Al-Qaida members have been using encrypted Internet forums and closed chat rooms to plot out and organize terrorist attacks, such as the recently alleged scheme to attack U.S. diplomatic outposts in the Middle East, the New York Post reported on Thursday.
Al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri and his senior deputy in Yemen, Nasir ul-Wuhayshi, were believed unlikely to have taken part in the Internet conversations themselves, as they would likely wish to avoid doing anything to tip off the U.S. intelligence community to their whereabouts. Rather, the men used a multifaceted encoded system to deliver messages and orders to al-Qaida fighters, according to unidentified U.S. officials.
The Internet activity, which was monitored by U.S. intelligence analysts, led the U.S. government to order the shuttering of a number of Mideast and African embassies and consulates for more than seven days as a precautionary measure.
The terrorist threat -- details of which have not been disclosed -- grew out of a communication from Wuhayshi to Zawahiri that basically requested approval for a plan to carry out the assaults. The al-Qaida chief's reply was then disseminated on a closed message board.
The ability of terrorist entities to cloak their Internet activity from government surveillance has improved over the years, according to researchers.
"This creates a bit of a cat-and-mouse game between terrorist groups that can buy commercial technology and intelligence agencies that are trying to find ways to continue to monitor," Rand Corp. counterterrorism expert Seth Jones said in an interview.
Earlier this week, Wuhayshi vowed actions would be taken to break free members of his organization that have been jailed, Al-Jazeera reported.
"The imprisonment will not last and the chains will be broken," the Yemeni terrorist leader said. "Your brothers are about to bring down the walls and thrones of evil ... and victory is within reach."