Al-Qaeda’s main Web forums have been offline for the past 11 days and counting. No government has taken credit, but if this “service interruption” actually is the result of government intervention, it represents the kind of intelligent response to terrorist radicalization that we need. The Internet is a double-edged sword. While Internet users in the West enjoy its free flow of information and easy social connections, terrorist recruiters equally enjoy its low overhead and vast potential reach.
According to the website of Flashpoint Global Partners, which tracks al-Qaeda and related websites, the ongoing outage is only one of several over recent years. It is, however, the longest in duration.
The website Shumukh al-Islam, a primary al-Qaeda site, was the first to go down on March 22; four others have since gone dark. The administrator of another site recently wrote that “the media arena is witnessing a vicious attack by the cross [Christians] and its helpers on the jihadi media castles.”
“Unbearable” and “isolating” is the way some users are describing the interruption. Some have even suggested that Islamists may have to set up Facebook pages and Twitter accounts instead. Needless to say, this would make them a lot easier to follow for open-source intelligence gatherers.
A new generation of terrorist prospects is coming of age, as described by Fox reporter Katharine Herridge in her book The Next Wave. There are plenty of angry, alienated young men out there looking for a cause and a leader. A case in point is the young Frenchman who coldly mowed down seven people, mostly children, outside a Jewish school in March. He was since killed in a standoff with French police. “A model for the pious Muslim youth” is how one radical website described the gunman—a chilling “model” indeed.
So, whoever is disrupting the communications of the purveyors of this kind of poison, more power to them.