Of who we are calling, how long we are talking, and when as well as the GPS (location) as well? All of that data is very informational about the habits of a person alone but start to analyze it from a personal and psychological perspective and you can build quite the dossier on someone without even having to listen to their conversations. Which I hasten to add that there are rumors of the caching of conversations generally not just under warrant from FISA. At this level, the nation state level of surveillance, one cannot hope to really be secure in their communications using technologies as they are because of the access the government has built for themselves post 9/11 with the Patriot Act as it’s fulcrum. Access mind you that we are giving them by proxy of the devices we buy and the services that provide the connection because without them we have no way to communicate other than in person or pen to paper with the post offices help right?
All of this though does not mean that the government is spying on you now. What it means though is that the legalities have been created or bent to the will of the government to have the illusion that the wholesale collection of all kinds of data for later use of anyone using these systems is legal. It also means that no matter the protestation of the government and the law enforcement bodies that they take all due care not to collect/use/surveill you vis a vis your data that there is a chance that someone within the system “could” and “might” do so outside of the rules and that is the problem here … Well other than the Constitutional, moral, and ethical issues that is. Just because it is against the rules does not mean someone won’t do it if they have the access. You know.. Like EJ Snowden having access to highly classified data that perhaps he shouldn’t have? Or furthermore the availability of Mr. Snowden being able to insert a USB drive into systems and siphon off said data to give to the press or anyone who’d listen right?
PRIVATE SECTOR or THE LITTLE SISTERS
Another issue that seems to be taking a back seat here is the notion of the Little Sisters to Big Brother. This idea springs from something I alluded to above in that the corporations that offer you the services (Gmail/ATT/Facebook etc) all collect data on you every minute of every day. They use this data for advertising, data mining, selling that data to other companies to form synergies on how to sell you on things etc. It is this practice of collecting all this data on us and our complicity in it that has given rise to the drift net approach that the government has taken with the surveillance programs like PRISM. The government is simply leveraging the capacities that are already there in the first place! You want to blame someone for this mess? Look in the mirror as you have allowed your data to be collected in the first place. YOU have placed your minute details out there on the internet to start with in email or posts to Twitter and Facebook for example. YOU are the culprit because you fail to understand OPSEC (Operational Security) and just scattered it on the net for anyone to see.
Of course other bits are more arcane. Cookies, tracking data within browsers and the like also give away much data on who you are, what you like, and allow the marketers to tailor ads for you when you go to sites that pay for the services. The aggregate of all of this data makes a digital portrait of you that unless you take pains to disallow the collection, will be sold and used by the corporations to package YOU as the commodity. I mean, how do you think Facebook works? It’s a social contract to connect to others and allow Facebook to make money off of your habits. Zucky is not in this to win a Nobel Peace Prize here ya know.
So when you think about all this surveillance going on please remember that you are complicit in it every time you surf the web, make a facebook post, a tweet, or send an email unencrypted (Google analytics kids) because they are all sifting that data to “get to know you better” *cough* It’s just a friends with benefits thing as the government see’s it being able to just hit them with an NSL and plant a server in the infrastructure to cull the data they want. As long as it doesn’t effect the bottom line (money) for them I suspect their worries about privacy are, well, pretty low on average. I mean after all you have already signed away your rights have you not? The little sisters are insidious and subtle and I am afraid they have already become metasticized within the society body.
The Only Privacy You Can Have Is That Which You Make Yourselves
“The only privacy that you have today is that which you make for yourself” is something I said a while back on a blog post or podcast and I still stand by it. It seems all the more relevant in the post Snowden world today. By creating privacy I mean leveraging technologies like encryption to keep your communications private and OPSEC to consider how you transmit information over the internet and telco. There are inherent problems though with all of these things as you can always make a mistake and end up leaking information either technically (an instance would be logging online with your own IP address to something) or process wise like putting your current location on Facebook and saying you’re on vacation for two weeks. It is all a matter of degree though and even if you are practicing OPSEC there are things outside of your control when the nation state is looking to spy on you. There are just no two ways about it, you can only fight the nation state so much with technology as they have more resources to defeat your measures eventually by end run or by brute force.
On the level of defeating the little sisters, well the same applies but with limitations. You can in fact surf the net on TOR with NOSCRIPT, cookies disallowed and on an inherently anonymized OS on a USB stick right? The little sisters can only do so much and they only interact when they see a profit in it. They after all are not looking to be voyeurs just for the fun of it. They want to sell you something or sell you as metadata right? However, if you start to anonymize yourself as much as you can and you are diligent about it you can stop the Little Sisters which in turn may minimize what the Big Brother can use too. The caveat is that you have to take pains to do this and you have to know what you are doing. There are no magic easy button offerings on the shelf that will hide you from them all and if you care then you will take the time to learn how to perform these measures.
ROI On Privacy
Finally, I would like to take stock of the fight here that you need to take on and what the ROI is for each adversary involved. In reality unless you go off the grid, change your identity and never touch another piece of technology ever again there is a high likelihood that your information will be tracked. One may in fact create a separate identity to pay bills with and use that one to surf online as well as other things but that is an extreme just like the idea of becoming a Luddite. There must be a middle road where you can feel that you are protecting a certain portion of your lives from the unblinking eye of the companies and governments that own or access the technologies that we use every day. You have to though, understand all of this and accept that in the end you may fail at keeping your privacy yours and yours alone. Come to grips with this and be smart and you can have a modicum of success if you are diligent.
A for instance of this ROI would be on the phones. If you TRULY want to be private then you have to lose your smartphone that you have billed to you and buy a burn phone. Cash is king and there is no information taken if you do it right. The unfortunate thing is that you then have to call only others who have the same burn phones out there without any metdata that ties it back to their real identities. You just try getting mom and dad to buy burn phones to talk to them on… It’s not that easy. So really, some of the ROI is minimized by the nuisance factor. The same can be said for the lay individual who is not going to go buy encryption products nor are they capable of installing a Linux system and running something like GPG. This is not going to work for everyone as well as not everyone is going to care about their privacy as the recent Pew poll showed where 56% of polled ok with surveillance program by NSA.
In the end it all comes back to the idea that you create your own privacy by your own actions. Do not trust that the government is going to protect your privacy and certainly don’t believe that the corporations will either. I mean, just look at how many spectacular fails there were on passwords that weren’t hashed or encrypted in any way by companies hacked by LulzSec. As well you should not trust the government, no matter how well intended, that they will be ABLE to protect your privacy as we have seen with recent events like Brad Manning’s theft of (S) data as well as now Snowden (TS/SCI) The actions of one person can be the downfall of every carefully crafted system.
So what is the ROI here? Well….
Crypto and anonymized traffic online will minimize your footprint but eventually they will break you if they want to. You have to be exceptional to fight the nation state level of surveillance. As for the driftnet out there well, unless you go luddite they have a lot of data to sift and commingle. They have a pretty good picture of who you are and much of that comes from the little sisters. Your ROI here is minimal because they have the power and the thing you MUST remember is that CRYPTO IS YOUR FRIEND!! Encrypt sessions for chat and emails and you will leave them with the task of either having to break that crypto or hack your endpoint to see the plain text. Make them work for it. Otherwise you may as well just BCC the NSA.GOV on each and every email today it seems.
The little sisters though are another thing. You can in fact obscure a lot of what you do online and through telco but you have to be diligent. It means time and sometimes money (burn phones or laptops in some cases) to obfuscate as much as you can. The ROI here is that IF you take these pains you are then able to deny them easy access to your habits and patterns. If you start using crypto in sessions and in communications like emails then you will be also geometrically heightening your privacy status. But you have to do it.. AND that seems to be the hard part for many whether it is laziness or apathy I am not sure.
Privacy is what you make of it… He says as he hits enter on a public blog post!
[Jmhhw Kutdegc ohl Vmgi Uizvsr pspmspw avuzyiw ypicl Qephcv Tmwfcj'a yere. Kutdegc plqfkw sd Vqklsn vcukipd.]
Polvc Ayzfiui: Elr npwr, xfslm’k Qephcv Tmwfcj…[tgsoq on i xspbsl ezmpc Auzlmr fom i tpely mbsvi. Uoftsgi rilvk xlc titviv rc mpga mr vua fs tydyzk] Li bcyaf’x wcsg bg lets u xswx.
Zwmpgt: [Ayzea saew] W’g agvvw, pob A hsl’h qwjo jmf npw kstslveirr.
Rckc Kspriv: Oi hm. [Gbwow e aoll] Fexgchid Wiailqlc Eeshkq.
Fmqvix: Sl. Cmi’lm lli eisa A liyf vzwexfwho gr xfs ibziv cbx wx qc nvivw.
Hmay Awjhsl: Bi, bzex’q hbm XFM. Us’lm fsx avuzlivcr zwj hsksmbag wsfpmappybwm.
Tmwfcj: Wz, M wcs. Swm nyqh idwvxffie yszcfhuwrxq. Gyb mt jpwyvvpc bwwbsxspg.
Xquo Kmfxwf: Rs, rvub’k xlc QCI. Oi tpcnmux ssf awnivlayvl’w gmagcfmgyhcwfw, ac hlg ls fpsus lli mhbmj jijzu’a ushcg. Qm’ji xfs awgh ksmm, Usvxw.
Pcazst: Esy, Q uer’r hytd css kbil e vczcmx xlyh ca…Vmgi.
Rckc Kspriv: Uleluy ggyv kwhl, uepj im il xlgg hcefip… [ucdww Fggbwh e jmzxmv tmcqy wx tensl] Uj. Fvgqy.
Has AQAP Been Watching “The Dark Knight” Or What?
It seems lately that the officials out there “in the know” have decided to allow a leak about a certain 15 page report alleging that Al-Asiri, the mad bomber/designer and much described “genius” of terror, has been attempting to perfect a design for an internal “body bomb” Now, no one really knows if this is indeed “the truth” or just how far Asiri may have come in his plans to create these surgically implanted bombs. However, what one can extrapolate from the press on this thing and the sources on “background” willing to talk, is that this seems to be more of a propaganda ploy than anything else on the face of it.
While I have no doubt that this vector of attack has been on the minds of AQ for a long time, so too has the use of CBRN, but to date, they have not been able to do anything in those areas and in fact the BIO warfare program they tried to start was a miserable failure. So, do we really see them getting to the point where a convincing as well as operational “body cavity bomb” is actually put to the test? I suspect that it may be some time until such a plan is put together and operational but as the media would have it now, as well as those leaking the “details” here, they seem to be saying FEAR NOW!
The Case for Surgically Implanted Munitions: Possible, Crazy, Exceedingly Hard to Pull Off
Now that we are all abuzz about the “surgically implanted bombs” lets take a look at the actual nitty gritty of how this would have to be conceived and acted on to work.
- You have to have a willing shahidi… Well, there are some out there so there you go. One that is willing to have srugery as well as recuperation time, well, ok… Harder but possible
- You have to have a sealed, self contained system that will not bleed (inside the device) and make it malfunction
- You have to have explosives that are high power and yet only require small amounts to be of use
- You have to have no metal parts to pass through the magnetometer
- You have to have a surgeon or surgeons willing to do the cutting and sewing (Well Ayman is a Dr. after all too so…)
- The device will have to be hidden enough inside the body so as to not alert others and preclude mobility issues (i.e. small, though the BVD bombs seem to be so as well)
- Your detonator has to be either chemical or electric/remote (timed or say an RF device) I lean toward chemical for these but who knows
The Case for FUDDERY as A Means to an End For BOTH Sides
So, what we have here though seems to be a lot of clucking about bombs inside of people and the fear mongering that goes on with some quarters of the intelligence community feeding this all to the media. SOFREP, a site concerned with SOF (SPECOPS) had this story out there last week and now it seems to be making the rounds with backup data (background from anonymous sources) that the mad bomber is in fact working on this with a cadre of doctors. Of course one can only assume that this “data” is perhaps coming from the recent mole that got into AQAP posing as a suicide bomber and stole their new prototype BVD bomb.
If true, then yes, sure, they had plans and were trying to make a bomb system that would be hard to detect, I mean, how many MRI’s are at the airports now huh? If this data did not come from the mole though (and there is data that this has been floating around now since at least last fall, way before mole man) then why now is this being thrust upon the media? Or, now that I think about it, there was that arrest of the guy with the pr0n that had the stegged “future work” file in there.
I am willing to bet that is the provenance of the file in question. Ok, so, there you have it. We have the plans and.. What.. Why release this to the public? I mean, what real purpose does it serve other than to scare the populace into submission? In the SOFREP report there is mention of something along the lines of “So how do you feel about your L3 machine now?”Uhhh, just fine really, I mean, it won’t help me if there is a surgically implanted bomb, but it gets much of the rest of the stuff when used properly. I am guessing that the impetus here was to make the TSA look good, by saying “you think you are hassled now, but look at what the jihadi’s are planning!”
Honestly, sure, it could happen, but the odds are slimmer than one might think I think and this seems to be a play here to manipulate the public mindset. Others have called the same foul on the play here but I just wanted to put it down here and sort through all the issues to ascertain where the truth might lie. In this case, for me, it seems like this story serves the purposes of both sides. For one, the security services here and the politicians both get a win by leaking data to sow fear, a fear that was ever so well used in the past (like G’Dub’s admin) and others to sway thought and perhaps lessen resistance to certain things. On the other side, this also works for AQAP because even if they are planning it, they are causing us to create even more elaborate Rube Goldberg devices to stop them, costing us more money and time.
It’s a win win for all of them.. FUD it seems is a booming business.
So, IF They Make These Bombs Happen Then What?
In the end, it comes down to this; “What are we going to do?” Do we really expect that we will now install MRI’s and X-Ray machines in the TSA lines to scan our internal organs as well as the sniffer/blower/wand/m-wave that we already have? This is a means of bombing that would be hard to detect if done well and certainly would not easily be seen under clothes or even with an M-Wave scan if it is not protruding/bulging the persons body in some way. Hell, for that matter, AQAP should just be looking for morbidly obese shahidi candidates huh?
Certainly, leaking this data to the news serves little purpose than to perhaps get people (including those on the hill) to buy into new measures and monies to appropriate them? It would not make one whit of difference in the current protection scheme now would it? Frankly, if AQAP and A-Asiri have been working on this, and it were a major threat, I personally would not have been dropping this to the media. Keep the intel secret (as the report is alleged to be) and keep it out of the public eye…
Unless you all think that by leaking this data you are retarding the chances that AQAP will try this method? I really don’t think that will be the outcome here.
In the end.. I call shenanigans.
Cosmo: Posit: People think a bank might be financially shaky.
Martin Bishop: Consequence: People start to withdraw their money.
Cosmo: Result: Pretty soon it is financially shaky.
Martin Bishop: Conclusion: You can make banks fail.
Cosmo: Bzzt. I’ve already done that. Maybe you’ve heard about a few? Think bigger.
Martin Bishop: Stock market?
Martin Bishop: Currency market?
Martin Bishop: Commodities market?
Martin Bishop: Small countries?
In a previous post I wrote about the nascent “Anon Analytics” group that had popped up claiming that they were going to out corruption in corporations by using OSINT and inside leaks/whistle-blowers. On the face of it, I thought this was a good idea and said as much in the post. I had caveats though that they confirm their information and that they be above board. I received a response from Anon Analytics thanking me for the article and that they had found it interesting. I however, had failed to read the disclaimer on the first report by Anon Analytics and as such, this is my mea culpa as well as another warning to Anon that they need to keep things above board here.. Lest they become just as bad as those who they are claiming they are outing for misdeeds.
I was alerted to an article from Finance Asia that called them on the fact that within this disclaimer, they are making the statement that the assumption must be made that the “Partners, Affiliates, Consultants, Clients, and other related parties” hold “short” positions in the securities profiled in the report. Which means that all of the parties named there will profit from shorts due to the data being released and potentially causing the stock to plummet and fail.
Say.. Isn’t that what got us all into this fix today with the markets and the banks in general?
Yes, indeed, that is the case and this statement within their disclaimer alone causes me to pretty much rescind my previous statements about any kind of approval for these efforts by Anon Analytics. Really, this is the pot calling the kettle black and then throwing feces to boot. This is not how you rectify malfeasance! Frankly, this could just then be considered only a machination to make money off of the use of information warfare (disinformation as well) to profit and manipulate the markets.
.. And as far as I know, this is rather illegal…
Look, what I said before about being above board with this effort still stands. If you want to right wrongs then you cannot use this effort as a potential piggy bank as well. At the present time, I cannot confirm all of your data from Chaoda however, if you look at the news following the reports release, you can see how you affected the market and the stock. The cause and effect may or may not have anything to do with your report in fact, but, time will tell if there are any real arrests in the whole affair concerning Chaoda. If there aren’t and nothing can be conclusively proven, then what has really been done to the company? Some losses yes, and, by your statement, those around you will profit.. Potentially.
If you want to make a difference, you cannot be a party to profit from information warfare that you are generating.
Well, it seems that the Khan media wing of AQAP/Al-Malahem finally got around to releasing the latest version of “Inspire Magazine” with some rather uninspiring content yesterday. Though the core sites of Shamukh and Ansar were under assault from DDoS attacks by persons unknown (Jokey’s pals?) the Malahem guys managed to disseminate the file and it went large on numerous file share areas on the Internet. Which just goes to show you how effective those DoS attacks are eh?
*wink wink nudge nudge kids*
The magazine this time around was the 10 year anniversary issue, which was over a week late to start and then had slim content. This makes me wonder just why it was so thin as well as why they even really bothered at all. The 20 pages consist of mostly uninteresting statements and pictures from jihadi leaders past and present about how they had struck a great blow for Islam and jihad 10 years ago. Reminiscences aside, not much there to really inspire I think. However, there is a core piece by Samir Khan (founder of the magazine and former US citizen turned jihadi media mogul.. *not*) that is somewhat interesting and germane to recent events.
The Wired articles about FBI training manuals and programs on Islam were not necessarily out there when this magazine was put to bed, but, it seems like perhaps Khan and the others at Malahem were already responding to them.
As we pointed out, this media
conflict between the West and the
mujahidin quickly became a war
of Western secular ideology and
Islam. Shaykh Usama intended
to attack the West to point out to
the world America’s police-state
foreign policy upon the Muslim
world and not the West’s corrupt
secular principles. But because the
West was ardent to point out the
mujahidin’s attachment to Islam as
extreme, portraying them as “fun-
damentalists,” Muslims throughout
the world asked: “Wait, are they
not then concluding that a good
practicing Muslim is their funda-
mentalist enemy?” Zakir Naik, the
popular television personality who
is known for his religious debates
and runs the PeaceTV network, has
repeatedly echoed, “Every Muslim
should be a fundamentalist as a
fundamentalist is one who sticks
to the fundamentals of Islam.” This
attack led by America on the muja-
hidin’s adherence to Islam was one
of the main reasons that led to the
defacement of their legitimacy in
the eyes of millions of Muslims. To
this day, America has still failed to
This one passage covers a lot of what the Mujahid propaganda campaign by Al Malahem and AQ have really been trying to get across to promulgate a reaction within the ummah globally to come to their way of thinking. By instantiating the idea that every Muslim should be “fundamental” to be Muslim to begin with, they are making a play at every single Muslim, no matter what part of the spectrum, to become fundamentalist. By using even a popular TV personality to make this point, they are trying to slip this into the collective mindset. Where this meets the Wired article and the training debacle is quite obvious though, those tutorials all portrayed the idea that the problem isn’t the Muslim, its in fact Islam itself.. And of course Shari’a law as well.
Its this argument that perhaps Spencer Ackerman should be enlightened about.. I find it funny as well that he took little time to really read the magazine before writing his piece on it at Wired. The article lacks complete understanding and in fact comes off as jingoistic propaganda itself, which is even more ironic given the nugget here by Khan about the media war that AQ and AQAP are trying to wage huh?
Hey Spencer, how about spending more time cogitating than being dismissive. I am sure it would be a much more interesting article had you taken the time to really read it.
This is not to say that the “Media War” as Khan puts it, is really working. In fact, I would say that it is not as a larger effort, working the way they would like. We have not seen in influx of jihobbyists or new suicide bombers here in the West, where this magazine is aimed at. Instead, those few who may be on the path to radicalization will only likely use this as another piece of their collective echo chamber. However, the core idea of what Khan is saying about the position of the West and our misunderstanding is pretty much on the money. Khan also likes to cite Michael Scheuer much of the time and I can understand why. It was Scheuer who was first on at Alec Station and has a pretty good grasp of Bin Laden, Jihad, and the AQ mindset. It was Scheuer in fact who has been saying all along that the US government and people were playing right into the hands of AQ by doing what we did in Iraq etc. I would suggest anyone wishing to get a better grasp of all of this read his books.
What Khan fails to understand is that this is not the first “propaganda war” that the US has waged. Sure, its the first one really online per se, but, it’s certainly not completely new. It’s just new to Khan and the AQ set is all. So, they have set up for a slick magazine that they can try to grab the kiddies with interspersed with some more cerebral content. In this edition, its more about the cerebral areas that are more telling than all of the claptrap propaganda around the big win of 9/11. This part of Spencer’s piece is right, its really mostly piffle, but, it is key not to ignore the rest of the content.
Meanwhile, there are oddities like the article on how Iran’s belief in conspiracies riles up the AQ set. Really? You guys are so miffed about Mahmoud that you had to write about it? Frankly we all know he’s a nutbg, but really, there is no need to go into this. I really have to wonder why this came up at all. It would seem that perhaps maybe the “Truther” movement is gaining so much potential that Khan and company feel they need to say “HEY we did that!” Whatever the motivation, it was an odd trek off the beaten path there.
Overall, there are some interesting intimations within the contents of this magazine as well as from the point of view that the content is skimpy and not the norm. No how to build bombs, no AK-47 schematics and tutorials. Why? Why too the seemed rush to this then the falling off by letting it out way after the actual anniversary of their “great blow against us” ? Could it be that the drone strikes are getting a bit close to them? Did we perhaps hit a main facility for production and they had to go from a backup that wasn’t finished?
Have they run out of ideas?
Oh well, this magazine may actually be in decline.. and you know what.. That’d be ok with me.
The Paradigm Pivot:
Soon after the attacks on 9/11 the US and other countries began a “War On Terror” that attempted to disrupt and destroy the Al Qaeda networks. The military and intelligence wars on AQ have been very successful in that they have splintered the group, cut its main lines of C&C, and forced them to scatter into the hills of Waziristan and other places. The intelligence war began with stepped up surveillance technically as well as, after much spin up, getting physical assets on the ground and inserted into the intelligence gathering apparatus. Once the networks were set up, and the AQ infrastructure fractured, it became apparent to the leaders of AQ that they needed to proselytize in a different way to get more “recruits” for the global jihad that they wanted.
Once the realization set in, the AQ leadership began to move online to communicate, radicalize, and recruit new jihadi’s to the cause. As time went by and more of the networks were broken, the ranks of jihad began to thin out. This became a real problem for Al Qaeda and it realized that it needed a new paradigm to reach the “Western” ummah that they could try to sway to jihad. With the creation of GIMF, and AQAP later on, the footprint of jihadi propaganda and radicalization took shape online. Since 2001, we have seen AQ and affiliates grapple with how to get their message across as well as create channels for those who are not in the 2 lands, to radicalize, and then come to jihad.
This post is about not only the means that AQ, AQAP, and others have come up with as a response to the problem, but also a profile of the GEN2 jihadi’s online that are being radicalized and who have acted in the past as well as those who may in the future.
Online Jihad: 10 Years of Internet Jihad
A plethora of sites on the internet have been set up over the years by AQ and its affiliates to propagandize and communicate. many of these sites at first were just simple file upload areas and small bulletin boards. Today we have many mass media style sites including videos, tutorials, online chat areas, and private messaging. The PHP bulletin boards set up on domain named sites or on servers (stealth) that have been hacked, have been the most popular of all. With these sites, the jihad radicalization goes on with postings within pass-worded group sites like Shamukh (AQ) or Ansar.com.
For the most part, these sites have only been partially successful in being a command and control mechanism for AQ. They have failed to gather the swelling support that they would have liked on the part of the Western ummah and it is this lack of fervor that has them vexed. I have personally seen this vexation in AQAP’s “Inspire Magazine” as they have been trying to become more “Hip and Western” to get a new audience. All of their efforts though, have had lackluster returns. This lack of response on the part of the young westernized groups that they are targeting is likely to a few factors;
- The radicalization process is not in person
- The western mindset of the targets is more secular in nature and separate from the core AQ groups experiences
- These youths are not living in lands where war is ongoing
The Psychology of Radicalization:
Radicalization: The process in which an individual changes from passiveness or activism to become more revolutionary, militant or extremist. Radicalization is often associated with youth, adversity, alienation, social exclusion, poverty, or the perception of injustice to self or others.
Much of the classic radicalizing that happens within movements such as Al Qaeda happens when the like minded get together under the penumbra of a stronger personality that leads them. In the case of Islamic Jihad, there have been many Imam’s and leaders who preach this type of thought within their right wing versions of Islam. This is the core of the idea behind raising the ummah army to fight a jihad, the radicalization of the parishioners through direct proselytizing. Since 9/11 though, much of the Muslim community has come under scrutiny from intelligence gathering groups seeking to find the next cell of terrorists being exhorted to jihad by an imam or another leader.
In other cases secular leaders may arise, this may take shape in the form of someone like Mohammad Atta, or the like who are within a circle of like minded people (What Dr. Marc Sageman calls “a group of guys” theory) who “self radicalize” and either make contact with core AQ, or, they decide to act on their own, using the internet as their guide to jihad techniques and ideals. This may happen with two or more individuals seeking like minded people, or, a leader may inculcate them into their particular brand of thought.
A third and seemingly rising type of radicalization seems to be the Lone Wolf or Loner. This is a person either seeking to belong to something greater than they are, or, someone mentally unbalanced and moving along the lines of their own particular mental illness. The Lone Wolves and the Loner’s are dangerous in that they are now one of the primary targets of AQ and their propaganda/radicalization drive other than the “group of guys” The reason for this is that all of these groups can “self radicalize” without having to step into a mosque by reading online and digitally relating with other like minded jihadi’s online. The major difference being that there is no direct contact and, for most, this method of contact and radicalizing lacks the added social element of being in person as a part of a group.
This is a key feature of radicalization that needs to be understood. Since we are social animals, we need to feel that kinship and the only real way to do this primarily is to be within a social dynamic structure that includes physically being there. Online it seems, just does not cut it for most. However, there are others, the mentally ill, and those who are so socially awkward, that online seems to be the only way that they can relate, that have become the next generation of jihobbyists. This in tandem with the fact that now it is rather hard to make contact with, and access the core AQ group physically (i.e. going to a training camp in Waziristan) has made the online radicalization process the pre-eminent way for the jihadi process to carry on.
Jihad GEN 2.0: Lone Wolves, Wolf Packs, & Loners
- Lone Wolves: Single actors who radicalize either by self or online groups but act alone
- Wolf Packs: “The Group of Guys” Who radicalize together as a unit and attempt jihad
- Loners: The single player who radicalizes online and may have contacts with some but is not a team player
Lone Wolves, or the “Lone Wolf” The most likely candidate for the lone wolf is a second generation immigrant who feels some sort of synergy with their parents homeland. There have been a spate of cases where Al Shebaab had converts sneak off from the US to Somalia to train with them. The majority of these lone wolves in this case, were kids in their teens or early twenties that took off to join the jihad there. The premise though, is that these are people who are not necessarily part of any one group but seek out the jihad on their own. They often connect with the core jihadi groups in some way (Malik Hassan and Anwar Al Awlaki) and then act on their own in a more constructed and supported way from the core AQ groups.
Wolf Packs are groups of like minded individuals who have either come together and then radicalized, or, have formed due to a strong leader. These are the most dangerous of the groups because they tend to be groomed by core AQ and, as a group, not only self radicalize, but they re-enforce their belief and action as a social dynamic. Wolf packs have been seen as the more organized and thus more dangerous element in this behavior model. An example of the wolf pack would be the Lackawana 6 or others who banded together and eventually went to an AQ training camp. Though, in the case of the Lackawanna 6, it seems as though they came back from the trip decidedly lacking the motivation to carry out a mission. This is likely because of their Westernized mind set. They did however provide material support to the jihad, and were convicted of this.
Loners are the last type of jihadi that the AQ core are seeking to incite. The loner tends to be an individual who is socially inept to the degree that some have actually been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. Still others have proven to be mentally ill individuals who latch onto the jihad for whatever reasons are driving their psyche. On average, the loner can be seen as the spree killer of the group that feeds the need of the jihad in that they sow fear and confusion while potentially taking out numbers of people. An example of a loner would be Nidal Malik Hassan (Ft. Hood Shooter) who clearly was mentally unstable and went on a shooting rampage injuring 30 and killing 13.
Loners tend to be more the spree killers with guns than they are bomb makers. Another loner type would be Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to make a propane bomb alone. His training was incomplete or he was inept, because the device failed to go off. In the case of Shahzad, he also spent time in Pakistan (from where he emigrated to the US) with the Pakistani Taliban. His radicalization went on unseen by others around him and his actions became more erratic as time went on. I have not seen a psych evaluation of him, but from all that I have seen, it may well be that he too is mentally unstable.
Another couple of reasons to worry more about the “loner” type of jihadi are these:
- They are loners, thus unless someone in the family see’s whats going on, it will likely go unseen until its too late
- They are often here in the US and with guns easily available, make their spree killing scenarios most likely to work
Online Radicalization: Propaganda, Congregation, Synergy & The Online Shadow War
As mentioned above, the radicalization process online has mainly consisted of websites that cater to the newbie to the jihad up to the hard core members. Primarily though, these sites have been a means to gain new recruits for the holy war. These sites had been for a long time, rather blatantly operating online because the governments had not caught up with the technology. Recently though, there has been a change going on within the online jihad. Due to many factors including actions on the part of the hacker community, the propaganda machine that has been the jihadi bulletin board system online has begun to go underground as well as redouble its propaganda efforts.
AQAP’s “Inspire Magazine” releases also have been slowed down and the core’s processes for distribution tightened because of tampering with the files in the past and the worries that they have been compromised as a network online. Spooks and hackers have been infiltrating their networks and websites for a while now and they have caught on. Of course in some ways, the assumption should always have been so. However, attacks on the AQ propaganda sites have increased over the last couple of years to include complete take downs of certain sites through DD0S as well as compromise and destruction of their back ends. Since these occurrences, the smarter of the group have decided that it was time to create a new propaganda jihad.
Abu Hafs al-Sunni al-Sunni, is an exemplar of this mindset. He espouses that the propaganda jihad needs to be more layered and secret. His proposal is to hide the online jihad in plain sight, by making pages that have stealth links (gateway sites) that will lead the knowing, to the real sites where content can be obtained and ideas shared. His ideas were a bit ahead of the curve for most on the boards, but now, post 2011, the administrators and the core AQ I think, are taking a closer look at this model. As online sites that are non secret become more and more targeted, it is only natural that they jihad would eventually have to go underground to continue and flourish from a command and control as well as radicalization standpoint. By locking down the content with gateways to it, those who are serious could congregate behind the digital curtain and carry on, while the digital bill boards call to all those thinking about joining the fray.
As the online jihad progresses technically, so too will their followers and this is a concern. With technologies such as TOR (The Onion Router) and their “Hidden Services“ one can now easily hide all content behind a network that cannot be tracked or traced. Online chats can be had in total anonymity as well as files can be left within the confines of such networks for only those who have the right address to get them (net/net meet the new digital anonymous dead drops) and it is here that once again the pivot happens within the dynamic of online jihad. Once the technological skills of the jihadi’s come online, so too will the types of attacks online that could be carried out by them as well as the success rates of kinetic attacks because they are using solid methods to transmit and connect with each other to plan operations.
Already we have seen this movement happening on the forums and it really is only a matter of time until some of these guys read the man page on how to configure their own TOR node with hidden services turned on. It is clear that the technologies are making it easier for them to hide in plain site as well as behind the technical curtain, so, it is my proposition that the next iteration of the GWOT have a component of psychological operations more involved. Just as I have said about the Anonymous situation ongoing, the greater successes are likely to come about because we better understand the players motivations and psyche’s.
Countering The Threat:
In conclusion, I see a two pronged method of attack to fight the online jihad:
- Psyops: The idea that psychological operations has always been a part of the counter insurgency effort. However, in the digital world this has been more the spooks territory than the digital warfighter. Of course the digital war is new as is the online jihad so it is a natural progression to see this type of warfare as well as detective process being implemented.
- Technical Counter-Insurgency Operations: As the technological adroitness grows on the part of the jihadi’s so should the capabilities on the counter insurgency online. It is understood that the US has quite a bit of technical know how online so it is an easier supposition to make that we will be able to step up quickly. However, it is the melding of the two (psyops/pscyhology and technical ops) that must happen to wage this battle well.
APPENDIX A:US Cases of Terrorism since 9/11
• José Padilla. José Padilla (32), a native U.S. citizen, convert to Islam, and al Qaeda
operative, was arrested upon his return from the Middle East to the United States.
Although there is no question of his al Qaeda connection, his mission remains unclear.
He was convicted for providing material support to al Qaeda and sentenced in 2008.
A co-defendant, Kifah Wael Jayyousi (40), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Jordan, was
• The Lackawanna Six. Six Yemeni-Americans—Sahim Alwar (26), Yahya Goba (25),
Yasein Taher (24), Faysal Galab (25), Shafal Mosed (23), all born in the United States,
and Muktar al-Bakri (21), a naturalized citizen—were arrested for training at an
al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan.
• The Portland Seven. Seven individuals—Patrice Lumumba Ford (31), Jeffrey Leon
Battle (31), October Martinique Laris (25), Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal (22), Ahmed
Ibrahim Bilal (24), all native U.S. citizens; Habis Abdulla al Saoub (37), a U.S. perma-
nent resident from Jordan; and Maher Hawash (38), a naturalized U.S. citizen from
Jordan—were arrested for attempting to join al Qaeda and the Taliban.
• Earnest James Ujaama. Earnest James Ujaama (36), a native U.S. citizen, was arrested
for providing support to the Taliban.
• Imran Mandhai. Imran Mandhai (20), a U.S. permanent resident from Pakistan, told
an FBI informant that he wanted to wage war against the United States. He planned
to assemble an al Qaeda cell and attack various targets in Florida, including electrical
substations, Jewish businesses, a National Guard armory, and also, improbably, Mount
Rushmore. Under surveillance for a long time, Mandhai was arrested and subsequently
convicted of conspiracy to destroy property.
• Anwar al-Awlaki. Anwar al-Awlaki (31), a U.S. citizen born in New Mexico, studied
engineering in college and motivation in graduate school, then became an increasingly
radical imam. After being questioned by the FBI several times, he left the United States
in 2002 and went to Yemen, where he is now a leading spokesperson for al Qaeda.
• Adnan Gulshair el Shukrijumah. A provisional arrest warrant was issued for Adnan
Gulshair el Shukrijumah (27), a Saudi national and legal permanent resident, who grew
up and worked in the United States. Shukrijumah was suspected of involvement in a
number of terrorist plots. In 2010, he was indicted for his involvement in the 2009 Zazi
plot to blow up New York subways.
• Iyman Faris. Iyman Faris (34), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, was arrested
for reconnoitering the Brooklyn Bridge for a possible al Qaeda attack.
• The Northern Virginia Cluster. Eleven men were arrested in June 2003 for training
at a jihadist training camp abroad, intending to join Lashkar-e-Toiba, and planning
terrorist attacks: Caliph Basha Ibn Abdur Raheem (28), a native U.S. citizen; Sabri
Benkhala (27), a native U.S. citizen; Randoll Todd Royer (39), a native U.S. citizen;
Ibrahim al-Hamdi (25), a Yemeni national; Khwaja Mahmood Hasan (27), a natural-
ized U.S. citizen from Pakistan; Muhammed Aatique (30), a legal permanent resident
from Pakistan; Donald T. Surratt (30), a native U.S. citizen; Masoud Ahmad Khan
(33), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan; Seifullah Chapman (31), a native U.S.
citizen; Hammad Abdur-Raheem (34), a U.S.-born citizen and Army veteran of the
first Gulf War; and Yong Ki Kwon (27), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Korea. Two
other individuals were also arrested in connection with the group: Ali al-Timimi (40), a
U.S.-born citizen, and Ali Asad Chandia (26), a citizen of Pakistan. Six of the accused
pleaded guilty, and another three were convicted. Benkhala was acquitted but was later
charged and convicted of making false statements to the FBI. Al-Timimi was convicted
in 2005. The case against Caliph Basha Ibn Abdur Raheem was dismissed.
• Uzair Paracha. Uzair Paracha (23), a legal permanent resident from Pakistan, was
indicted for attempting to help an al Qaeda operative enter the United States in order
to attack gas stations. He was convicted in 2005.
• Abdurahman Alamoudi. Abdurahman Alamoudi (51), a naturalized U.S. citizen from
Eritrea, was indicted in the United States for plotting to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s
• Ahmed Omar Abu Ali. Ahmed Omar Abu Ali (22), a native U.S. citizen, was arrested
by Saudi authorities and later extradited to the United States for providing support to
a terrorist organization and plotting to assassinate the president of the United States.
• Mohammed Abdullah Warsame. Mohammed Abdullah Warsame (31), a legal perma-
nent resident from Somalia, was arrested for conspiring to support al Qaeda. He was
found guilty and sentenced in 2009.
Chronology of the Cases
• Ilyas Ali. Ilyas Ali (55), a naturalized U.S. citizen from India, pleaded guilty to provid-
ing material support to the Taliban and al Qaeda. He attempted to sell hashish and
heroin in return for Stinger missiles, which he then planned to sell to the Taliban. Two
other defendants, Muhammed Abid Afridi and Syed Mustajab Shah, both Pakistani
nationals, were also convicted in the case.
• Amir Abdul Rashid. Ryan Gibson Anderson (26)—a native U.S. citizen and convert to
Islam who called himself Amir Abdul Rashid—was a soldier in the U.S. Army at Fort
Lewis, Washington, when he was arrested in February 2004 for contacting Islamic
websites related to al Qaeda and offering information about the U.S. Army.
• Mark Robert Walker. A Wyoming Technical Institute student, Mark Robert Walker
(19), a native U.S. citizen who, according to reports, became obsessed with jihad, was
charged with attempting to assist the Somali-based group, Al-Ittihad al Islami. He
planned to provide the group with night-vision devices and bulletproof vests.
• Mohammed Junaid Babar. Mohammed Junaid Babar (31), a naturalized U.S. citizen
from Pakistan, was arrested in New York for providing material support to al Qaeda.
• The Herald Square Plotters. Shahawar Martin Siraj (22), a Pakistani national, and
James Elshafy (19), a U.S.-born citizen, were arrested for plotting to carry out a terrorist
attack on New York City’s Herald Square subway station.
• The Albany Plotters. Yassin Aref (34), an Iraqi refugee in the United States, and
Mohammad Hossain (49), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Bangladesh, two leaders of a
mosque in Albany, New York, were arrested for attempting to acquire weapons in order
to assassinate a Pakistani diplomat.
• Adam Yahiye Gadahn. Adam Yahiye Gadahn (26), a native U.S. citizen and convert to
Islam, moved to Pakistan in 1998. By 2004, he was identified as a member of al Qaeda
planning terrorist attacks in the United States, and he subsequently became one of
al Qaeda’s principal spokesmen. He was formally indicted in 2006.
• The Abdi Case. Nuradin Abdi (32), a Somali national granted asylum in the United
States, was indicted in June 2004 for plotting with Iyman Faris to blow up a Colum-
bus, Ohio, shopping mall. (He was arrested in November 2003.)
• Gale Nettles. Gale Nettles (66), a native U.S. citizen and ex-convict, was arrested in
August in an FBI sting for plotting to bomb the Dirksen Federal Building in Chi-
cago and for attempting to provide al Qaeda with explosive material. His motive was
revenge for his conviction as a counterfeiter, but he wanted to connect with al Qaeda,
which he figured would pay him for his excess explosive materials. He was convicted
on the terrorist charge in 2005.
• Carpenter and Ransom. Two New Orleans men, Cedric Carpenter (31), a convicted
felon, and Lamont Ransom (31), both native U.S. citizens, intended to sell fraudulent
identity documents to the Philippine jihadist terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in return for
cash and heroin. Ransom, who had previously served in the U.S. Navy, was familiar
with the group. Both were convicted and sentenced in 2005.
• The New York Defendants. Three defendants—Mahmud Faruq Brent (32), a U.S.-
born citizen who had attended a training camp in Pakistan run by Lashkar-e-Toiba;
Rafiq Abdus Sabir (50), a U.S.-born citizen and medical doctor who volunteered to pro-
vide medical treatment to al Qaeda terrorists; and Abdulrahman Farhane (52), a natu-
ralized U.S. citizen from Morocco who agreed to assist in fundraising for the purchase
of weapons for insurgents in Chechnya and Afghanistan—were linked to defendant-
turned-informant Tarik Shah (42), a U.S.-born citizen who was arrested in May 2005
for offering to provide training to insurgents in Iraq. Shah identified his co-defendants,
and all four were convicted.
• The Lodi Case. Hamid Hayat (22), a native-born U.S. citizen, and his father, Umar
Hayat, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, were arrested in June 2005 for secretly
attending a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. Umar Hayat ultimately pleaded guilty
of lying to federal authorities.
• The Torrance Plotters. Kevin James (29), Levar Washington (21), and Gregory
Patterson (25), all native U.S. citizens and converts to Islam, and Hammad Riaz Samana
(21), a permanent resident from Pakistan, were charged in August 2005 with planning
to carry out terrorist attacks on National Guard armories, a U.S. military recruiting
center, the Israeli consulate, and Los Angeles International airport. (This case is some-
times referred to as the Sacramento Plot.)
• Michael Reynolds. Michael Reynolds (47), a native U.S. citizen, acquired explosives
and offered them to an informant whom he believed was an al Qaeda official to blow
up the Alaska Pipeline in return for $40,000.
• Ronald Grecula. Ronald Grecula (70), a native U.S. citizen, was arrested in Texas in
May 2005 for offering to build an explosive device for informants he believed to be
al Qaeda agents. He pleaded guilty to the charge in 2006.
• The Liberty City Seven. Seven men—Narseal Batiste (32), a native U.S. citizen;
Patrick Abraham (39), a Haitian national illegally in the United States after over-
staying his visa; Stanley Grunt Phanor (31), a naturalized U.S. citizen; Naudimar
Herrera (22), a native U.S. citizen; Burson Augustin (21), a native U.S. citizen; Rothschild
Augustin (26), a native U.S. citizen; and Lyglenson Lemorin (31), a legal permanent resi-
dent from Haiti—were charged in June 2006 with plotting to blow up the FBI build-
ing in Miami and the Sears Tower in Chicago. Herrera and Lemorin were acquitted.
Chronology of the Cases
• Syed Hashmi. Syed “Fahad” Hashmi (30), a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen, was arrested
in London on charges of providing material support to al Qaeda.
• Derrick Shareef. Derrick Shareef (22), a native U.S. citizen and convert to Islam, was
arrested for planning a suicide attack on an Illinois shopping mall. He intended to
place hand grenades in garbage cans, but the plot also involved handguns.
• The Fort Dix Plotters. Six men—Mohammad Ibrahim Shnewer (22), a naturalized
U.S. citizen from Jordan; Serdar Tatar (23), a legal permanent resident from Turkey;
Agron Abdullahu (24), a U.S. permanent resident from Kosovo; and Dritan Duka (28),
Shain Duka (26), and Elljvir Duka (23), three brothers from Albania living in the
United States illegally—were charged with plotting to carry out an armed attack on
soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey.
• The Toledo Cluster. Mohammad Zaki Amawi (26) and Marwan El-Hindi (43), both
naturalized U.S. citizens from Jordan, and Wassim Mazloum (25), a legal permanent
resident from Lebanon, were arrested in Toledo, Ohio, for plotting to build bombs to
use against American forces in Iraq. Two additional persons were also charged in this
case: Zubair Ahmed (26), a U.S.-born citizen, and his cousin Khaleel Ahmed (25), a
naturalized U.S. citizen from India.
• The Georgia Plotters. Syed Harris Ahmed (21), a naturalized U.S. citizen, and Ehsanul
Islam Sadequee (20), a U.S.-born citizen from Atlanta, Georgia, were arrested in April
2006 for discussing potential targets with terrorist organizations and receiving instruc-
tion in reconnaissance.
• Daniel Maldonado. Daniel Maldonado (27), a native U.S. citizen and convert to
Islam, was arrested for joining a jihadist training camp in Somalia. He was captured
by the Kenyan armed forces and returned to the United States.
• Williams and Mirza. Federal authorities charged two students at Houston Commu-
nity College—Kobie Diallo Williams (33), a native U.S. citizen and convert to Islam,
and Adnan Babar Mirza (29), a Pakistani national who had overstayed his student
visa—with aiding the Taliban. According to the indictment, the two planned to join
and train with the Taliban in order to fight U.S. forces in the Middle East.
• Ruben Shumpert. Ruben Shumpert (26), also known as Amir Abdul Muhaimin, a
native U.S. citizen who had been convicted for drug trafficking, converted to Islam
shortly after his release from prison. When the FBI came looking for him in 2006, he
fled to Somalia and joined al-Shabaab. He was reportedly killed in Somalia in Decem-
• Hassan Abujihaad. Hassan Abujihaad (31), formerly known as Paul R. Hall, a native
U.S. citizen and convert to Islam who had served in the U.S. Navy, was arrested in
April 2007 for giving the locations of U.S. naval vessels to an organization accused of
• The JFK Airport Plotters. Russell Defreitas (63), a naturalized U.S. citizen from
Guyana; Abdul Kadir (55) a Guyanese citizen; Kareem Ibrahim (56), a Trinidadian;
and Abdal Nur (57), another Guyanese citizen, were charged in June 2007 with plot-
ting to blow up aviation fuel tanks at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. Defreitas
was arrested in Brooklyn. The other three plotters were arrested in Trinidad and extra-
dited to the United States.
• Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed. Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed (26), a U.S.
permanent resident from Egypt, was arrested for providing material support to terror-
ists by disseminating bomb-making instructions on YouTube. He pleaded guilty to the
• Omar Hammami. Now known as Abu Mansour al-Amriki, Omar Hammami
(23), a native-born U.S. citizen, left Alabama some time not later than 2007 to join
al-Shabaab in Somalia. He later appeared in the group’s recruiting videos. Hammami
was indicted in 2010 for providing support to al-Shabaab.
• Jaber Elbaneh. Jaber Elbaneh (41), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Yemen, was con-
victed in absentia by a Yemeni court for plotting to attack oil and gas installations in
Yemen. He had previously been charged in the United States with conspiring with the
Lackawanna Six. He was one of a number of al Qaeda suspects who escaped from a
Yemeni prison in 2006. He subsequently turned himself in to Yemeni authorities.
• The Hamza Case. Federal authorities charged the owner and several officials of Hamza,
Inc., a financial institution, for money laundering and secretly providing money to
al Qaeda. Those charged included Saifullah Anjum Ranjha (43), a legal permanent U.S.
resident from Pakistan; Imdad Ullah Ranjha (32), also a legal permanent resident from
Pakistan; and Muhammed Riaz Saqi, a Pakistani national living in Washington, D.C.
Also charged in the case were three Pakistani nationals living in Canada and Spain.
• Christopher Paul. Christopher “Kenyatta” Paul (43), a native U.S. citizen and convert
to Islam living overseas, was arrested upon his return to the United States in April 2008
for having plotted terrorist attacks on various U.S. targets. He later pleaded guilty.
• Bryant Vinas. Bryant Vinas (26), a native U.S. citizen and convert to Islam, was
arrested in Pakistan and extradited to the United States for having joined al Qaeda in
Pakistan. He also provided al Qaeda with information to help plan a bombing attack
on the Long Island Rail Road.
• Somali Recruiting Case I. As many as a dozen Somalis may have been recruited in
the Minneapolis, Minnesota, area by Shirwa Ahmed (26), a naturalized U.S. citizen
Chronology of the Cases from Somalia, to fight in Somalia. Ahmed subsequently was
killed in a suicide bomb- ing in Somalia.
• Sharif Mobley. Sharif Mobley (26), a native U.S. citizen of Somali descent, moved
to Yemen in 2008, ostensibly to study Arabic and religion, but in reality, authorities
believe, to join a terrorist organization. He was later arrested by Yemeni authorities in
a roundup of al Qaeda and al-Shabaab militants. In March 2010, he killed one guard
and wounded another in an attempt to escape.
• The Riverdale Synagogue Plot. Native U.S. citizens James Cromite (55), David
Williams (28), Onta Williams (32), and Laguerre Payen (27), a Haitian national, all con-
verts to Islam, were arrested in an FBI sting in New York in May 2009 for planning to
blow up synagogues.
• Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad. In June 2009, Abdulhakim Mujahid
Muhammad (23), also known as Carlos Bledsoe, a native U.S. citizen and Muslim con-
vert, killed one soldier and wounded another at an Army recruiting station in Arkansas.
• The North Carolina Cluster. Daniel Boyd (39), a native U.S. citizen and convert to
Islam who fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, was arrested
in July 2009 along with his two sons, Zakarlya Boyd (20) and Dylan Boyd (22), also
converts to Islam, and four others, including three U.S. citizens—Anes Subasic (33), a
naturalized U.S. citizen from Bosnia; Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan (22), a U.S.-born
citizen; and Ziyad Yaghi (21), a naturalized U.S. citizen—and Hysen Sherifi (24), a
legal U.S. resident from Kosovo, for plotting terrorist attacks in the United States and
abroad. Jude Kenan Mohammad (20), a U.S.-born citizen, was also a member of the
group. He was arrested by Pakistani authorities in 2008. Boyd reportedly reconnoi-
tered the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia.
• Betim Kaziu. Betim Kaziu (21), a native U.S. citizen, was arrested in September
2009 for traveling overseas to join al-Shabaab or to attend a terrorist training camp in
• Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri. Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri (38), a U.S. permanent resi-
dent and dual national of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, was charged with attending an
al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan. He pleaded guilty to providing material support
to a terrorist group.
• Michael Finton. Michael Finton (29), a native U.S. citizen and convert to Islam, was
arrested in September 2009 in an FBI sting for planning to blow up a federal court-
house in Springfield, Illinois.
• Hosam Maher Smadi. Hosam Maher Smadi (19), a Jordanian citizen living in the
United States, was arrested in September 2009 in an FBI sting for planning to blow up
an office building in Dallas, Texas.
• Najibullah Zazi. Najibullah Zazi (25), a permanent U.S. resident from Afghanistan,
was arrested in September 2009 for receiving training in explosives at a terrorist train-
ing camp in Pakistan and buying ingredients for explosives in preparation for a ter-
rorist attack in the United States. Indicted with Zazi were his father, Mohammed Zazi
(53), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, and Ahmad Afzali (38), a U.S. per-
manent resident from Afghanistan, both for making false statements to federal inves-
tigators; neither was involved in the terrorist plot. In January 2010, authorities arrested
Adis Medunjanin (24), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Bosnia, and Zarein Ahmedzay
(25), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, and charged them with participat-
ing in the plot.
• Tarek Mehana. In October 2009, federal authorities in Massachusetts arrested Tarek
Mehana (27), a dual citizen of the United States and Egypt, for conspiring over a seven-
year period to kill U.S. politicians, attack American troops in Iraq, and target shopping
malls in the United States. Two other individuals, including Ahmad Abousamra (27), a
U.S. citizen, were allegedly part of the conspiracy. Abousamra remains at large.
• David Headley. In an increasingly complicated case, David Headley (49), a U.S.-born
citizen of Pakistani descent and resident of Chicago, was arrested in October 2009
along with Tahawar Rana (48), a native of Pakistan and a Canadian citizen, for plan-
ning terrorist attacks abroad. Headley was subsequently discovered to have partici-
pated in the reconnaissance of Mumbai prior to the November 2008 attack by the ter-
rorist group Lashkar-e-Toiba. He pleaded guilty in March 2010.
• Colleen Renee LaRose. Calling herself “Jihad Jane” on the Internet, Colleen Renee
LaRose (46), a native U.S. citizen and convert to Islam, was arrested in October 2009
for plotting to kill a Swedish artist whose drawings of Muhammad had enraged Mus-
lims and for attempting to recruit others to terrorism. Her arrest was concealed until
March 2010. LaRose pleaded guilty to the charges.
• Nidal Hasan. In November 2009, Nidal Hasan (38), a native U.S. citizen and Army
major, opened fire on fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 and wounding 31.
• The Pakistan Five. In November 2009, five Muslim Americans from Virginia—
Umar Farooq (25), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan; Ramy Zamzam (22), who
was born in Egypt, immigrated to the United States at the age of two, and became a
citizen by virtue of his parents becoming citizens; Waqar Hassan Khan (22), a natu-
ralized U.S. citizen from Pakistan; Ahmad Abdullah Mimi (20), a naturalized U.S.
citizen from Eritrea; and Aman Hassan Yemer (18), a naturalized U.S. citizen from
Ethiopia—were arrested in Pakistan for attempting to obtain training as jihadist guer-
rillas. Khalid Farooq, Umar Farooq’s father, was also taken into custody but was later
released. The five were charged by Pakistani authorities with planning terrorist attacks.
• Somali Recruiting Case II. In November 2009, federal authorities indicted eight
men for recruiting at least 20 young men in Minnesota for jihad in Somalia and rais-
ing funds on behalf of al-Shabaab. By the end of 2009, a total of 14 indictments had
been handed down as a result of the ongoing investigation. Those indicted, all but
one of whom are Somalis, were Abdow Munye Abdow, a naturalized U.S. citizen from
Somalia; Khalid Abshir; Salah Osman Ahmad; Adarus Abdulle Ali; Cabdulaahi Ahmed
Faarax; Kamal Hassan; Mohamed Hassan; Abdifatah Yusef Isse; Abdiweli Yassin Isse;
Zakaria Maruf; Omer Abdi Mohamed, a legal permanent resident from Somalia; Ahmed
Ali Omar; Mahanud Said Omar; and Mustafa Salat. No age information is available.
• Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari. Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari (53), also known as
Michael Mixon, a native U.S. citizen, was indicted and pleaded guilty to attempting to
provide financing for terrorist training in Afghanistan.
• Raja Lahrasib Khan. Raja Lahrasib Khan (57), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Paki-
stan, was charged with sending money to Ilyas Kashmiri, an al Qaeda operative in
Pakistan, and for discussing blowing up an unidentified stadium in the United States.
• Times Square Bomber. Faisal Shazad (30), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan,
had studied and worked in the United States since 1999. In 2009, he traveled to Paki-
stan and contacted the TTP (Pakistan Taliban), who gave him instruction in bomb-
building. Upon his return to the United States, he built a large incendiary device
in a sport utility vehicle (SUV) and attempted unsuccessfully to detonate it in New
York City’s Times Square. He was arrested in May 2010. Three other individuals were
arrested in the investigation but were never charged with criminal involvement in the
• Jamie Paulin-Ramirez. The arrest of Colleen R. LaRose (“Jihad Jane”) in 2009 led to
further investigations and the indictment of Jamie Paulin-Ramirez (31), also known as
“Jihad Jamie.” Paulin-Ramirez, a native-born U.S. citizen and convert to Islam, alleg-
edly accepted an invitation from LaRose to join her in Europe in order to attend a
training camp there. According to the indictment, she flew to Europe with “the intent
to live and train with jihadists.” She was detained in Ireland and subsequently returned
to the United States, where she was arraigned in April 2010.
Wesam el-Hanafi and Sabirhan Hasanoff. Wesam el-Hanafi (33), also known
as “Khaled,” a native-born U.S. citizen, and Sabirhan Hasanoff (34), also known as
“Tareq,” a dual U.S.-Australian citizen, were indicted for allegedly providing material
In September 2010, Sami Samir Hassoun (22), was arrested in an FBI sting in Chicago
for attempting to carry out a ter-rorist bombing. Hassoun expressed anger at Chicago
Mayor Richard Daley. It is not clear that the case is jihadist-related.
In December 2010, Awais Younis (26), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, was
arrested for threatening to bomb the Washington, D.C., Metro system. He made the threat on
Facebook, and it was reported to the authorities. Neither of these cases is included in the chronology.
support to a terrorist group. The two men, one of whom traveled to Yemen in 2008,
provided al Qaeda with computer advice and assistance, along with other forms of aid.
• Khalid Ouazzani. Khalid Ouazzani (32) pleaded guilty in May to providing material
support to a terrorist group. Ouazzani, a Moroccan-born U.S. citizen, admitted to rais-
ing money for al Qaeda through fraudulent loans, as well as performing other tasks at
the request of the terrorist organization between 2007 and 2008.
• Mohamed Mahmood Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte. Two New Jersey men,
Mohamed Mahmood Alessa (20), a native U.S. citizen, and Carlos Eduardo Almonte
(24), a naturalized citizen from the Dominican Republic and convert to Islam, were
arrested in June at New York’s JFK Airport for conspiring to kill persons outside the
United States. The two were on their way to join al-Shabaab in Somalia.
• Barry Walter Bujol, Jr. Barry Walter Bujol, Jr. (29), a native U.S. citizen and convert
to Islam, was arrested as he attempted to leave the United States to join al Qaeda in
Yemen. He had been under investigation for two years and was in contact with an
undercover agent he believed to be an al Qaeda operative.
• Samir Khan. In June 2010, the Yemen-based affiliate of al Qaeda began publishing
Inspire, a slick, English-language online magazine devoted to recruiting Western youth
to violent jihad. The man behind the new publication was Samir Khan (24), a Saudi-
born naturalized U.S. citizen who moved to the United States with his parents when
he was seven years old. He began his own journey to violent jihad when he was 15. He
reportedly left the United States in late 2009, resurfacing in Yemen in 2010.
• Rockwood’s Hitlist. Paul Rockwood (35), a U.S. citizen who served in the U.S. Navy
and converted to Islam while living in Alaska, was convicted in July 2010 for lying
to federal authorities about drawing up a list of 15 targets for assassination; they were
targeted because, in his view, they offended Islam. He was also accused of research-
ing how to build the explosive devices that would be used in the killings. His wife,
Nadia Rockwood (36), who has dual UK-U.S. citizenship, was convicted of lying to
• Zachary Chesser. Zachary Chesser (20), a native U.S. citizen and convert to Islam, was
arrested for supporting a terrorist group in July as he attempted to board an airplane to
fly to Somalia and join al-Shabaab. Chesser had earlier threatened the creators of the
television show South Park for insulting Islam in one of its episodes.
• Shaker Masri. A U.S. citizen by birth, Shaker Masri (26) was arrested in August 2010,
allegedly just before he planned to depart for Afghanistan to join al Qaeda or Somalia
to join al-Shabaab.
• Somali Recruiting Case III. As part of a continuing investigation of recruiting and
funding for al Qaeda ally al-Shabaab, the U.S. Department of Justice announced four
indictments charging 14 persons with providing money, personnel, and services to the
terrorist organization. In Minnesota, 10 men were charged with terrorism offenses for
leaving the United States to join al-Shabaab: Ahmed Ali Omar (27), a legal permanent
resident; Khalid Mohamud Abshir (27); Zakaria Maruf (31), a legal permanent resident;
Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan (22), a legal permanent resident; Mustafa Ali Salat (20), a
legal permanent resident; Cabdulaahi Ahmed Faarax (33), a U.S. citizen; and Abdiweli
Yassin Isse (26). Three were new on the list and had been the subject of previous indict-
ments: Abdikadir Ali Abdi (19), a U.S. citizen; Abdisalan Hussein Ali (21), a U.S. citi-
zen; and Farah Mohamed Beledi (26). A separate indictment named Amina Farah Ali
(33) and Hawo Mohamed Hassan (63), both naturalized U.S. citizens, for fundraising
on behalf of al-Shabaab. A fourth indictment charged Omar Shafik Hammami (26),
a U.S. citizen from Alabama, and Jehad Sherwan Mostafa (28) of San Diego, Califor-
nia, with providing material support to al-Shabaab. (Hammami’s involvement is listed
in this chronology under the year 2007, when he first left the United States to join
al-Shabaab; Mostafa is listed separately in the next entry.)
• Jehad Serwan Mostafa. In August 2010, Jehad Serwan Mostafa (28), a native U.S.
citizen, was indicted for allegedly joining al-Shabaab in Somalia. He reportedly left
the United States in December 2005 and was with al-Shabaab between March 2008
and June 2009.
• Abdel Hameed Shehadeh. Abdel Hameed Shehadeh (21), a U.S.-born citizen of Pal-
estinian origin, was arrested in October for traveling to Pakistan to join the Taliban
or another group to wage jihad against U.S. forces. Denied entry to Pakistan, then
Jordan, Shehadeh returned to the United States and subsequently attempted to join
the U.S. Army. He allegedly hoped to deploy to Iraq, where he planned to desert and
join the insurgents. When that did not work out, he tried again to leave the country
to join the Taliban.
• Farooque Ahmed. Farooque Ahmed (34), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, was
arrested in October for allegedly plotting to bomb Metro stations in Washington, D.C.
FBI undercover agents learned of Ahmed’s intentions by posing as al Qaeda operatives.
• Shabaab Support Network in San Diego. Saeed Moalin (33), a naturalized U.S. cit-
izen from Somalia, Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud (38), born in Somalia, and Issa
Doreh (54), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, all residents of San Diego, were
arrested for allegedly providing material support to al-Shabaab. The investigation of
this network is continuing, and a fourth man from Southern California, Ahmed Nasir
Taalil Mohamud (35), was subsequently indicted.
• Al-Shabaab Fundraising II. In November, federal authorities arrested Mohamud
Abdi Yusuf (24), a St. Louis resident, and Abdi Mahdi Hussein (35) of Minneapolis,
both immigrants from Somalia. The two are accused of sending money to al-Shabaab
in Somalia. A third person, Duane Mohamed Diriye, believed to be in Africa, was also
• Nima Ali Yusuf. Nima Ali Yusuf (24), a legal permanent resident originally from Soma-
lia, was arrested in November for allegedly providing material support to a terrorist
group. She was accused of attempting to recruit fighters and raise funds for al-Shabaab.
• Mohamed Osman Mohamud. Mohamed Osman Mohamud (19), a naturalized U.S.
citizen originally from Somalia, was arrested in December for attempting to detonate
what he believed to be a truck bomb at an outdoor Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony
in Portland, Oregon. He reportedly had wanted to carry out some act of violent jihad
since the age of 15. His bomb was, in fact, an inert device given to him by the FBI,
which set up the sting after it became aware of his extremism through a tip and subse-
quent monitoring of his correspondence on the Internet.
• Antonio Martinez. Antonio Martinez (21), also known as Muhaamed Hussain, a nat-
uralized U.S. citizen and convert to Islam, was arrested in December for allegedly plot-
ting to blow up the Armed Forces Career Center in Catonsville, Maryland. The car
bomb he used to carry out the attack was a fake device provided to him by the FBI,
which had been communicating with him for two months.
APPENDIX B: Research Materials
A prominent poster on the elite password-protected jihadi web site Shumukh has told fellow forum members his account on the site has been hacked to send spyware to fellow forum participants.
The user, who goes by the handle “Yaman Mukhadab,” posted on August 28 that “it seems that someone is using my account and is somehow sending messages with my name to the members,” according to Flashpoint Partners, which translated the discussion for Danger Room. Shumukh uses software from vBulletin, which allows members to send private messages to each other.
Mukhadab’s handiwork has attracted attention beyond the forum. He was one of the contributors to the site’s lame recent attempt at creating a fantasy target wishlist comprised of American security industry leaders, defense officials and other public figures.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, once again Wired got a little tidbit from Evan Kohlmann to keep his Flashpoint company relevant and in the news. Blah blah blah. Look, Adam is it? Yeah, Adam, there is much more that goes on on this site and the myriad others that Evan isn’t telling you. Sure, this guy Yaman got a little twitchy and he is right to be so lately. There has been A LOT of other things going on on both sides of the fence lately that ol’ Evan hasn’t let you in on, or more likely, has no clue of.
- There are hackers, both at the behest of the government and those not avowed going at these sites. Some are just knocking them down for periods of time (Jester etc) Some who are auditing the sites and actually interacting at times with the players after owning them, and SOME who are just hacking the shit out of the sites and wreaking havoc. The latter was seen back a month or two ago with the take down of Ansar. They just RM’d that sucker, but, the jihadi’s had a backup and they were online within days. (which you mentioned.. good)
- Most of these sites have sections where the the newbies are being taught hacking skills. Some of these tutorials are low level (like the lulz types we saw not too long ago *protect your MACIP’s) Others are quite well versed in hacking and have tutorials on the level of something to worry about. In fact, some of these sites contain the works of friends of mine in the security community that they have posted as research. Within these sections we have areas where the jihadi’s have an assortment of upload/download sites for malware (mostly these are older packages) but some of the newer posts have malware and creation kits that are up to today’s standards (which you failed to mention)
- The version of AQAP’s “Inspire you talk about was tampered with *cupcakes* as well as one version did in fact have a trojan. (which you failed to mention)
- The list of targets wasn’t so much lame as it was a new call to the “lone wolves” on these boards to act on it. There is a change in the way these guys are waging jihad that is not really covered by Evan and you. Did you know for instance that there is a Facebook Jihad (propaganda war) that is ongoing? As well as guys like Abu Hafs Al Suni Al Suni are advocating for a ‘stealth jihad’ ? Yeah, they are, and they have been busy trying to propagandise and get the word out to those lone nutjobs that might in fact try something like say, pick a name off of that ‘lame’ list as you called it. It wouldn’t be so lame after they actually whacked someone would it?
Sure, a good deal of this and the other jihobbyist sites are full of dreck, but, there are pockets of true believers, and your little piece in Wired downplays it all.
Also try this little Google Search for spyware posts on the board. They have been busy.
As a side note, the Jihadi’s also went further and opted to go after the MEMRI organization as well. In a later post by Yaman, they list out the leaders of the org as targets as well. What makes me wonder is which one of them has a log and pass for MEMRI (hint hint MEMRI check your logs)
All in all, another bang up job Wired… *sarcasm implied*