Periodically jihadi internet gatherings raise concerns about scrutiny of their forums by security services. Investigations into the identity of forum members and their promotion and initiation of sensitive jihadi issues trigger these concerns. A recent posting entitled “The top seven Arab countries that intrude on or penetrate the Forums” accused some Western security services of monitoring jihadi forums and suggested ways to identify security agents who may be active in the forums (muslm.net, July 29-August 3).
A forum participant, nicknamed al-Taer al-Maymoon, warns that the secret services of seven Arab countries have a permanent presence in jihadi forums in general and in muslm.net in particular. Some of these intelligence agents are prominent members of the forums and specialists in Shari’a. The countries intruding on jihadi forums, alleges al-Maymoon, are Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and the Palestinian National Authority – where the latter is accused of selling the information obtained from the forums to the Zionists. Further, al-Maymoon said various Arab nations monitor jihadi forums either to collect intelligence for preventive purposes or to exchange intelligence with Western countries “waging war on Islam.” Forum members categorize the non-Arab nations that monitor jihadi forums as follows:
• The Zionist State (i.e. Israel): Deemed the biggest tracker of jihadi forums; forum members believe the Israeli Intelligence service—Mossad Mossad—has many Arab-speaking agents in the forums.
• The United States: Almost all U.S. intelligence agencies, the Pentagon and the National Security Agency monitor the forums with a large number of Arabic-speaking agents.
• Great Britain: An old empire that has mastered intelligence operations and uses the information to extort the United States.
• China: Preparing an infrastructure to understand the Islamic mindset. This is needed for its future plans in the Islamic world.
• Germany: Its activities are preventive measures against jihadis. Germany is willing to offer a safe haven for jihadis in return for a truce, according to the jihadis.
• Japan: Attempting to collect information vital for economic gains.
• France and Russia: Need intelligence on jihadis for strategic planning.
The discussion became heated between al-Maymoon and a member nicknamed Ibn Khaldoon al-Jaza’iri, who al-Maymoon charges is an Algerian intelligence agent collecting information on al-Qaeda recruitment and propaganda activities in muslm.net. When asked for the basis of his accusation, al-Maymoon said that any intelligence agent’s postings would include the following signs:
• An intelligence agent exaggerates his praise of al-Qaeda, rejects all other jihadi factions and curses, for no obvious reason, the heads of Islamic countries. The purpose is to identify the pro-al-Qaeda forum members who respond to the provocations. The intelligence agencies arrested many jihadis through this method by identifying their IP and email addresses.
• Intelligence agents in the forums praise al-Qaeda shaykhs as sacred individuals. Al-Maymoon alleges he has had personal experience with deep cover agents who frequent mosques and wear beards and traditional Islamic dress.
• Agents often pose diverse questions on jihadi topics in the forums.
Finally, al-Maymoon says infidels are all the same regardless of their objectives in tracking jihadis. He warns jihadi forum members not to respond to anyone unless he is well-known by other accredited members.
In the same context, a forum member nicknamed Qotoz explained the three basic elements of managing any forum, such as a host server, forum owner and forum participant, before discussing the security aspects of jihadi forums. He urges the members to read carefully between the lines of his posting (hanein.info, July 7).
According to Qotoz, there are two techniques used by security agencies to hunt down jihadis. First is the technical method. This includes stealing an email address and monitoring all incoming and outgoing emails; planting Trojans in the target’s computer; using the target’s nickname in the forums by posting subjects under his name and hacking into the target’s computer.
The second technique for hunting jihadis on the internet is comprised of “human methods”:
• Posting subjects designed to attract the targeted jihadi. Consequently, relations will be established with the subject before luring him into a face to face meeting.
• Expressing opinions diametrically opposed to those found acceptable by Salafi-Jihadis, thus drawing them out as they rebuke or criticize the posting.
• Security agents, having established a connection with the target, will enhance the relationship in the forums by supporting the target’s postings and by sending him private emails.
• Through such relationships, the agents will obtain the names of other jihadis from the target.
• Building trust with the target by pretending to help the cause.
All these methods and more, says Qotoz, are part of a bigger security plan to hunt down jihadi forum members and create dissension among supporters of jihad. Jihadis must be aware of intelligence officers in the forums tasked with distorting the jihadi image. The electronic plan of the intelligence services includes setting up dummy cells in the jihadi forums to disseminate misleading jihadi statements. Qotoz ends his posting by alleging that there is other information he can’t discuss in the forum, an insinuation of the presence of security agents in the forum.
Jihadi forum chatters continuously discuss and educate each other on the basics of internet technology, such as the ability of security agencies to reveal many details of forum members by tracing their IP addresses. Security agencies also use programs to scan the internet for the use of certain terminology, phone numbers and email addresses. The agencies use professionals to hack into jihadi forums and obtain their organizational structures, through which they can extract information on any member of the forum. The internet traffic goes through security filtration and if there is any match with the dictionary of suspicious words, a copy of the email is saved for further scrutiny. Airport screening methods and details of the security cooperation and exchange of intelligence between Western countries are also exchanged between forum members offering ways to evade these measures.
Although the internet knowledge discussed by forum members is factual and commonly available, other intelligence methods mentioned by jihadi forum participants are not fully accurate. The assertions that intelligence services use various methods to brainwash forum participants is a paranoiac exaggeration revealing an ignorance of basic counterterrorism techniques practiced by intelligence services.