Reliable Security Information


Tech-Savvy Terror

Al-Qaeda militants issue press releases and video pleas to online advocates of jihad. In Mumbai, India, attackers affiliated with Lashkar e-Taiba navigated their November 2008 terror spree using GPS-guided boats, BlackBerrys, and Google Earth imagery. And as Israel's soldiers advanced on Gaza in pursuit of Hamas fighters last month, members of the group sent text messages to Israelis (Ynet) warning of retaliation if the offensive wasn't halted. "Telephone messages and breaching the enemy's radio frequencies are just some of the surprises we have for the Israeli side," one Palestinian fighter boasted.

Since 9/11, some U.S. politicians have depicted Islamist terrorists as unsophisticated foes, disconnected from the world they target. In October 2001, for instance, President Bush vowed to smoke out Osama bin Laden from his cave. But seven years later, bin Laden remains at large and militants like him are gaining in technological savvy, experts say. Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University, tells CFR.org the attacks in Mumbai rank among the most coordinated ever. "The terrorists would not have been able to carry out these attacks had it not been for technology," Indian security expert G. Parthasarathy told the Washington Post days after that attack. Jarret Brachman, former director of research at West Point's Combating Terrorism Center, meanwhile, says what most surprised him about the India strike is not that terrorists employed an arsenal of advanced gadgetry, but that such a strike hadn't happened sooner. "The danger I saw with Mumbai is it sets a precedent for future attacks" that doesn't require extensive training or skills, Brachman tells CFR.org.

Law enforcement officials have been preparing for the technological ascendency of terrorists for years, though most of the publicized research has centered on...

Continue reading at CFR.org →

 
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