Facebook, YouTube, and Terrorists — A Deadly Mix

Friday, 18 Feb 2011 01:00 PM

By Ronald Kessler

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Terrorists are now using social media to recruit and communicate, Louis E. Grever, the FBI’s executive assistant director for the Science and Technology Branch, tells Newsmax.

“We have detected the use of social networking and multimedia websites by terrorists and have confirmed that they are using those forums for recruiting, communications, and the distribution of propaganda,” Grever says.

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The FBI’s confirmation follows release of a Pentagon-funded study earlier this month by the Center for Strategic and International Studies that al-Qaida and associated terrorists are using sites such as Facebook and YouTube for such purposes.

“We would hesitate to name specific sites or outlets for fear that they may move away from a specific site or service or alter their tradecraft if they think we have some capability to monitor their activity.” Grever says.

As executive assistant FBI director, Grever is on a level just below the deputy director. He is in charge of the FBI Laboratory, fingerprints, and the Operational Technology Division, which intercepts communications under court order.

Grever notes that intercepting communications on social networking sites is often easier said than done.

“The emergence of these types of sites poses significant challenges for the U.S. intelligence community and law enforcement, owing principally to the constant technological evolution of the world’s communications networks,” Grever says.

Armed with court orders, “We work with communications service providers to effect lawful electronic surveillance here domestically,” Grever says. “Unfortunately, we are not always successful in collecting all the data we have the lawful authority to collect.”

While they are willing to help to a degree and want to comply with federal court orders, “Many of these companies can provide only partial coverage if at all, as their networks and offerings are ever evolving and always changing,” Grever says.

Terrorists’ use of social networking sites is symbolic of the evolution of al-Qaida and the threat it poses. Once centrally run by Osama bin Laden, it has morphed into disparate elements such as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and inspires or encourages lone wolves to become terrorists.

The most recent example was 19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud. The native of Somalia plotted to blow up crowds gathered for a Christmas tree lighting in Portland, according to the FBI.

The evolution of terrorism is both good news and bad news. The good news is that spectacular attacks are being prevented, thanks to the hard work of the CIA, FBI, local police, and the military. Bin Laden is isolated, unable to plan plots. Predator drone strikes are taking out more al-Qaida leaders and operatives.

The bad news is that terror attacks, while less ambitious, are being launched more frequently. As noted in my story FBI: 100 Percent Chance of WMD Attack, eventually they will be successful.

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.









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