ATbar Cyberspace A New Medium for Communication, Command and Control by Extremists

Cyberspace A New Medium for Communication, Command and Control by Extremists

05/05/1999 | by Whine, Michael  
During the 1970's and 1980's political extremism and terrorism frequently focused on 'national liberation' and economic issues. The collapse of the Soviet bloc, and the ending of its covert funding and encouragement of terrorism led to a decline in the militant and violent left-wing terrorist groups that were a feature of the age.

The 1990's have seen the development of a 'new terrorism' (Kushner, Hoffman)[1]. This is not to say that state-backed terrorism has ceased, but rather that the spectrum of terrorism has widened. This new extremism is frequently driven by religious fervour, is transnational, sanctions extreme violence, and may often be millenialist. The new terrorism may seek out military or government targets, but it also seeks out symbolic civilian targets, and the victims have mostly been innocent civilians (Alfred P Murrah Building, Oklahoma City; World Trade Centre, New York; AMIA Headquarters, Buenos Aires).

Growing concern about this new terrorism has been paralleled by concern about the employment of the new information and communication technologies (ICT's). ICT's offer a new dimension for political extremists and terrorists. They allow the diffusion of command and control; they allow boundless new opportunities for communication, and they allow the players to target the information stores, processes and communications of their opponents. The sophistication of the modern nation-state, and its dependency on computer-based ICT's, make the state ever more vulnerable.

The use of ICT's to influence, modify, disrupt or damage a nation state, its institutions or population by influencing the media, or by subversion, has been called 'netwar' (Arquilla and Ronfeldt).[2] The full range of weapons in the cyberspace armoury can be employed in netwar; from propaganda campaigns at one level to interference with databases and networks at the other. What particularly distinguishes netwar from other forms of war is that it targets information and communications, and may be used to alter thinking or disrupt planned actions. In this sense it can be distinguished from earlier forms of warfare - economic wars that target the means of production, and political wars that target leadership and government.

Netwar is therefore of particular interest to those engaged in non-military war, or those operating at sub-state level. Clearly nation states might also consider it, as an adjunct to military war or as an option prior to moving on to military war. So far, however, it appears to be of greater interest to extremist advocacy groups and terrorists. Because there are no physical limits or boundaries, netwar has been adopted by groups who operate across great distances or transnationally. The growth of such groups, and their growing powers in relation to those of nation states, suggests an evolving power-based relationship for both. Military strategist Martin Van Creveld has suggested that war in the future is more likely to be waged between such groups and states rather than between states and states.[3]

Most modern adversaries of nation states in the realm of low intensity conflict, such as international terrorists, single-issue extremists and ethnic and religious extremists are organised in networks, although their leadership may sometimes be hierarchical. Law enforcement and security agencies therefore often have difficulty in engaging in low intensity conflict against such networks because they are ill suited to do so. Their doctrine, training and modus operandi has, all too often, been predicated on combating a hierarchy of command, like their own.

Only now are low-intensity conflict and terrorism recognised as 'strategic' threats to nation states, and countries which until very recently thought that terrorism was something that happened elsewhere, have become victims themselves. The Tokyo subway attack by the Aum Shinriko and the Oklahoma City bombing would have been unthinkable a generation ago, and not only was the civil population unprepared, but also law enforcement. And this despite clear warning signs that such attacks were in the offing.

Two quotations neatly warn that cyberspace is becoming a new arena for political extremists:

The potential for physical conflict to be replaced by attacks on information infrastructures has caused states to rethink their concepts of warfare, threats and national assets, at a time when information is recognised as a national asset. The adoption of new information technologies and the use of new communication media, such as the Internet, creates vulnerabilities that can be exploited by individuals, organisations and states.[4]

The arrival of the Internet has provided the first forum in history for all the disaffected to gather in one place to exchange views and reinforce prejudices. It is hardly surprising, for example that the right-wing militias favourite method of communication is e-mail and that forums on the Internet are the source of many wild conspiracy theories that drive the media.[5]

Pre-eminent amongst the extremists and terrorist groupings who have entered cyberspace faster and more enthusiastically than others, are the Far Right, that is white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and radical Islamists. Others, such as eco-extremists and the Far Left appear to be slower in seizing upon the opportunities available.

What characterises these two groupings are their transnational natures. The Far Right is increasingly active in the USA and Europe, but in contrast to its ideological roots in the 1920s and 1930s it seeks now to unite a white Anglo-Saxon, or European - originating, entity in a rear-guard action to oppose centralised democratic government and return to some imagined past world in which an armed, racially pure, white man can live untroubled by the police, the Inland Revenue and the world banking system. The Islamist diaspora, now spread worldwide, seeks a return to divine-ruled states (or even one transnational state) in which all Muslims will live under the norms and laws of the Saudi Arabian peninsula in the first and second centuries of the Common Era. These types of organisations make them ideal users of networks and proponents of netwar. Their ideas and their use of cyberspace will be further developed in the paper.

Government Concerns
International concern over the use of ICT's has grown to such an extent that the Foreign Ministerial Conference on Terrorism, held in Paris in July 1996, agreed to issue a call to all states to note both the risk of terrorists using electronic or wire communication systems and networks to carry out criminal acts, and the need to find means, consistent with international law, to prevent such criminality. It suggested that inter-governmental consultation be accelerated in appropriate bilateral or multilateral fora on the use of encryption that allows, when necessary, lawful government access to data and communications in order to prevent and investigate acts of terrorism, while protecting the privacy of legitimate communications, and to intensify the exchange of operational information, especially as regards the use of communications technologies by terrorist groups.[6]

The Heads of State Summit in Lyon in June 1996 urged co-operation among states to safeguard the hi-tech communications central to international commerce and cooperation.[7] At the policing level within Europe the inter-governmental process has been paralleled by a series of conferences under the auspices of the European Commission and Europol, the police liaison body. In April 1997, Europol circulated a communication to European police forces which requests that they monitor illegal content on the Internet, seek out 'reporting' points, investigate cross border links, exchange information, reconcile national laws, co-operate on investigations, and encourage self-regulation of the Internet.[8]

In Britain concern has grown to the point where responsibility for Internet intelligence gathering has now been passed to the Defence Research Agency, with its lacomputing capacities. It now carries out a wide range of information and monitoring activities in furtherance of its corporate aim to investigate subversive and illegal material.[9] An agreement is expected in late 1998 between Internet Service Providers (ISP's) and the Police allowing the latter unrestricted automated access to information held on the ISP's computers in order to monitor criminal, paedophile and terrorist activity. Not surprisingly, the proposal has caused alarm in some circles, and criticism from the office of the Data Protection Registrar, which has pointed out that current legislation does not permit 'fishing expeditions' and should only be used for investigating particular crimes.[10]

It is in America, however, that information and communication technology usage is greatest, and where fear of its misuse by extremists has gone furthest. The open nature of American society and its governmental systems makes it especially vulnerable. Alarm bells have been ringing for some years because of continued hacking into government and commercial computer systems, and the increasing sophistication of domestic extremists and terrorist groups. The President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, established in 1996 to enquire into these dangers, reported in 1998 that the national infrastructure was vulnerable and would become increasingly prey to attack by hostile forces.

Our security, economy, way of life and perhaps even survival, are now dependent on the inter-related trio of electrical energy, communications, and computers … Today the right command sent over a network to a powered generating station's control computer could be just as effective as a backpack full of explosives, and the perpetrator would be harder to identify and apprehend … A personal computer and a simple telephone connection to an Internet Service Provider anywhere in the world are enough to cause a great deal of harm.[11]

The Commission found that the general public seemed unaware of the extent of the vulnerability of the services that we all take for granted, and that awareness is just as limited within government and among industry decision-makers. The Commission's report writers state that their investigation focussed more on cyber issues than on physical issues because the former are new and not well understood. They noted that the basic tools for cyber attack - computer, modem, telephone and user-friendly hacker software - are common across the spectrum and widely available. Those giving evidence to the Commission repeatedly identified the insider and the terrorist as the most worrisome threat. Malefactors such as organised crime or terrorist groups could suborn a willing insider (a disgruntled employee for example) or make use of an unwitting insider. They concluded that:

Life on the information super highway is not much different from life on the streets; the good guys have to hustle to keep the bad guys from getting ahead … it is not surprising that infrastructures have always been attractive targets for those who would do us harm. In the past we have been protected from hostile threats on the infrastructures by broad oceans and friendly neighbours. Today, the evolution of cyber threats has changed the situation dramatically. In Cyberspace, national borders are no longer relevant. Electrons do not stop to show passports. Potentially serious cyber attacks can be conceived and planned without detectable logistic preparation. They can be invisibly reconnoitered, clandestinely rehearsed, and then mounted in a matter of minutes or even seconds without revealing the identity and location of the attacker.[12]

Why Extremists use ICT's
ICT's provide a range of benefits which previously did not exist. Five stand out. First, they allow interconnectivity, that is communication and networking, both externally and internally. An example of external networking may be found on the website of Hezbollah, which publishes a daily diary of the terrorist attacks its members have carried out in Southern Lebanon. The site also urges anybody with an opinion about the organisation's anti-Israel activities to get in touch. A spokesman was recently quoted as saying:

The service is very important for the morale of our resistance fighters. They are always happy to know that people around the world are backing them.[13]

Neo-Nazi groups were amongst the first to seize upon the benefits of cyberspace and German neo-Nazis have been communicating with one another, and organising their activities, via the ThuleNetz (Network) since the 1980s.

Provided with passwords such as Germania or Endsieg (Final Victory) from a post office box, personal computer screens will display a calendar of forthcoming neo-Nazi events and list contact numbers of leading right-wingers … On Remembrance Sunday, police saw in action for the first time, computer planned co-ordinated neo-Nazi action, involving the widespread use of secret codes and radio communication … "The advantage of electronic mail boxes is that they are free of censorship and bug-proof", said Karl Heinz Sendbuhler of the National Democratic Party.[14]

Examples of internal networking occurred when news of the killing, in Essex in February 1997, of Combat 18 member Christopher Castle by two of the group's leaders, was posted on the Internet site of the American National Socialist White People's Party within twelve hours. Also published were details, accusations and counter accusations of the bombing campaign which preceded it.[15] The simultaneous raids in America and Canada on the offices of Resistance Records, the major producers of white supremacist and skinhead music and tapes, and the home of George Burdi its founder, were reported on the Internet within hours, giving a warning to their supporters.[16] Elsewhere, the US-based Stormfront carries links to Spanish, Canadian and German contacts and the British national revolutionary group, International Third Position, posts messages from Polish, Flemish, Romanian, Slovakian and American Far Right nationalist groups.[17]

Second, cyberspace allows covert communication and anonymity, and anonymity is probably the most noticeable trend in terrorist acts of recent years. Milton John Kleim Jr, the former self-styled 'Net Nazi Number 1', wrote of these powers, before he renounced his Nazi views that:

All my comrades and I, none of whom I have ever met face-to-face, share a unique camaraderie, feeling as though we have been friends for a long time. Selfless co-operation occurs regularly amongst my comrades for a variety of endeavours. This feeling of comradeship is irrespective of national identity or state borders.[18]

A number of Islamist sites provide passworded communications to members and close sympathisers. The United Islamic Students Association in Europe provides a site for members only, possibly suggesting that instructions for militant student activity are included in the postings.[19] Hamas is known to conceal its communications, and its use of electronic messages clearly presents problems for security agencies. A recent article in Jane's Foreign Report suggested that the Israeli security services have been unable to crack the codes used by Hamas.

'Without offering evidence, investigators in the security service, Shin Beth, assert that a full range of instructions for terrorist attacks, including maps, photographs, directions, codes and even technical details of how to use the bombs are being transferred through the Internet. They suspect that many of the instructions are sent from Britain, where they say that the Islamist/Palestinian organisation, Hamas, has its main European base.'[20]

Another example of concealment was provided by a 'Kahlid Ibrahim' who sought to purchase classified and unclassified US government software and information about the Indian Atomic Research Centre. Ibrahim tried to hide his identity by using anonymous Hotmail accounts, although it is stated that he always posted from the same ISP in New Delhi. He eventually identified himself as a member of the Islamist Harkat Al Ansar terrorist group. [21]

Terrorist groups are known to share information and to collaborate with one another through cyberspace. Since such collaboration is inherently risky, and inter-group communication is a target for national security services, the use of encryption has increasingly been adopted. The encryption might be used both to 'anonymise' and to authenticate communications. The digital basis of cyberspace communication makes it an ideal vehicle for encrypted communication.[22]

The concept of 'leaderless resistance', promoted by American Far Right leader, Louis Beam, shows disturbingly, but with great relevance for understanding netwar in the information age, the importance of doctrine, and secrecy, for planning organisation and behaviour to pursue extremist policies. His particular doctrine downplays hierarchy in favour of a network of 'phantom cells'. Such cells, communicating covertly in a networked format, can be more robust defensively, and more flexible offensively.

'Utilising the leaderless resistance concept, all individuals in groups operate independently of each other, and never report to a central headquarters or single leader for directional instruction … Participants in a programme of leaderless resistance through phantom cell or individual action must know exactly what they are doing and exactly how to do it … All members of phantom cells or individuals would tend to react to objective events in the same way through usual tactics of resistance. Organs of information distribution such as newsletters, leaflets, computers etc. which are widely available to all, keep each person informed of events allowing for a planned response that will take on many variations. No one need issue an order to anyone.[23]

The stealthy growth of the American militia movement, unobserved by government and law enforcement agencies until recently, has been considerably aided by the ICT's. According to Ken Stern:

The rapid formation and growth of the militia movement were due in part to new technologies that made communication quicker, easier, and cheaper. Least important of these was talk radio. Most important were the Internet and, to a lesser degree, fax networks. To the extent that radio played a part in militia communication, it was short-wave, a band designed for international programming but used by many targeting a domestic audience.[24]

The ability of German neo-Nazi groups in the early 1990's to organise violent demonstrations against asylum seekers and foreign 'guestworkers', throughout the newly united country, without seeming to have any national organising structure was enhanced by the use of ICT's. It was recently estimated that more than one hundred German neo-Nazi groups regularly send e-mails and post messages on the Internet, some using encryption in a German variant of Pretty Good Privacy called Kryptografil.[25]

British neo-Nazis have also taken up the Internet in recent years realising that it offers a degree of anonymity. The National Socialist Movement and Combat 18 recently registered their sites in North America, and the former posted terrorism manuals, using a Canadian site to mask their identity, (see later). And the writer of the National Front journal, The Nationalist, recently discussed the benefits that ICT's were bringing to this group:

All over the world anyone with access to the Internet can find a full range of information regarding the National Front at the touch of a button. And despite the best efforts of our opponents, so far our site has remained functional 24 hours a day, seven days a week since its inception … If our opponents were successful in say, pressurising one of our service providers into dropping our site, we could be back on-line at our main Internet address within half an hour. … New friends from around the world have been made and important contacts have been established, particularly in the United States, where we regularly liaise via E-mail with a major nationalist organisation, with a possible view to future long-term co-operation. The Internet will be the main political campaigning tool of the next decade and beyond.[26]

A third reason for using the Internet is that it is cheap. For the price of a computer and a modem an extremist or would-be terrorist can become a player in national and world events. ICT's lower the threshold for participating in illegal acts and without state backing extremists will look for cost-effective instruments. As computers become increasingly inexpensive, small and user-friendly, cyberspace crime and terrorism will become 'democratised'. Soon almost anyone will be capable of participating, as the technology and the techniques become available. Fears about this growth potential were expressed recently by a senior FBI official:

How much of a threat is cyber-terrorism? … Is this really a threat or is this something that's been exaggerated by security consultants, by the government, or by terrorists themselves as a way, as a scare tactic? First, the tools, the techniques and the technology are growing – and growing quickly – and are widely available around the world. It is no longer the case, as a matter of fact, that you need to be an expert to engage in cyber attack. Because you can now go to a hacker web-site and download onto your own computer automated hacking scripts.[27]

The use of small, cheap laptop computers in storing terrorists' plans was illustrated by Ramzi Ahmed Yusuf, the mastermind of the World Trade Centre bombing, who had once worked out operational plans to bomb American airlines in the Pacific on his machine. Abd-al-Rahman Zaydan, a Hamas terrorist leader, was convicted by the Nablus Military Court in January 1995 on the basis of information stored in his personal computer database that linked dozens of terrorist squads and activists in Israel, Jordan and Germany. Following Zaydan's arrest, Hamas' method of operation (and its covert use of ICT's) was uncovered, and terrorists were apprehended. [28]

Fourth, ICT's act as a force-multiplier, enhancing power and enabling extremists to punch above their weight. They can now have a reach and influence that was previously reserved for well organised, state-funded terrorist organisations. Communication technology represents, in many respects, the "death of distance" and the national borders that once separated the attackers from their targets have ceased to exist.

Even the smallest groups are aware of the powers of the force-multiplier effect. Another small British national revolutionary group with an international perspective is the National Revolutionary Faction (the product of a split within the International Third Position).

The new homepage has put us in touch with an increasing number of National Revolutionary activists worldwide. If you have access to a computer, then why not check it out for yourself at: [29]

Fifth, ICT's enable extremists to reach their target audience when other outlets and media are denied them, and to reach new audiences, particularly the young and educated. Kashmiri extremists overcame newspaper resistance to covering their terrorist campaign against the Indian authorities by use of the Internet, and the Mexican Zapatistas very quickly became sophisticated users of the Internet in order to spread their message around the world.[30]

The Afghan Taliban publish their ideology on-line, believing that the western media will distort or refuse to publish their messages.[31] The Far Right in particular use ICT's for this reason. In several European countries, hate-filled postings by neo-Nazi groups would be illegal if published in hard copy; the absence of sanctions, or protocols on the Internet allow the postings.

The Internet has enabled the Far Right to reach across national boundaries and by-pass laws banning hate material, as in Britain, France, Germany and Scandinavia, and has therefore become a priority from the point of view of their doctrine.

The emergence and rapid growth of the information superhighway computer network as a vast global communications forum is dramatically transforming the nature of the internationstruggle for truth in history and for our basic freedoms.[32]

The Net strategy of Milton Kleim, a former leading member of the American neo-Nazi National Alliance, defined the Far Right's approach:

The State cannot yet stop us from "advertising" our ideas and organisations on USENET, but I can assure you that this will not always be the case. NOW, is the time to grasp the WEAPON which is the NET, and wield it skilfully and wisely while you may still do so freely ...

Crucial to our USENET campaign is that our message is disseminated beyond "our" groups: We MUST move out beyond our present domain and take up positions on "mainstream" groups ...

Remember our overall USENET strategy must be to repeat powerful themes OVER AND OVER AND OVER. We cannot compete with the Jews' media, of course, as our propaganda dissemination is but a very small fraction of the everywhere pervasive leftist propaganda. However, our ideas possess an energy that truth alone contains.[33]

Communication, Command and Control
Terrorism has become increasingly transnational as the networked organisational form has expanded. When terrorism's mentors were the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, they imposed their own rigid hierarchical structure on terrorist groups. Now that terrorism is increasingly sub-state, or semi-detached, networking and inter-connectivity are necessary to find allies and influence others, as well as to effect command and control. ICT's have facilitated this, and have also enabled multiple leaders to operate parallel to one another in different countries. It therefore might be said that a shift is taking place from absolute hierarchies to hydra-headed networks, which are less easy to decapitate. An analogy, using the Palestinian example, may be that the more networked form of Hamas is replacing the hierarchical structure of the PLO. In many ways the Afghan War was a seminal event in promoting the networked form in that it showed that fluidly organised groups, driven in this case by a religious imperative, could defeat an experienced hierarchically structured army.

Geographical dispersion, both physical and in cyberspace, provides extra security; a rigid hierarchical structure is more easily penetrated and neutralised. Israel's admission that it had not yet found a way to deal with Hamas's decentralised and internationalised command and control structure, which uses encrypted Internet messages, suggests it has had difficulty in this matter. An investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into terrorist activity in the US indicated that part of Palestinian Islamic Jihad's command and control system was located in Tampa, Florida. Likewise, Hamas allegedly has some of its fundraising infrastructure in London and the USA, and publishes its main Arabic journal, Filistin al Muslima, in London.

Islamist terrorists may be said to fit the network ideal; many supportive expatriate communities are based in sympathetic or neutral states enabling political activists and terrorists to operate within the safe haven that modern democracies provide. It should be noted that it is not here intended that the term 'Islamists' should refer only to terrorist organizations, but rather to those Muslim militants who believe that Islam is incomplete without its own state, one in which Shariah provides the system of governance, and who campaign for its imposition. Among Islamists, it is the Jihadists (religious warriors) who are of particular interest for this paper. The followers of Hasan al Banna, Sayyid Qutb and Abdul Ala Maududi, the organisations they founded, Ikhwan al Muslimoon and Jamaat Islami, and the ideological off-shoots these have spawned give rise to the 'Jihadist' ideology, and although the concept of Jihad may be interpreted on different levels, it often incorporates violence when applied to Islamists.

The ultimate experience is of course Jihad, which for Islamists means armed battles against communists (Afghanistan) or Zionists (Palestine) or, for the radicals, against renegades and the impious.[34]

Jihad in the modern Islamist sense knows no political space, or state; its space is that of the Umma, the community of Muslims, wherever they may be.

An example of the networked form amongst such Islamist organizations is that of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, the GIA. Allegedly responsible for a bombing campaign in France, it appears to have had a command and control centre in Britain for some years prior to the expulsion of some members by the British authorities. At the same time sympathisers were also safe-housing some of its weapons and explosives in Belgium.

Algerian terrorists have been able to communicate with their sympathisers and members by use of the Internet and have used the services of Muslim 'newsagencies', which republish their postings. Foremost amongst them is MSANEWS. On their site were published communiqués from the GIA, Front Islamique de Salut (FIS) and many other Islamists. (It should however be noted that MSANEWS also posts articles and communiqués from non-Islamist Muslim and non-Muslim sources, that it has condemned terrorism, and that it no longer re-posts communiqués of organisations which advocate terrorism.)[35]

The site of the Campaign for the Defence of Legitimate Rights (CDLR), the Saudi opposition group, also contains postings from groups not directly connected with it, as do [email protected] and the pro-Iranian Muslimedia International, which, like other sites, re-posts interviews with Osama Bin Laden, the exiled Saudi terrorist leader. As with some other Islamists groups, Muslimedia International also promotes antisemitism and Holocaust denial and provides links with the American Holocaust denier, Michael Hoffman II, and his Campaign for Radical Truth in History, thereby highlighting the interconnectivity possibilities between totally different ideologies sharing a perceived common enemy.

An Islamist site that particularly aims its message to the outside world is that of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the Islamic Liberation Party. Their first UK-based site was hosted by Imperial College, London, but following complaints to the college authorities the site was closed down. They now post in their own name as Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and as Khilafah, providing Internet-based access to their hard copy material, literature and their regional activities.[36] Al-Muhajiroun (the Emigrants) whose UK leader, Omar Bakri Mohammed, was the founding leader of Hizb-ut-Tahrir in Britain, and from which he split claiming differences with the Middle-East based leadership, also provides details of its activities, as well as lists of its hardcopy publications and contacts. During 1998 Mohammed has reported the communiqués of Osama bin Laden, for whom he claims to act as a spokesman. As a consequence of his endorsement of the bombings of the US embassies in Dar-es-Salaam and Nairobi, his postings are no longer carried by MSANEWS.[37]

Hamas and its supporters and sympathisers have been among the most prolific users of the Internet. MSANEWS provides a list of Internet resources about Hamas including copies of its covenant, its official communiqués (at Assabeel On-line) and communiqués of its military wing, the Izz al-Din Al-Kassam Brigades. Information about Hamas, in fact, may also be accessed in various different ways: via MSANEWS, via the Palestine site and via the Islamic Association for Palestine. Hamas' own site, which posts in Arabic, is the Palestine Information Centre.[38]

Religious luminaries from one country sometimes act as the higher legal and moral authority in another country. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawri of the Egyptian Ikhwan al-Muslimoon (Muslim Brotherhood) lives in Qatar and serves as the Imam (religious leader) for the Palestinian Hamas; Sheikh Ibn Qatada, a Jordanian Palestinian living in London, serves as the Imam for the Algerian GIA; Sheikh Abu Hamza, an Egyptian national and former Afghan Jihad volunteer, serves as a propagandist for the Algerian GIA and Imam for the Yemeni Jihad group, but lives in London. Their messages of guidance and support find an outlet most frequently now via ICT's.

While some commentators have argued that modern cultural forces, such as ICT's, serve to undermine Islamisation in Muslim society, it is equally easy to argue that they provide a new and growing medium by which Islamism is disseminated. Even if they do not reach the poorer sections of Muslim society, they certainly reach many educated expatriate communities, among whom they find support. The growing number of advertisements, on the Internet and in Muslim papers and journals, for conferences to discuss the use of the Internet to promote Islam, or Islamism, supports the thesis that many activists and religious teachers see these developments as positive ones to be recommended and encouraged.

Combining religious injunctions with strategic commands is a noticeable feature of such Islamist leaders, and their groups. Calls to carry out Jihad are frequently cloaked in religious and pseudo-religious language, but the implication is clear for the target audience. Thus, for example, Osama Bin Laden's Ladenese Epistle, which was originally faxed to his London contact Khalid al Fawaz and then posted to MSANEWS in August 1996 by the London-based Saudi dissident groups CDLR and MIRA, is recognised as providing general guidance for anti-American terrorism.

I say to Secretary of Defence: The sons of the land of the two Holy Places had come out to fight against the Russian in Afghanistan, the Serb in Bosnia-Herzegovina and today they are fighting in Chechenia and –by the Permission of Allah – they have been made victorious over your partner, the Russians. By the command of Allah, they are also fighting in Tajakistan.

I say: Since the sons of the land of the two Holy Places feel and strongly believe that fighting (Jihad) against the Kuffar in every part of the world, is absolutely essential; then they would be even more enthusiastic, more powerful and larger in number upon fighting on their own land.[40]

The Nida'ul Islam site, based in Australia, promotes an uncompromising message of both Jihad and of suicide terrorism. A recent posting, 'The Islamic Legitimacy of the Martyrdom Operations', states that martyrdom is forbidden in Islam, but cites approvingly those martyrs who willingly gave their lives for Muslim causes and then transposes these causes to contemporary issues. It attempts to demonstrate with quotes from the Quran and the Sunnah that Islamic bombing assaults and martyrdom attacks are legitimate and fall within the framework of Islam.[41]

Azzam Publications, named after Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian who became a military leader in Afghanistan and who was assassinated in Pakistan in 1989, has also published calls for Jihad volunteers:

The Saudi Government does not intend to help the Muslims in Kosova and it has prevented its nationals from going there to fight. This means that the Jihad in Kosova is now a greater responsibility on Muslims with western nationalities … Redistribute this e-mail message all over the world … telephone the nearest Saudi Embassy or Consulate to protest against this crack-down and tell everyone to do so until it jams the lines of the Saudi Consulates around the world … e-mail the Saudi Embassy in Washington with messages of protest … begin to prepare yourselves to go and fight in Kosova to make up for the lack of manpower that was heading there from Saudi Arabia. Wait for the Kosova bulletin from Azzam Publications.[42]

Among the Far Right, the UK-based national revolutionary group, The International Third Position, illustrates graphically the adoption of ICT's to enhance a position. The group is tiny, but its foreign contacts are numerous, widespread and growing. In the space of just over one year its Final Conflict Email Newsletter[43] has grown in size and scope to reflect the news of, and messages from, its world-wide contacts.

Final Conflict also acts as a 'news agency' for Holocaust deniers (in much the same way as MSANEWS does for Islamists), many of whom are also Far Right extremists. For example, the Email Newsletter re-posts communiqués from David Irving and Fredrick Toben's Australian Adelaide Institute, which like the California-based Institute for Historical Review, attempts to provide a scholarly veneer for denial.[44] Some invitees to a conference held by the Adelaide Institute were refused permission to visit Australia by its Department of Immigration, but the easy access to the Internet and video links facilitated conference presentations which otherwise might not have taken place.

The Far Right has also used the Internet to post bomb-making manuals which are not otherwise available in Europe. The British neo-Nazi, David Myatt, of the National Socialist Movement posted his 'Practical Guide to Aryan Revolution' at the end of November 1997 at the website of Canadian Bernard Klatt in order to evade police scrutiny. The chapter headings included: Methods of Covert Direct Action, Escape and Evasion, Assassination, Terror Bombing, Sabotage, Racial War, How to Create a Revolutionary Situation, Direct Action Groups, etc. The contents provided a detailed step-by-step guide for terrorist insurrection with advice on assassination targets, rationale for bombing and sabotage campaigns, and rules of engagement. Although he may have committed no indictable offence in Canada, Klatt was forced to close down his site in April 1998. Myatt is currently the subject of a British criminal investigation for incitement to murder and to promote race hatred.[45]

Police forces in Britain and France also recently investigated an international neo-Nazi network which issued death threats against French celebrities and politicians from their British-based Internet site. Herve Guttuso, the French leader of the Charlemagne Hammer Skins was arrested in Essex at the same time as eight members were arrested in the South of France. The French members of the network were charged with making death threats, and Guttuso was the subject of a French extradition request to the British courts. According to the French Interior Ministry, police in Toulon traced the London address of the Internet site, which was being accessed about 5,000 times a month. The investigation enabled the police to identify 1500 people sympathetic to the neo-Nazi group in various countries including Britain, Greece, Canada, America and Poland. The investigators found that the Charlemagne group appeared to be one of the largest and best organised neo-Nazi groups yet uncovered, with a co-ordinated international structure and logistical centres for disseminating violent racist propaganda, based principally in Britain and America. Although the group gave a postal address in London as their centre, their material was disseminated via Klatt's FTC Net, (as have been the postings of Marc Lemire, Paul Fromm, Doug Christie, The Heritage Front and other neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups).[46]

The British Far Right may have been slower to realise the command and control possibilities of ICT's than their US or German co-ideologies, but they appear to be catching up. Although in recent years it is the violent skinhead music scene that has provided the main medium through which they promote liaison, it is clear that for some the future lies with ICT's.

Only days ago, the Pentagon had to admit that there had been a major assault on its computer systems. ZOG observers have increasingly warned that the frequency and sophistication of the 'hack attacks' will only increase as dissident groups realise that they can strike at the very heart of ZOG at the touch of a few buttons. It doesn't matter what government specialists invent to counter the techno-terrorist, there is always a way around their anti-hacker programmes and the more ZOG relies on computers, the more damage can be done by attacking their systems. So all you techno-terrorists out there, get working on your 'hack-attacks.[47]

While the use of ICT's to enhance command and control and enhance communication is apparent among Islamist extremists, and among the militia movement and Far Right in America, it is less so amongst Far Right and other extremists in other parts of the world. Thiclearly reflects the higher ICT access in North America.[48] Fears by western governments that their national infrastructures may be a target for information warfare or cyber-terrorism may be well-founded, but the evidence so far is that sub-state groups at least, use ICT's mainly for propaganda, secure communications, intelligence gathering and funds management.[49]

It has been noted by one observer that the Internet has not replaced other communications media for the Far Right, and that its largest use in this regard has been to advertise the sale of non-Internet related propaganda, such as books, audio tapes and videos. Nor has the Internet led to an increase in mobilisation. The Seattle-based Coalition For Human Dignity observed that Far Right events in the US which were heavily promoted on the Internet only, were in fact failures.[50]

A recent despairing posting by Harold Covington of the National Socialist White People's Party reinforces the point that for some on the American Far Right the Internet has become an end in itself. Surfing the Net, has replaced real action.

It is a measure of how degenerate and weak our movement has become that some people actually think this is a good thing. Not only do we want risk-free revolution, we now want people-free revolution. Here lies the great danger of the computer for everyone who uses it. It allows us to live and work interacting with a MACHINE rather than with people, and for white males who already have a problem in the cojones department, it provides the final, terminal escape from reality and from any demand that they ACT.[51]

However, it does not pay to be complacent; extremists and terrorists are increasingly information- technology literate. Unless law enforcement and national security agencies can move quickly, they will leave national infrastructures defenceless. An academic observer recently noted that:

These terror networks understand the Internet, and know that law enforcement agencies lag far behind in both skills and available technologies.[52]

Continuing research by Les Back, Michael Keith and John Solomos of Goldsmiths College, London has shown that what is significant for the Far Right and its use of the Internet is that it:

possesses the potential to offer the relatively small numbers of people involved a means to communicate, develop a sense of common purpose and create a virtual home symbolically … the Internet combines both intimacy and remoteness. These properties make it uniquely suitable for maintaining relationships among groups that are prone to attrition, because forms of association can be established at a social and geographical distance. [53]

While some futurologists warn of an electronic Pearl Harbour, the reality is that terrorists have not yet resorted to strategic information warfare. What is apparent, however, is that warfare is shifting towards attacking civilian targets and that sub-state terrorists and other extremists are increasingly targeting civilian infrastructures. Increasingly, the perpetrators and the victims of netwar will be from the civilian sphere. It is therefore the civilian infrastructure which is the most vulnerable; the military can protect its own infrastructure, despite media reports that it is constantly hacked into and is so vulnerable.

Governments are becoming increasingly concerned to protect their own national infrastructures, but global connectivity has grown to such an extent that it is now possible to talk only of a global informational infrastructure. As the Head of the FBI National Infrastructure Protection Centre stated:

There is only a global information infrastructure. There is no way to draw a line around the Continental United States and say that our information infrastructure belongs to us. Because there is no way to sever it from the information infrastructure that connects the rest of the world. What that means is that our infrastructure is accessible, not only to our friends around the world, but also to our potential foes. It is just as easy now to engage in a cyber attack from Tehran as it is from Toledo, Ohio.[54]


1 Hoffman, Bruce, Inside Terrorism, Victor Gollancz, London, 1998 Kushner, Harvey, W, The Future of Terrorism: Violence in the New Millenium, Sage, London 1998

2 Arquilla, John and Ronfeldt, David, The Advent of Netwar, RAND for the Office of the Secretary of Defence, CA, USA, 1996

3 Van Creveld, Martin, The Transformation of War, Free Press, New York, 1991

4 Canadian Security Intelligence Service 1996 Public Report, Part IV, Information Technology, e.html

5 Adams Janes, Clinton's Dreams Die a Dirty Death, The Sunday Times, London, 27 July 1997

6 Agreement on 25 Measures, Ministerial Conference on Terrorism, Text of Agreement, Paris 30 July, 1996,

7 Combating Terrorism: The Paris Ministerial Fact Sheet, 30 July 1996,

8 Communication on Criminal Use of the Internet, European Commission/Europol, 9 April 1997

9 Controlling Unsuitable Material, Department of Trade and Industry, Internet Study, Sema Group Consulting, 11 April 1996

10 Campbell, Duncan, Police Tighten the Net, The Guardian, London, 17 September 1998 Bamber, David, Police Seek to Intercept E-mails Without Warrant, The Sunday Telegraph, London, 24 September 1998

11 Presidents' Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, Report Summary, Page 3, 13 October 1997,

12 Presidents' Commission, page 5

13 Hizbollah on the Internet, The Daily Telegraph, London, 19 February 1997

14 Neo-Nazis Go Hi-Tech with Electronic Mailboxes, The Guardian, London, 19 November, 1993

15 [email protected], 10 March 1997

16 Resistance Records Raided, [email protected], 9 April, 1997

17 International Third Position, Final Conflict, conflict/

18 Kilian, Crawford, Nazis on the Net, The Georgia Straight, Vancouver, 11-18 April 1996


20 Cyber-terrorism, Foreign Report, London, 25 September 1997_

21 Mc Kay, Niall, Do Terrorists Troll the Net?, Wired News, version/politics/story/15812.html?a//

22 Soo Hoo, K, Goodman, S, Greenberg, L, Information Technology and the Terrorist Threat, page 13a, Survival, International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, Autumn 1997

23 Beam, Louis, Leaderless Resistance, The Seditionist, USA, Issue 12, February 1992

24 Stern, Kenneth, A Force Upon the Plain, page 224, University of Oklahoma Press, Norma and London, 1997

25 Schroder, B, Outlook, BBC World Service Broadcast, 24 January 1996

26 Ashcroft, A, NF: Marching along the Informative Super-Highway, The Nationalist, Issue No.2, London, October 1998

27 Vatis, Michael, Deputy Assistant Director and Chief, National Infrastructure Protection Centre, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Proceedings Report, Seminar on Cyber-Terrorism and Information Warfare: Threats and Responses, page 4. Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Washington, USA, 16 April 1998

28 Hamas Database Discovered: linked to Jordan, Germany, Kol Israel Radio, Israel, 31 January 1995, as cited in Foreign Broadcast Information Service Daily Report, Near East and South Asia, FBIS –NES-95-021, page 41, February 1995

29 The Revolution enters Cyberspace, Catalyst - The Official Bulletin of the NR Faction, London, October 1998

30 Vatis, page 4


32 Revisionist Global Computer Outreach: IHR Cyberspace Connection Reaches Millions World-Wide. Generates Widespread Attention, Provokes Bigoted Rage, Journal of Historical Review, vol. 15, July/August, 1995, California.

33 Kleim, Milton John, Jnr, On tactics and strategy for USENET, 1995, [email protected]

34 Roy, Oliver, The Failure of Political Islam, page 57, IB Tauris, London 1994

35 AIG's Algeria News: GIA's Letter to the French,, 2 July 1997

36 and



39 Supporters of Shariah, Vol. 1l1, March 1998,

40 http://www.mynet./~MSANEWS/199610/19961013.10.html, 26 June 1997



43 Final Conflict News Email, Issue 587

44 Final Conflict News Email, Issue 465, 11 August 1998

45 Myatt, D, a Practical Guide to Aryan Revolution,

46 Un réseau néonazi mis au jour, Le Figaro, Paris, 18 February 1998 Herbert, Susannah, France calls on Britain to Extradite 'Neo-Nazi', The Daily Telegraph, London, 19 February 1998 Macintyre, Ben, Internet neo-Nazi suspect arrested in Britain, The Times, London, 19 February 1998

47 Cyber-Terror Attack Rocks Zog!, Strikeforce, May 1998.

48 Households having computers: 40 per cent in US; 30 per cent in Germany; 20 per cent in Britain. Source: The Sunday Times Business News, London, page 32, 9 July 1998

49 Rathmel, Dr Andrew, Cyber-Terrorism: The Shape of Future Conflict, RUSI Journal, London, October 1997

50 Burghart, D, [email protected]: a Reappraisal, The Dignity Report, Seattle, Vol.3, No.4, 1996

51 Covington, Harold, The 'Nazi Computer Club' [email protected], 15 May 1998 998

52 Spranza, Prof. E, Tracking Terrorists Caught in the Web, International Police Review, London, September/October 1997

53 Back, Les, Keith, Mitchell, Solomos, John, Racism on the Internet: Mapping Neo-Fascist Subcultures in Cyberspace, Chapter on Nation and Race The Developing Euro-American Racist Subculture, editors Kaplan, Jeffrey, Bjorgo Tore, Northeastern University Press, Boston, 1

54 Vatis, page 4

Michael Whine is Administrator of the Community Security Trust and Director of the Board of Deputies of British Jews Defence and Group Relations Division.

This article will be published in the next issue of Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, RAND. It is published here with the kind permission of RAND.