The ‘Net as terrorist tool


A popular book among terrorists, “39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad,” explains how wannabes who can’t fight on the front lines can still help the cause.

For instance, mothers can show children violent videos of attacks on Americans to breed enthusiasm about the jihadist movement, an al Qaeda expert with the U.S. military said.

If “39 Ways” isn’t downloadable from the Internet in an aspiring jihadist’s language, then “Management of Savagery” — a terrorist must-read on squelching the United States and allies in the Middle East — might be.

“These books are widely translated, widely circulated and read,” said Jarret Brachman, director of research for the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center.

Radicals have downloaded the books thousands of times via the Internet, recruiting new terrorists by the mouse click and offering free “distance-learning” for everything from bomb-building to computer-hacking, experts told a House Armed Services subcommittee last week.

On the Internet, jihadists deal in password-protected sites, chat rooms, instant messaging, message boards, Internet telephone talk, videos and other multimedia, said Ritz Katz, director of the Search for International Terrorist Entities Institute in Washington.

Every day, supporters of extremism experience the violence in Iraq by watching online videos lauding snipers and improvised explosive devices, said Katz and Josh Devon, a SITE Institute senior analyst. The clips also point out U.S. military vulnerabilities.

Terrorists have worked out a secure system of communicating via the Web that expands out like the rings of a tree, according to Katz and Devon. They’re even moving money to the movement through the Internet.

“If we do not treat the Internet as a critical battleground in this war on terror, we will not defeat the enemy,” Katz told the subcommittee.

In spite of gains by counterterrorism, al Qaeda and its ilk are still recruiting, raising money and planning attacks, Katz and Devon said.

“Jihadists’ networks will continue to evolve until no gun, no bomb … can permanently harm them,” Katz said.

Daniel Benjamin of the Brookings Institution said that while most Muslims reject violence as a central tenet of their faith, “the process of radicalization has gained momentum.”

(Washington reporter Trish Choate can be reached at choatet(at)