Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ordinary Americans are tracking down U.S. Web sites used by al Qaeda and jihadi sympathizers and then using the Internet to persuade the service providers to snuff out the sites.

“I do this because it has to be done,” says one blogger who calls himself a “counter-cyberjihadist” for his campaigns to post on the Web the Internet service providers (ISPs) that host the pro-jihad sites.

A perfect storm of complaints forced several ISPs to shut down Web sites just days before al Qaeda released a tape of Osama bin Laden in August, says Aaron Weisburd, director of the Society for Internet Research and host of the Web site He released a list of 19 pro-jihad Web sites, some of which were shut down in August.

The tactic was so effective that al Qaeda later said it was forced to disseminate the video directly to the networks, Mr. Weisburd said.

Mr. Weisburd’s group and other Internet users say they are regular citizens who want to help in the war on terror by acting in cyberspace against Islamist jihadis.

The cybersleuths focus most of their attention on bloggers who use servers in the U.S. to post recruitment propaganda and show violent videos of American servicemembers being killed. Once located, they encourage people to contact the service providers to shut down the Web sites.

However, Mr. Weisburd cautions that only sites that contain a low level of intelligence should be targeted. Otherwise, federal law-enforcement officials may lose actual evidence when a server company shuts a site down.

“Shutting down Web sites is a tactic, and done wisely in support of a particular objective, it can be a good thing,” Mr. Weisburd said.

“Done blindly as an end in itself it only serves to breed a resistant pest, much like the overapplication of insecticide will do,” Mr. Weisburd said.

Mr. Weisburd said in a recent report to U.S. intelligence agencies and private companies that the August surge “severely degraded” a stable network of nearly two dozen Web sites and that jihadi efforts to rebuild have had only limited success.

Adding to the complaints bringing down the Web sites, one jihadi Webmaster was arrested and another killed while fighting alongside Islamists in northern Lebanon.

The blogger who goes by the name “Rusty Shackleford” at the Jawa Report,, is currently focused on bringing down a blog called “Inshallah Shaheed” ( that features pictures of the downing of an Apache helicopter and several beheadings.

It’s not the first time that this site was driven underground by “Mr. Shackleford” and replaced by a screen shot of a blue AK-47 rifle — the symbol used by some bloggers to indicate “pwning” or owning a site.

“I just keep chasing them,” “Mr. Shackleford” said.

Inshallahshaheed responded to the latest shutdown with a post that said: “They can attack us 100 times if they want.”

“In the end, they will see us coming from many different positions to continue the media Jihad of speaking the truth. So let them bite their nails in frustration. We say to them: Perish in your rage, O filthy disbelievers!” said Inshallahshaheed, whose name means “a martyr, God willing.”

Asked why he does it, “Mr. Shackleford” said, “Because my wife won’t let me go shoot them.”

“I’m just doing my part, but it’s also very exciting,” says “Mr. Shackleford” who claims to have destroyed 30 Web sites.

Information for contacting servers hosting this and other Web sites can be found at My Pet Jawa.

“These are terrorists and terrorist supporters who use the Web to recruit people. They propagandize, they coordinate, and they raise money. That is what the bad guys are doing, and there are other private citizens who counter that,” “Mr. Shackleford” said.

Bloggers also say they coordinate with the FBI and pass on information about sites that contain high degrees of intelligence.

Paul Bresson, FBI spokesman, said they encourage the public to come forward with anything criminal or suspicious they encounter on the Internet.

“We don’t want to give away specific information here, but the virtual world is the same as the physical world. There are some bad neighborhoods in the virtual world just as in the physical world,” Mr. Bresson said.

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