Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 24, 2006

New Yorker magazine profiles the SITE Institute

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Christian Beckner on May 24, 2006

This week’s issue of the The New Yorker contains an interesting profile of the SITE Institute and the woman who runs it, Ritz Katz. From the story:

Before the September 11, 2001, attacks, the official counterterrorism agencies paid relatively little attention to the jihadis’ online presence. But in the past few years that has changed, in large measure because of changes in the way terror networks operate. “Nearly everything about Al Qaeda that matters is happening online right now,” Peter Bergen, a journalist and terrorism expert, said. Some analysts believe that Al Qaeda today is a model of what is called “leaderless resistance”: self-appointed cells operating with help and inspiration from materials that they find online. Traffic rose dramatically after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq, posted a video of the beheading of the American contractor Nicholas Berg.

“It’s not as if Al Qaeda were inventing this,” Jessica Stern, a terrorism specialist who served on the National Security Council under President Clinton, said. What’s unique about Islamic terror and the Internet is that there is up-to-the-minute access to what terrorists are thinking. Rita Katz is, in a sense, the natural complement, the engineer of a leaderless counter-resistance to the terrorist groups. “Some people think that she’s a zealot,” Stern said when I asked her about Katz, “but only a zealot would provide this kind of service.”

Definitely worth reading the whole thing.

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