Logging on to terror.com
By Sudha Ramachandran
BANGALORE - While militant and terrorist groups have been using the Internet for almost a decade, its growing popularity as a meeting place for terrorist groups over the past few years has made cyberspace a key battleground in the "war on terror". Far from successful at "smoking out terrorists" from their hideouts in the mountains and caves of Afghanistan, counter-terrorism strategists are finding the task of tracking terrorists and their activities in cyberspace even more daunting.
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The Internet has become the terrorists' preferred choice of communication for the same reasons it is popular among people in general: it is quick, inexpensive and easily accessible. What makes it particularly attractive to terrorists is that it gives access to huge audiences spread across the world, provides anonymity and is hard to police or regulate.
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But use of the Internet as a propaganda tool is just the tip of the iceberg. Terrorists are using the Internet as a weapon in psychological warfare, to raise funds, recruit, incite violence and provide training. They also use it to plan, network and coordinate attacks. Thomas Hegghammer, who researches Islamist websites at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, says that "in a sense, [the Internet has] replaced Afghanistan as a meeting place".
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I wonder if this scares more people than me. I hope that our intelligence people can track funds and follow people electronically, but sadly I think we will be surprised via this avenue as well, as we were at Pearl Harbor, as we were on 9/11.