One consequence of the recent upsurge in jihadi snuff films has been that a whole new group of mainstream media reporters have suddenly "discovered" that jihadis are using the internet. The format of these reports is pretty consistent:
* The "militants" are using the internet to spread their message and share videos of their gruesome achievements, one severed head at a time.
* The internet is "anonymous" and the "militants" can use it with impunity from anywhere in the world, and even when they use a pseudonym the "authorities" can't catch them.
* The "experts" all agree that nothing can be done, so we should just sit and watch. Not only that, but trying to do something is probably a bad idea, so we should just sit and watch.
Mind you, I've been interviewed for a number of these stories, but you know, it's a funny thing - my comments, which suggest that the situation is far from hopeless, rarely make it into the report. So, for the record:
* The internet is being used by Islamist terrorists to great effect. Not only are their websites useful for achieving specific objectives, but they are also central to creating and maintaining a culture of jihad and reinforcing each terrorist's identification with the jihad. When you disrupt the smooth operation of the websites of Islamist terrorists you have a very real and very negative impact on each and every administrator and user of a given site.
* The internet is not nearly as anonymous as people think. To paraphrase something a terrorist once said: They have to be successful every time - I only have to catch them making a mistake one time. Even the most technically adept Islamist terrorist will make a mistake from time to time, and the more one pressures them, makes them move, makes them spend time online moving sites, rebuilding sites, finding sites that have moved, registering and re-registering for access to sites, the more opportunities one creates for identifying and locating the Islamist terrorist in question.
* Those experts and authorities who think that the rest of us should just sit on our hands and wait for our turn to become dhimmis or be beheaded are guilty of replacing the common good with their own parochial self-interest. There is no concensus among experts regarding how best to deal with internet use by Islamist terrorists, and the authorities, frankly, need all the help they can get.
* Many things can be done, have been done, have been proven effective, and will continue to be done to fight Islamist terrorists online. Those 545 Little Blue AKs™ I've posted over the last two years represent sites that have ceased operation at least temporarily, and in dozens of cases, permanently. Get a website removed from a server at a time when the webmaster has been lazy and doesn't have a backup, and the effect on that site can be lethal. Force them to keep a good current backup and you have that much more evidence that can be seized, and if they keep that backup offline, you have more locations where that evidence can be seized, and if they try harder to be anonymous, or to operate more sites, or to be better prepared for the next time a site gets taken down, all those things translate into more activity online that can be intercepted and analyzed to the purpose of finding, capturing and/or killing the Islamist terrorist in question. To the extent to which we have done this, the result is that there are now fewer high-quality sites online, meaning that there are fewer sites to monitor, allowing us to more effectively monitor those sites which we choose to monitor.
* This leads us to the final point: we can do much, have done much, and will continue to do much that makes the internet a less-than-friendly environment for Islamist terrorists to operate in. That said, the problem is not, for example, the film of some poor man having his head hacked off. Nor is the problem the websites that host such movies. No, the problem is the jihad, and the jihadists. So, how do you stop "Abu Maysara al Iraqi" from issuing communiqués in the name of Zarqawi's Tahid wal Jihad group? You find out where he is likely to be sleeping in Fallujah, and you turn that "safe-house" upside and inside out with a couple of hundred pounds of precision-guided death, like so:
Remember, you only have to kill him once.
Hat tip to interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who recently said
- When political leaders sound the sirens of defeatism in the face of terrorism, it only encourages more violence.