Al-Qaeda "Intranet" goes dark after US leak

Wired News defense technology blogger Noah Shachtman tells Boing Boing,
For years, the private terror-hunters at the SITE Institute have been infiltrating jihadist chat rooms, and spying on the extremists congregating online.  Now, the group its digital cover has been blown -- and Al-Qaeda online communications channels have gone dark -- thanks to a ham-handed move by the Bush administration, it seems.  "Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," SITE's Rita Katz told the Washington Post.
Link, and see this related post from Noah about apparent plans by the US Air force to initiate "offensive cyber strikes": Link.


  1. Add “treason” to the growing list of war crimes and crimes against humanity this administration should be impeached for.

    Just what does Bush have to do for Nancy Pelosi to put impeachment back on the table?

  2. “Just what does Bush have to do . . .”

    Got really drunk, stumble up to the zoo, and rape a bald eagle in front of a crowd of screaming Snowflake Children?

    If it weren’t for Cheney’s mind-control powers keeping him from going “off-message” Bush would have been consigned to Home for the Extremely Nervous years ago.

  3. Not as big deal a deal as some think. We found this network, and we will find their next one. The terrorists groups can’t hid!

  4. this is not the first time.

    in 2004 you may recall they closed the financial sectors in NY and Washington because of a ‘credible’ threat by a man captured in Pakistan who had ‘flipped’. The informant, a web admin, was actively being used by MI5 and the CIA to gather FURTHER intelligence until his cover was blown by the … Dept of Homeland Security. This led to a premature number of arrests in england and pakistan, many of the suspects were later released due to lack of evidence. This occurred in september 2004, right during the DNC. DHS and the white house burned a valuable link in ‘fighting terror’ to gain a very small political victory.

    If i recall correctly, this was also the case with the Liquid bombers (or some other recent, high profile, embroyonic plot) that they announced it to the media, going public in ‘saving everyone’ when all they did was prematurely halt the investigation, allow the suspects to flee, or later be released on insufficient evidence.

    sorry, i am too lazy to google these at the moment and provide links, but they are documented.

    in short, Short Term political gain > Long term security interests. trying to say things such as “Not as big deal a deal as some think. We found this network, and we will find their next one. The terrorists groups can’t hid!” belies the fact that your trust in the authorities is misplaced – they will routinely sell you out to gain personal advantage.

  5. lv th wy y sz pn ny nd vry tm tht flts pst yr fld tht cld r mght r sms t b dmgng t th ‘Bsh dmnstrtn’ n f yr fvrt ctch-ll rbrcs. t’s n f th dlghtflly prdctbl thngs bt vstng ths st. Tht nd th rmrkbl smplcty f yr pltcl clcls.

    Nw cnsdr n ltrntv rdng fr th sm tm, plgs fr mpngng n yr nrrtv, mch lk cll phns, yr nms, yr rl nms, th ns tht wnt t kll y, cn n lngr fl thy cn s th ntrnt wth mpnty, nd tht’s gd thng. Th wrld fr yr nms hs nrrwd, f nly psychlgclly. Gt ff th dmnstrtns’ bck ntl thy’r prvn glty n ths. Thy’ll sn b gn nywy nd dbt y’r wllng t rtrct shld th src prv t b smthng ls.

  6. Bour3 @12: Why should we get off the administration’s backs? They’ve had seven years to demonstrate their incompetence, and they’ve taken every opportunity to do so. We should believe that they’ve suddenly become competent enough that something that looks like a dumb mistake is actually something more subtle?

  7. Ianm has an excellent point. The Administration has been tripping over its own shoes for years.

    I’m afraid that simple incompetence is no longer a convincing explanation for the continued bungling of the War On Some Terrorists.

    One alternate explanation is that the Administration just doesn’t care. It is not focused on combating terrorism effectively; it is focused on using terrorism as a political tool, a bogeyman to scare the masses. There is a political motivation to appear to take the issue seriously, but there’s little motivation to actually do the job well. If more ordinary citizens get blown up, that’s just more fodder for the bogeyman stories.

    That theory has the virtue of simplicity and explaining pretty much everything. It has the drawback that to many people, it sounds like an incredible conspiracy theory. I don’t think it is, though. It’s just a group of cutthroat politicians acting on political concerns alone.

  8. >your enemies, your real enemies, the ones that want to kill you, can no longer feel they can use the internet with impunity, and that’s a good thing.

    No, it is not. If the enemy feels he can use the Internet with impunity, then it is easy for us to find and intercept him. It is harder to deal with a cautious, aware enemy than it is to deal with an overconfident enemy who doesn’t realize he’s being watched.

    >The world for your enemies has narrowed, if only psychologically.

    So our enemies aren’t naive anymore. That’s not good. It would be better if they had stayed naive and ignorant; it was easier to fight them.

  9. Bour3@12: It sounds like, in your opinion, Churchill should have leaked to the Nazis the fact that he could read their encrypted communications.

    After all, it would have made them feel that “they can no longer use [the airwaves] with impunity,” right? And it would have “narrowed [their world], if only psychologically,” right? Next to those, what’s a few torpedoed convoys?

    Of course, this would have been absurd then, and it’s absurd now. When intelligent people’s communications are compromised, they don’t stop communicating: they switch to new communications channels, and take pains to make sure that their new channels are better than the old ones.

    Or, in shorter words: Al-Qaeda lost a website. We lost an intelligence source. You’re declaring victory. “More such victories and we will be undone.”

    (Digression begins: This isn’t to say that it’s never smart to let your adversary know that you’ve broken their communications. If Bob is using two systems, one of which Alice has broken somewhat and one of which Alice has penetrated completely, it is to Alice’s advantage to let Bob know that she has broken the first system in hopes that Bob will switch to the second.

    Nevertheless, I rather doubt that this is what’s happening here. The compromised website was more or less completely open to the SITE institute, if I understand correctly. The only way a communication channel could be more compromised is if the CIA were running it themselves.)

  10. Bour3@12: Cell phones now feel they can’t use the Internet? I can’t understand your crazy moon language.

    Lots of people presumably want to kill me, just like I could name a few people I wouldn’t mind seeing pushing up a few daisies, but dude, in addition to motive, they pretty much need opportunity. Buying into the Bush administration’s narrative because people want to kill meee omzg is just pathetic. Grow up. If you don’t like realism and prefer your little romantic frissons, stick to places where you won’t feel challenged. In the meantime, sane people would really like to see a little competence in Washington these days. And you’re not helping.

  11. Al-Qaeda online communications channels have gone dark — thanks to a ham-handed move by the Bush administration, it seems.

    It seems. Gorbachev, at the end of the Cold War, told a reporter “I’m going to do a terrible thing to you. I’m going to take your enemy from you.”

    Our government, on the other hand, is working to make sure we always have an enemy.

  12. It’s hard to keep secrets in a democracy. Wikipedia describes a similar gaffe from World War II:

    Unfortunately, the deficiencies of Japanese depth-charge tactics were revealed in a June 1943 press conference held by U.S. Congressman Andrew J. May … May revealed that American submarines had a high survivability because Japanese depth charges were fused to explode at too shallow a depth, typically 100 feet … Soon enemy depth charges were rearmed to explode at a more effective depth of 250 feet. Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood later estimated that May’s revelation cost the navy as many as ten submarines and 800 crewmen.

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