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Al-Qaeda, terrorism infiltrates the darknet

Al-Qaeda, terrorism infiltrates the darknet

Rita Katz, founder of the private intelligence firm SITE Institute, just wanted to do her job, she wanted to pass the link to a “terrorist” video and other materials to the Bush administration. She would certainly not have expected that the secrecy required in dealing with materials of this type would have jumped so quickly that the news of the online discovery of certain content would have ended. on the afternoon news .

The results? Disastrous: allowing the terrorist network to know that certain online materials had been identified by US intelligence has undermined years of investigation, years of work in refining techniques of telematic intrusion. For the authors of the video and other materials handled by Katz, the leakage of information represented a push towards darknets, networks based on anonymity, on the circulation of uncontrolled material often framed with important encryption systems.

These sensational events, the incredible lightness in handling the materials, were reported by the Washington Post, and then picked up – among others – by Wired: last month, SITE managed to identify a new video of Al-Qaeda terrorists present. online, so much so that Katz had interested Michael Leiter (number two in US counter-terrorism) and Fred Fielding (consultant of the White House) with an email. In the mail, in fact, the link to the private website that hosted the video complete with transcriptions from Arabic to English.

The expert in his communication had been shrewd in underlining “the need for secrecy” in handling the emails, and in explicitly asking not to “distribute” the link as this could have “damaged our investigations”. Said and done: the dynamics are not yet completely clear, but what is certain is that in the minutes following the sending of the letters (at 10 am anti-sundial on 7 September), computers with IP attributable to government agencies have started downloading from the site .

Department of Defense, CIA, NSA… they all downloaded the entire download within three hours. And, although it is not yet known how, as well as to federal agents, the video and those materials also ended up in the hands of Fox News, which at 3 pm triumphantly announced that have come into possession of the new video of the Islamist terrorists , referring directly to the web resources of SITE. According to Katz, “This is confirmation that the US government is responsible for the dissemination of this document,” an indictment addressed to Michael Leiter and sent at 5pm with another email.

Bush administration reliability aside, the backlash for SITE’s forensic techniques appears heavy: the company is in charge of conducting high-level confidentiality investigations on the hunt for terrorists on the web, in chat rooms, in forums then turning what was discovered to the subscribers of his services, including private companies but also subjects belonging to military and investigative agencies in the USA and around the world.

An activity that has been in place since 2002, which American intelligence officers unofficially define as “tremendously useful” in helping to track down the traces of the terrorist organization on the web. Organization that unfortunately has already begun to take its countermoves, by disguising and making their communications inaccessible at a level so far only feared by experts.

Proof in both the almost complete closure of the called network Obelisk system a system used not only for the distribution of videos developed by As-Sahab, al Qaeda supporters, but also as a sort of private intranet for the control and sorting of orders and information to the medium-high level ranks of the organization, reveals the New York Sun.

Scattered around the world, the system’s disguised websites they started going offline after Osama Bin Laden’s video was released , anticipated with respect to the same communication plans of the terrorists. Only the Ekhlaas forum, the password-protected meeting place and propaganda for Al Qaeda, returned online, but the rest seems to have vanished into thin air.

The situation appears worrying, considering that according to experts, terrorists in practice “do not exist without the web”. The web serves them to make propaganda, spread their messages of hatred and holy war to the world, win over new madmen to their murderous design and even manage the training of suicide bombers to be sent to slaughter with the next attack. The Sun goes so far as to say that because of the information leak the window that was first opened on this kind of activity has really been closed .

In the meantime, official reactions have arrived from Washington, which deny responsibility for what happened : “Accusing the intelligence community of leaking this video to the media is a fake,” said US intelligence spokeswoman Ross Feinstein. “We have the appropriate people and methods” to continue the investigation, Feinstein argues, and it is therefore an exaggeration in the Administration’s judgment to speak of grossly compromising the Bush Government’s anti-terrorism telematic investigation methods. Fox News is obviously to blame.

Alfonso Maruccia