Clinton Reveals Cyberwarfare Tactics Against Al-Qaida

By Julie Griffin May 24, 2012

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton revealed in a keynote speech yesterday that an elite team of specialists has hacked into Yemen–based al-Qaida websites and altered terroristic propaganda.

Work that the “digital outreach team” performs includes locating sites where al-Qaida recruiters exploit American deaths, and alter them to highlight al-Qaida’s killings of Muslims.

Clinton’s revelation is a rare look into the behind-the-scene tactics used by the U.S. government in cyberwarfare.

At the Special Operations Command gala in Tampa, Fla., Clinton spoke for nearly half an hour about the “smart power approach” deployed by U.S. operational teams.

"We can tell our efforts are starting to have an impact because extremists are publicly venting their frustration and asking supporters not to believe everything they read on the internet,” she said. “What makes this public admittance unusual is that U.S. counterterrorism groups have denied any involvement in shutting down jihadist Web forums earlier this year.

The purpose of the speech, according to some sources, is to highlight the U.S. government’s intelligent transition from fighting terrorism on land to fighting terrorism online. Hacking into extremist websites is among the many ways specialists that comprise the “digital outreach team” fight terrorism online.

The team also uses social media and other methods to raise awareness over the hypocrisy and damage jihadists create across the globe.

“We need special operations forces who are as comfortable drinking tea with tribal leaders as raiding a terrorist compound,” Clinton said. “We also need diplomats and development experts who understand modern warfare and are up to the job of being your partners.”

The digital outreach team consists of military and civilian specialists who are fluent in Urdu, Arabic and Somali. The team relies on intelligent information, gathered from numerous sources, to dispel the terroristic sentiment that al-Qaida affiliated groups spread across the Web.

The State Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau is working with government officials from 60 different countries, training nearly 7,000 counterterrorist police and judiciaries, to locate and prosecute individuals that create terroristic assemblies.  

Edited by Braden Becker

Contributing Writer

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