Jun 3, 2011 -
You have to admire the wit. Britain’s intelligence service has pulled a fast one, hacking an al-Qaeda propaganda website.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has effectively used technology geared towards Western audiences. Its online magazine, Inspire, covers topics such as bomb-making and ideology. The thrust is to show individuals that they don't need to travel to an al-Qaeda training camp in Pakistan or Yemen to carry out attacks against the West.
One Inspire article, "Make a bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom," tutors would-be terrorists in pipe bomb making. But after MI6’s strike, those looking for bomb tips got cupcake recipes instead. They were redirected to a site boasting recipes for "The Best Cupcakes in America," including "Rocky Road." "Warning: sugar rush ahead!" reads the recipe.
Internet battles are worth fighting. At my subcommittee hearing last week, a terrorism expert noted that "a raft of individuals have been inspired by Inspire." A key AQAP agitator is American-born Anwar al-Awlaki, who has gained an Internet following by sermonizing in English. Awlaki is best known for inspiring Maj. Nidal Hasan (Ft. Hood shooter, 2009) and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (failed Christmas Day "underwear bomber," 2009). Referred to as "the translator of jihad," the 40-year old American-born cleric reportedly also radicalized a woman who attempted to knife a British politician last May, and a British Airways employee who plotted to explode a BA flight.
Hats-off to the Brits for their trickery. But unfortunately, it's just a pinprick. One terrorism analyst has referred to the information on the Internet as forming a "virtual caliphate." Fortunately, the Joy of Cooking has 4,500 recipes.