- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 2, 2017

An Islamic State member branded an “internet terrorist” by British prosecutors was handed an eight-year prison sentence Tuesday after being caught teaching fellow extremists how to operate online undetected.

Samata Ullah, 34, was sentenced in London in connection with five terrorism-related offenses, including being a member of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, as well as for operating what investigators called a “self-help library for terrorists.”

Ullah never planned to personally wage any attacks on behalf of the terror group, according to investigators. Admittedly, however, he administered a pro-Islamic State blog in addition to producing training videos teaching extremists how to evade authorities by using encryption and security software.

The self-taught tech expert uploaded videos touting Tails, an anonymous operating system, as well as PGP, a protocol used to secure digital transmissions with end-to-end encryption, both to a French video-sharing site and his own blog, “Ansar al Khilafah.”

Ullah distorted his voice and wore gloves in the videos while vying to stay undetected himself. Nonetheless, he efforts failed after a terror suspect arrested in Kenya gave authorities evidence that ultimately allowed them to trace Ullah to his website and eventually his residence in Cardiff, Wales.

Though purged from its original home, archives versions of the blog claimed it covered “everything about the Islamic State: news updates, all media releases, and articles about Khilafa (Califate).”

“There was guidance on encryption, ways to avoid detection from police and security services, expert tuition around missile systems and a vast amount of propaganda, said Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Metropolitan Police’s SO15 counter-terrorism unit, London’s Telegraph reported.

“It was actually used by terrorists around the world, we know that, and they actually valued the support and advice he was giving,” he said. “In my view, he was an internet terrorist. He had set up a self-help library for terrorists around the world, and they were using his library.”

Offline, authorities said Ullah was equally devoted to aiding terrorists. Investigators said he purchased 30 digital storage drives disguised as cufflinks that he intended to sell to other terrorists after loading them with Islamic State propaganda and other data.

During his September arrest, Ullah was caught with a pair of cufflinks containing an operating system “connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism,” according to prosecutors.

While intelligence officials in the U.S. and abroad have blamed digital encryption for helping Islamic State members stay undetected, more conspicuous extremists are hardly few and far between. An analysis last year of 101 Islamic State-related cases tried by federal prosecutors in the United States found that 89 percent involve social media to some degree.

Intelligence officials have routinely attributed the internet with aiding in the terror group’s recruitment efforts and operations, albeit not without response. The Pentagon conducted a lethal airstrike in 2015, killing British hacker Junaid Hussain, an Islamic State sympathizer responsible for leading the group’s social media activities.

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