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Friday, August 05, 2011

CNET:

White House: Need to monitor online 'extremism'
by Declan McCullagh

A White House terrorism strategy released today says Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks aid in "advancing violent extremist narratives" and should be monitored by the government.

The 12-page strategy (PDF), which outlines ways to respond to violent extremism, promises that: "We will continue to closely monitor the important role the Internet and social-networking sites play in advancing violent extremist narratives."

President Obama said in a statement accompanying the report that the federal government will start "helping communities to better understand and protect themselves against violent extremist propaganda, especially online."

While much of the White House document is focused on al Qaeda--which The Washington Post recently reported is on the "brink of collapse"--it also talks about domestic terrorists, neo-Nazis, anti-Semitic groups, and a broad "range of ideologies" that promote radicalization.

Today's announcement may signal that monitoring of social networks will broaden beyond the U.S. Department of Homeland Security already does. Depending on the details, it could also raise concerns about how to balance Americans' privacy rights with desire of security agencies to collect and analyze information that is, more or less, publicly available.

In June 2010, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirmed publicly (PDF) that its agents were permitted to create accounts on social-networking sites in some situations.

DHS's National Operations Center "will monitor activities on the social-media sites" using search engines, aggregators, and other tools, last year's announcement said. "The NOC will gather, store, analyze, and disseminate relevant and appropriate de-identified information to federal, state, local, and foreign governments, and private sector partners..."

In addition, the Electronic Frontier Foundation unearthed documents showing that DHS officials were sending "friend" requests to people applying for U.S. citizenship. DHS conducted extensive monitoring of social networks during Obama's inauguration.

In 2009, CIA investment arm In-Q-Tel invested in Visible Technologies, which monitors millions of posts on social-networking Web sites, Wired reported. Tax collectors, too, are "nabbing scofflaws by mining information posted on social-networking Web sites," according to The Wall Street Journal, and the FBI has previously supported legislation that would allow federal police to monitor the Internet for "illegal activity."

This move toward monitoring social networks hasn't been without controversy. A New York Times editorial suggested these techniques may go too far: "If government agents are joining social networks under false pretenses to spy without a court order, for example, that might be crossing a line."

It's also not been limited to the United States.

In 2009, the U.K. Home Office announced it would monitor all conversations on social-networking sites, including Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Twitter, and Skype, in a crackdown on terrorists' use of the Internet. So has the Chilean government. And, of course, some repressive regimes have simply blocked Web sites completely.

Update 4:20 p.m. PT: Here's some background from a House Homeland Security hearing on July 27, where Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, warned of Internet radicalization:

We're investigating the radicalization of Muslim youth in the United States. Does anybody on this panel disagree with the notion that the radicalization of Muslim youth in the United States poses a threat to our homeland security? I take it by your silence that you agree with the idea that the radicalization of Muslim youth in the United States poses a direct threat to the security and safety of our homeland security. We know that three dozen Americans have left the United States, mostly from Minnesota, to join forces in Somalia, to receive training under al-Shabaab, to receive training by Al Qaida...

And clearly, al-Awlaki is becoming the emerging threat, you know, on the scene, in my judgment. He's radicalizing Muslim youth over the Internet here in the United States. And what easier way to do it? If you can't get into the country with travel documents, why not radicalize people who are already here? [Ed. Note: Anwar al-Awlaki is an alleged al Qaeda leader. Emphasis added.]

The same day, a subcommittee of the House Intelligence Committee held a hearing, where chairman Sue Myrick, a Republican from North Carolina, also stressed Internet radicalization. Referring to Samir Kahn, a U.S. blogger who reportedly moved to Yemen:

You know he was here, we knew it but we really couldn't do anything about it. Now, he's very successful because he's in a country where he can radicalized, he is radicalizing. We have proof of that with our young people. And you know, parents are very concerned about this happening to the young people because as you said the Internet, et cetera, is very easy today for people to get on any site they want to, and you know, be involved.

So, what is it that we can do? ... You know, what can we do and ensure that in the future not only with him but with others, how do we stop this or how can we continue to fight back against what could become homegrown terrorism, none of us want to see, and you know, that happens right here in our own backyard?


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10 Comments:

Blogger Damien Charles QC said...

I would have thought that the internet and social networking was already monitored. They would be stupid if they did not.

Friday, August 05, 2011 12:24:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

monitor THIS!

Friday, August 05, 2011 12:55:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with Islam: I believe that there are moderate Muslims, but there is no moderate Islam. The Koran’s chapters are not printed in chronological order – it is a confusing mixture of often contradictory messages. A big problem appears to be the principle of abrogation, that is, that later verses can be said to cancel earlier verses which contradict them. This principle is recognized by Muslims themselves and has been named – “mansukh” (the abrogated) and “nasikh” (the abrogating) verses (Koran 2:106 and 16:101 or thereabouts) recognize this principle. It appears that Mohammed revealed verses which were pertinent to the situation of the Muslims at a particular time. When in a weakened situation the verses were tolerant towards “unbelievers.” I realize that all Muslims do not agree on exactly which verses have been abrogated. To me it appears obvious that “jihadists” regard surah 9 (which we are told is one of the last revealed chronologically) and one which contains exhortations to fight, as a surah which cancels earlier tolerant verses including the “let there be no compulsion in religion” verse. It is verse 9:29 which talks of the “jizya” tax and the humbling of the People of the Book (Christians and Jews) by fighting them until they submit.
Another problem is that the “jihadists” believe themselves to be “divinely” enjoined to create around themselves a society which lives under one form or another of sharia law. I know there are different schools of sharia law, but I also believe that all of them are incompatible with democracy. So these two problems – abrogation in the Koran and the desire of fundamentalist Muslims to live under sharia law create problems when such people emigrate to Western countries for their own economic benefit. If Muslims truly want peaceful and equal coexistence these two problems must be addressed and overcome.

Friday, August 05, 2011 6:20:00 am  
Blogger Damien said...

Damien Charles QC,

I think they are monitoring the internet, but they just don't feel like they are doing enough monitoring.

Friday, August 05, 2011 6:33:00 am  
Blogger Anhelli said...

For us in Poland ... This is norm. You still have to learn a lot about surveillance and control of recalcitrant minds ;)

See ya :)

Friday, August 05, 2011 11:59:00 am  
Blogger Pastorius said...

I agree with Damien and Damien CQ on this one.

All of us here know that our sitemeter sometimes reflects such, apparent, monitoring.

I mean, we don't know for sure, but sometimes we do get more than the usual number of government hits (sometimes going through our archives for hours on end), and sometimes we get hits directly from, say, Mountain View, California, home to Google, (once again, going through our archives).

It happens.

Doesn't worry me.

Friday, August 05, 2011 1:41:00 pm  
Blogger Damien Charles QC said...

I would add with a question, would you rather not have such monitoring of sites and end up with what could have been missing conversations and red-flags that identified nutjobs that kill our kids and blow up buildings and planes?

It would also be logical that if we assume or demand the monitoring of jihadist, radical, Christian fundamentalist or militant communist sites then are we not being exclusive and naive to not include all sites?

The last comment would be also, why worry if what you produce and say is not illegal and not aimed at something aiming to be....

Friday, August 05, 2011 4:09:00 pm  
Blogger Damien Charles QC said...

I assume that the Anonymous comment is targetted at another thread as it is O/T (let alone a perfect example of cut & paste from Spencer or Spenceresque garbage sites).

Guess kids will be kids eh?

Friday, August 05, 2011 4:11:00 pm  
Blogger Damien said...

Damien Charles QC,

I think one of the biggest questions is, how much privacy are you willing to give up for security? Truth be told through, at some point, I and just about anyone else, would say its too much. For one thing, I wouldn't want hidden cameras in the bathroom.

Friday, August 05, 2011 4:14:00 pm  
Blogger Damien Charles QC said...

Damien, I agree, that balance is the important area and in fact the effort should be put in getting that clear and well defined so that it does not become an issue or a synical excuse. In other words, get it right and then get on with the job of protecting us.

Friday, August 05, 2011 4:18:00 pm  

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