Before the September 11, 2001, attacks, the official counterterrorism agencies paid relatively little attention to the jihadisâ€™ online presence. But in the past few years that has changed, in large measure because of changes in the way terror networks operate. â€œNearly everything about Al Qaeda that matters is happening online right now,â€ Peter Bergen, a journalist and terrorism expert, said. Some analysts believe that Al Qaeda today is a model of what is called â€œleaderless resistanceâ€: 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.
â€œItâ€™s not as if Al Qaeda were inventing this,â€ Jessica Stern, a terrorism specialist who served on the National Security Council under President Clinton, said. Whatâ€™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. â€œSome people think that sheâ€™s a zealot,â€ Stern said when I asked her about Katz, â€œbut only a zealot would provide this kind of service.â€
Definitely worth reading the whole thing.