Online Forums Provide Key Havens For Terror Plots


She added: “I am sure they are delivering messages, through the message boards or by sending emails that are encrypted. But there is no way in my mind that Zawahri or Wahishi have access to the Internet, and I think Wahishi, at this stage of his life, is even afraid of going outside.”

Tracking and eliminating al-Qaida operatives in Yemen hasn’t been easy for the U.S. It took years for the CIA finally to kill the cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in a drone strike after an intense manhunt. By staying off the grid, al-Wahishi and other senior al-Qaida leaders in Yemen, such as Qassim al-Rimi and top bomb-maker Ibrahim Al-Asiri, have managed to remain alive. So frustrated was the CIA at one point, the spy agency considered killing the couriers passing messages in an attempt to disrupt the terrorist group’s plans, a former senior U.S. official said.

The idea was dropped because the couriers were not involved in lethal operations.

Exactly how U.S. spy systems picked up the latest threat is classified, and Shawn Turner, spokesman for National Intelligence Director James Clapper, refused to confirm or deny Katz’s analysis on how it might have happened. Intelligence officials have suggested that the plot was detected, in part at least, through NSA surveillance programs that have been under harsh worldwide criticism for privacy intrusions in the name of
national security.

It’s not clear, however, that even the powerful U.S. spy systems would be able to crack jihadists’ encrypted messages without help from the inside.

Earlier this year, an al-Qaida-linked extremist propaganda organization known as the Global Islamic Media Front released an encrypted instant-messaging system known as “Asrar al-Dardashah,” or “Secrets of the Chat.” It was a texting version of the organization’s end-to-end encryption program that followers had been using for years. End-to-end encryption means messages are put into code so that only senders and receivers can access the content with secure “keys.”

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Posted by on Sep 3rd, 2013 and filed under Techline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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