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Defense / NATIONAL SECURITY

White House Aims to Disrupt Al-Qaida Online

June 30, 2011

Nextgov.com is part of the National Journal Group Inc. and the Atlantic Media Company. It is a spin off of GovernmentExecutive.com and provides coverage and commentary on the management of information technology in the federal government. From time to time, Nextgov and GovernmentExecutive.com will share content and collaborate on features and events.

Cyberspace is a battleground in the new U.S. strategy for taking on al-Qaida released on Wednesday, but officials provided few details about online tactics that might be used.

"We are depriving al-Qaida of its enabling means, including the illicit financing, logistical support, and the online communications that sustain its network," said White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan in announcing the plan at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

The Obama administration is adjusting counterterrorism procedures in an effort to eradicate the ideology of murder that remains following the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The plan involves disrupting the terrorist group's ability to promote violence online.

 

The strategy document states, "Mass media and the Internet in particular have emerged as enablers for terrorist planning, facilitation, and communication, and we will continue to counter terrorists' ability to exploit them."

The strategy also aims to undermine the group's messages by broadcasting words that contest the terrorists' world view. One channel for such communications will be social media.

"We are taking the fight to wherever the cancer of al-Qaida manifests itself," Brennan said.

Internally, the administration will depend more on computerized pattern-matching to detect threats as opposed to physical information-sharing in light of tighter budgets, he said.

"I'd like to think that over time we'll become more efficient in how we apply our resources -- we maybe automate more of these activities," Brennan said. "We have come such a long way as far as the terrorist watch-listing system. We have been able to -- as a result of technology, as a result of integrating the different databases and systems -- been able to do things with less people who actually have to manually put things in."

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