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June 17, 2006
Nailing AQ's Hacker/Blogger In Chief

The Toronto Star has the story this morning on the British capture of al-Qaeda's chief online resource, Irhabi007, and how badly the discovery has impacted the entire AQ operation. His arrest eight months ago allowed Western nations to make almost 40 arrests around the world, including important links to the 17 Canadians arrested in Toronto last month:

On a cold night last October, police stormed a West London apartment and found Younis Tsouli at his computer, allegedly building a Web page with the title "You Bomb It."

Initially, the raid seemed relatively routine, one of about 1,000 arrests made under Britain's terrorism act during the last five years.

The more eye-popping evidence was allegedly found in the London-area homes of two accused co-conspirators: a DVD manual on making suicide bomb vests, a note with the heading "Welcome to Jihad," material on beheadings, a recipe for rocket fuel, and a note with the formula "hospital = attack."

But as investigators sifted through computer disk information the picture that emerged was dramatic. Police had apparently stumbled on the man suspected of being the most hunted cyber-extremist in the world.

Tsouli, a 22-year-old Moroccan, is being widely named as a central figure in a cyber-terrorist network that has inspired suspected homegrown extremists in Europe and North America, including the 17 people recently arrested in the Toronto area.

The massive, 750 gigabytes of confiscated computer and disk information — an average DVD movie is 4.7 gigabytes — found on Tsouli's computer files is an Internet trail believed to link some of the 39 terror suspects arrested in Canada, Britain, the United States, Sweden, Denmark and Bosnia over the past eight months.

The intelligence efforts of the West have made real inroads against the terrorist networks and their support networks. Internet users can be difficult to track as they can change locations easily, mix up their accounts, hack into otherwise secure machines to push their product and their murderous philosophy across the Internet. Apparently Tsouli did more than just hack and blog, however. According to the Star, Tsouli did some active recruitment and coordination for AQ efforts worldwide, making him a valuable member of the Islamosfascist network.

Now, of course, the arrest transformed Tsouli into one of AQ's biggest liabilities, perhaps their biggest liability since the capture of Naeem Noor Khan in Pakistan almost two years ago. Tsouli belongs to the later generation of AQ operatives, nicknamed AQ 2.0, the looser affiliation of Islamists anxious to kill Western civilians but not tied directly to central AQ command. As such, Tsouli apparently kept extensive records of his operations, all of which the British captured when they found him, and at least some of which resulted in the arrests throughout the world.

The extent of the damage Tsouli's arrest has made will be apparent later, but it seems significant that the British have just now begun to talk about getting Irhabi007, with his pathetic reference to James Bond and his deadly dealings with Britain's enemies. The delay means that the Brits had plenty of time to exploit Tsouli's connections and his data, and only now have run out of fresh leads to pursue directly from Tsouli's records. Like so much of this type of warfare, the dots connect at odd angles, and although Tsouli's data may be completely exploited, they may well have found even more threads to roll up even more AQ cells.

The five-year war on Islamofascism has had more success than we know. It takes months to get news on intel operations, and during that time we keep rolling up more and more of the AQ network. Even the terrorists understand that they are losing. The only people who haven't realized it are in Congress.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 17, 2006 9:13 AM

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