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Online Forums Provide Key Havens For Terror Plots

By Lara Jakes and Adam Goldman

WASHINGTON (AP) – In secretive chat rooms and on encrypted Internet message boards, al-Qaida fighters have been planning and coordinating attacks – including a threatened if vague plot that U.S. officials say closed 19 diplomatic posts across Africa and the Middle East for more than a week.

It’s highly unlikely that al-Qaida’s top leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, or his chief lieutenant in Yemen, Nasser al-Wahishi, were personally part of the Internet chatter or, given the intense manhunt for both by U.S. spy agencies, that they ever go online or pick up the phone to discuss terror plots, experts say.

But the unspecified call to arms by the al-Qaida leaders, using a multilayered subterfuge to pass messages from couriers to tech-savvy underlings to attackers, provoked a quick reaction by the U.S. to protect Americans in far-flung corners of the world where the terror network is evolving into regional hubs.

For years, extremists have used online forums to share information and drum up support, and over the past decade they have developed systems that blend encryption programs with anonymity software to hide their tracks. Jihadist technology may now be so sophisticated and secretive, experts say, that many communications avoid detection by National Security Agency programs that were designed to uncover terror plots.

“This creates a bit of a cat-and-mouse game between terrorist groups that can buy commercial technology and intelligence agencies that are trying to find ways to continue to monitor,” said Seth Jones, a former adviser to U.S. special operations forces and counterterrorism expert at Rand Corp., a Washington-based think tank that receives U.S. government funding. “Some of the technology you can buy is pretty good, and it evolves, and it is a game that is constantly evolving.”

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Posted by FanningCommunications on Sep 3rd, 2013 and filed under Techline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

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