- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Radical Islamic militants looking to raise millions of dollars for various terrorist organizations have created dozens of Web sites featuring a hailstorm of slogans and selective verse to help bankroll the purchase of weapons and fund terrorist training camps.
The sites, many operating under the slogan "Know that paradise is under the shades of swords," offer instructions on where donations can be sent or smuggled, and explanations on why the funds are needed. Some even have online shopping, mostly books.
Federal law enforcement authorities said that while the principal support for terrorist groups continues to be foreign nations sympathetic to their cause, many terrorist organizations have turned to the Internet as a ready source of cash. Without access to money, authorities said, weapons and safe havens are difficult to come by.
The Internet has proved to be effective, cheap and accessible to terrorists, they said, and some of the sites draw thousands of the curious per month. In addition to raising money, the sites provide what authorities described as a ready forum to present ideology unchallenged by the U.S. government or the media.
Many of the sites direct funds to the Taliban in Afghanistan, or to banks and trust accounts in Pakistan. Last month, one site posted an "urgent" appeal for cash, suggesting that the money preferably U.S. currency be sent to the Taliban consignee in Karachi, Pakistan.
Federal officials yesterday declined to discuss measures now under way to combat Internet terrorism, although Attorney General John Ashcroft asked Senate and House committees this week to quickly pass legislation that would give law enforcement more investigative tools to capture, prosecute and convict terrorists.
"Technology has dramatically outpaced our statutes. Law-enforcement tools created decades ago were crafted for rotary telephones, not e-mail, the Internet, mobile communications and voice mail," he told the House Judiciary Committee.
Robert F. Turner, law professor at the University of Virginia and former national security adviser to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, described the Internet as a "wonderful tool, but also a dangerous weapon" that can be used with or without encryption to coordinate terrorist attacks against this country or to raise funds for those involved.
Mr. Turner, also a former deputy secretary of state and White House intelligence adviser, said in a telephone interview that terrorists who use the Internet to raise funds often do so with impunity, noting that tracking down those involved is difficult.
"The Internet is here to stay, making the job of law enforcement far more difficult," he said. "Legislators need to ensure that within the scope of effective oversight and while still protecting civil liberties, counterintelligence officials and law enforcement authorities have the necessary tools they need to track down the serious problem of Internet terrorism.
"These people could not have done what they did without a large bankroll. We're dealing with nasty people who want to do terrible things to our country," Mr. Turner said.
Lee Curtis, managing director of investigations for Kroll Associates in San Francisco, said terrorists have discovered that the Internet can be used to raise money while maintaining anonymity.
He said in a telephone interview that Web sites can be created under aliases, designed to prevent audit trails and lead investigators to "proxy servers," sites that can disguise the actual user.
"We are in a war setting, and we need to create new rules, rules precipitated by national security. None of the old rules apply," he said.
Federal law gives the Internet First Amendment protections. As a result, the FBI can track Web site creators or visitors only with a court order and in the investigation of a specific crime, although U.S. law prohibits fund raising by groups on the State Department's list of foreign terrorists.
One of the Internet sites seeking funds actually identifies three bank or trust accounts to which money can be forwarded, complete with addresses and account numbers for both foreign and U.S. currency.
The site says donations can go directly to "Jihad organizations in potentially hot countries" or to the Jihad Support Network, a loosely defined organization that supports a "holy war" against the United States.
"The main aim in front of global Jihad is to facilitate the growth of various Jihad Movements around the world by supplying them with sufficient funds to purchase weapons and train their Individuals," says another site.
Most of the sites proclaim that it is the duty of Islamic leaders to send out an army "once or twice every year to terrorize the enemies of Allah" and the responsibility of the Muslim population to assist. They also say that expelling infidels from "our land is a compulsory duty upon all."
One site listing addresses to send donations says Muslims must work diligently to "establish the domination of Islam over all other systems of life, all over the world."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide