- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 6, 2001

The terrorists who slammed jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon Sept. 11 are believed to have used messages hidden on the Internet to plan, disguise and coordinate their attack, federal authorities said yesterday.
Using the Internet, often at public libraries, the terrorists many tied to fugitive Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network connived to make it difficult for authorities to discover their developing plans and to trace their whereabouts and identities.
Today, some 580 people are under arrest or being detained by local, state or federal authorities in the United States. Several of them are being held as material witnesses, according to the Justice Department.
In France, police have found a notebook belonging to a suspected member of a terrorist group containing codes that could be used to decipher messages within bin Laden's network. They called the find a potential "major breakthrough," but said it was not clear if authorities have been able to unscramble the codes written in Arabic. The book has been sent to U.S. authorities.
The book was located in the apartment of Kamel Doudi, who spent time in training camps in Afghanistan before returning to France this past summer. Mr. Doudi, a computer specialist, fled to Britain after the Sept. 11 attacks but was arrested by British police and returned to France, where he remains in custody.
The FBI, which has assigned 4,000 agents to a massive international investigation, has declined to discuss its Internet search, but authorities said the bureau has focused on how bin Laden or other Muslim extremists may have used the Internet through numerous temporary accounts and postings to send encrypted messages and photographs on commonly used Web sites.
Some law enforcement authorities are calling the moves "e-jihad," or holy Internet war. Specialists said the messages are scrambled using free encryption programs set up by groups that advocate privacy on the Internet. They can hide maps and photographs in existing images on selected Web sites that can only be decrypted using a "private key" or code selected by the recipient.
In March, CIA Director George J. Tenet told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a closed-door hearing that terrorist groups including Hezbollah, Hamas and bin Laden's al Qaeda network were using "to a greater and greater degree" computerized files, e-mail and encryption to support their operations.
Bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks, was indicted in the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa and is believed to have been behind the bombing last year of the USS Cole.
U.S. intelligence officials and law enforcement authorities believe that extremists who have targeted the United States have developed a sophisticated system of communications over the Internet that utilize a number of popular Web sites, including among others sports chat rooms, music sites and pornographic bulletin boards.
Much of the computer software they use is available for free on the Internet, where they implant messages containing detailed maps, photographs of would-be targets, specific instructions and other information that remain undetectable among the millions of other Internet messages posted and sent daily.
Several Internet providers in the United States and overseas have received subpoenas to turn over information about the communications, including America Online, Microsoft, Earthlink, Yahoo, Google, NetZero and Travelocity. Investigators are looking for what has been described as "steganography" hiding messages on the Internet in plain sight.
The Internet also has been used by radical Islamic militants to raise millions of dollars for various terrorist organizations, who have created dozens of Web sites to help bankroll the purchase of weapons and fund terrorist training camps. The sites offer instructions on where donations can be sent or smuggled, and explanations on why the funds are needed. Some even have online shopping.
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.
They said the Internet has proven to be effective, cheap and accessible to terrorists.
Many of the sites direct funds to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, or to banks and trust accounts in Pakistan.

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