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Al-Qaidas Use of the Mass Media in Infowar/Netwar Briefer: Michael Knapp Asymmetric Warfare Analyst Africa/Middle East Division, NGIC UNCLASSIFIED Image:

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Presentation on theme: "Al-Qaidas Use of the Mass Media in Infowar/Netwar Briefer: Michael Knapp Asymmetric Warfare Analyst Africa/Middle East Division, NGIC UNCLASSIFIED Image:"— Presentation transcript:

1 Al-Qaidas Use of the Mass Media in Infowar/Netwar Briefer: Michael Knapp Asymmetric Warfare Analyst Africa/Middle East Division, NGIC UNCLASSIFIED Image: Mappa.Mundi Magazine, Sept UNCLASSIFIED

2 Preface Two years of initiative research on a moving target (global, adaptive cellular network with changing MOs) but with a consistent ideology and culture More than 200 documents, from Jan 2002-Nov 2003 Based mostly on English translations of on-line AQ articles and books, but also includes selected Arab/Muslim news articles Mostly FBIS products, but also a few translations from commercial research centers This is a detailed analysis of AQs use of the mass media as a window and weapon in information warfare/netwar Buttressed by Western professional journal and press insights UNCLASSIFIED

3 Primary Sources Jihadist Internet websites: Al-Ansar* Alneda* Al-Qalah Jihad Online ( Waaqiah Jihad Unspun Al Muhajiroun (UK) News media: Al-Sharq al-Awsat** Al-Majallah** Al-Quds al-Arabi Al-Hayah** Al-Arabiyah Television (Dubai) Al-Jazirah Satellite Channel Television (Qatar) The Observer (London, UK) * Various websites/service providers **Saudi-owned, UK-based newspaper ***Recent Alneda web address UNCLASSIFIED

4 The Global Info Environment Advances in/rapid growth of comms and info technologies has increased connectivity and dissolved barriers to info flows; but has produced a cacaphony of voices instead of global dialogue Marked by divisiveness and conflict between the haves and have nots: cultural openness, cooperation and info sharing vs. anger over inequities from disaffected groups with different values and interests (anti-modernity/anti-globalization) Reflects the way non-Westerners see new world order: struggle for power, lack of acceptance of Western ideas in developing cultures; increases support for religious fundamentalism among the young Electronically connected communities of interest are increasingly important as global players and conduits of info; and rise of transnational NGOs and loose coalitions that are a critical third force (beside governments, corporations) More diverse, unconventional (and non-static) threat: smaller groups that are more difficult to identify, analyze and track UNCLASSIFIED

5 What Kind of Warfare Is It? Information Warfare (Infowar or IW): Range of actions taken during conflict to achieve information superiority over an adversary while defending ones own information, information processes and information systems. (CJCSI ) Psychological Operations (PSYOPS): Usually considered a subset of IW. Operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and, ultimately, the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups and individuals. Its purpose is to induce or reinforce foreign attitudes and behavior favorable to the originators objectives. (Joint Pub 3-53) Netwar: Information-related conflict at a grand level between nations or societies. It means trying to disrupt or damage what a target population knows or thinks it knows about itself and the world around it. A netwar may focus on public or elite opinion, or both. It may involve diplomacy, propaganda and psychological campaigns, political and cultural subversion, deception of or interference with local media, infiltration of computer networks and databases, and efforts to promote dissident or opposition movements across computer networks. (John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, Cyberwar Is Coming, RAND, 1997) UNCLASSIFIED

6 How Do Terrorists Use Netwar? Protagonists are likely to consist of diverse, dispersed, small groups (nodes) who share a set of ideas and interests Such nodes communicate, coordinate, and conduct their campaigns in an internetted manner: relationships tend to be more horizontal or (as in Al-Qaidas case) can be laid out in chain, hub and spoke or all- channel structures, which emerge and change according to the specific task at hand Relationships are often informal and marked by varying degrees of intensity, depending on the organizations needs Internal networks are usually complemented by linkages to individuals or groups outside the organization, often spanning national boundaries Both internal and external ties are thus governed by common values as well as by a sense of reciprocal trust Employ own communications/information arteries of open societies against them UNCLASSIFIED

7 Terrorist Network Structures UNCLASSIFIED Source: Networks and Netwars, RAND Corp., Nov. 2001

8 Why is the Internet Important to AQ? Perfect C2 means: globally dispersed network is unhindered by distance; can be secure with easily available encryption software, use of steganography in graphics, and codes in open text Effective recruiting and fundraising tool; ensures continuity of operations despite capture/death of leaders and breakup of cells Widely disseminate propaganda or disinformation, use for PSYOPS to intimidate or spread fear/hate (AQ knows it must remain engaged to dominate the debate and survive) Intelligence collection means against info-based adversaries Rich, almost limitless source of/repository for information, with sophisticated search capabilities Provides and promotes anonymity and deception; hard for governments to monitor user activities, learn true identities or agendas, and control contents or usage UNCLASSIFIED

9 Why is the Internet Important? (2) Tool of the Weak: groups with limited resources and less sophisticated capabilities can compete with or even outmatch advanced nations huge media machines Provides operational flexibility (no physical state to defend) and long- range strike capability (puts distance between attack planners and their targets) Means to divert attention from a real attack scenario or confuse or disrupt defense/security efforts Mobilization means: can create solidarity and brotherhood within the larger community (diaspora) and between groups; way to maintain morale in the face of obvious reverses since 9/11 Promotes/supports franchise operations: can rely on regional/local Islamist movements to achieve aims (network of networks); these groups pose comparable threat to AQ itself Allows AQ to advance its traditional mission by non-military means using the mass media; helps build worldwide support base UNCLASSIFIED

10 The Value of OSINT The source of first resort: - Provides foundation and context for analysts that can be fused with classified info (but not substitute for it) - Provides knowledge/foreknowledge of events and significant trends for decision makers, can be shared widely - Can serve as a flag to re-evaluate info from other sources, and is sometimes more accurate/timely - Can meet up to percent of intelligence information needs Warning and alert function: unique source in crisis situations Important source for analyzing asymmetric/unconventional actors and environments (helps adjust to new target sets) Provides understanding of strategic plans and intentions; especially useful in forecasting cultural turmoil and societal upheavals, and in planning/conducting IW operations UNCLASSIFIED

11 OSINT Challenges Deluge of information and easier access to it (through the Internet) complicates identifying/compiling what is pertinent As volume of info has soared, so have opportunities for disinformation; importance of the culturally knowledgeable analyst has grown (and the ability to screen/validate info) OPSEC: Limit adversarys use of our OSINT against us Wide availability of sophisticated info search and filtering tools provides customers with their own open source capabilities, allows our foes to compete more effectively Expanded translation requirements are stretching scarce assets; language needs are changing more frequently Info providers must balance legitimate need for access against limits from copyright protection and licensing agreements UNCLASSIFIED

12 FBIS Role in OSINT Unique and valuable role in a key niche: - Worldwide monitoring, collection, translation and dissemination of foreign mass media - Driven by IC requirements (principal customer): smart front end to filter relevant info, act as overt/UNCLASSIFIED collector Regional field collection sites: - Provide immediate access to, timely processing of perishable broadcasts and press reports - Function as part of US diplomatic or military stations, with knowledge and consent of host governments - Remote sites feed collected signals to regional bureaus, HQs HQs: exploitation of less perishable/time sensitive sources, and longer term analysis of intentions, key policy shifts 24x7 Ops Center connects US Govt consumers, field bureaus UNCLASSIFIED

13 What Do AQs Motives Tell Us? Provide rationale for its pursuit of political power, and why they have chosen violence to get it Reconciles the risks with the cause: violence requires a purpose in harmony with the action to be understood as rational Serve to recruit followers: both true believers in the cause and opportunists (who like action and the feeling of belonging) Motives develop a sense of camaraderie that ensures group loyalty, solidarity, and self-protection One overriding theme: injustice from a repressive political authority; terrorists not getting their due (independent system organized by their ideology) If how injustice is perceived is understood, that perception can be removed or altered (redressal of grievances); this decreases the pool of recruits and creates divisions in terrorists ranks UNCLASSIFIED

14 Under the Shade of Swords: Inside the Mind of an Islamic Terrorist Hard for Westerners to understand what leads a person to cause his (or her) own violent end: Death is inevitable, so pursue martyrdom – the ultimate submission to God Promise to Muslims from a hadith that the gates of Paradise are under the shade of the swords – meaning that death for Allahs sake (martyrdom) is the only assured way to personal entry (and favorable consideration for ones family) into Paradise Involves personal, spiritual, intellectual and emotional considerations -- martyr must: love God more than life; be willing to sacrifice himself against power of the devil and infidel forces; see the answers to all of these questions clearly; and must overcome the physical fear of death The purest joy in Islam is to kill and be killed for Allah – Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini Appears prominently in AQ literature: heading for a key series of articles in Alneda on Why We Fight America UNCLASSIFIED

15 Al-Ansar and Alneda: AQs Main Doctrinal Platforms Al-Ansar: posted every two weeks from Jan 02-Apr 03 Created to provide a correct view of the conflict between the International Crusade and the Islamic Ummah, and revive the path of jihad taken by the first generation of Muslims First on-line magazine – four section format: - Unattributed editorial - Vision of Faith by Sayf al-Din al-Ansari - Strategic Studies by Abu Ubayd al-Qurashi - Political Analyses by Abu Ayman al-Hilali On-line books (Internet zip files) started in Sep 02: more in-depth coverage of political, military and religious topics Alneda: AQs official website; repository for single essays, up to one or more per day but not regular schedule; closed from Apr-Sep 03 Contents of both keyed to current developments in the depressed situation in the Arab/Muslim world, and in the US-led GWOT UNCLASSIFIED

16 The Center for Islamic Studies & Research Hosted by multiple legitimate ISPs, including in US (frequently uses Alneda web address), but subject to many shutdowns Multiple sections: - Centers own reports of fighting in Afghanistan, other theaters - Regular digest of world media coverage of the conflict - Books of jihad theology, and poetry about jihad - Videos such as 9/11 hijackers testament - Info about mujahedin prisoners in Guantanamo and Pakistan Like Al-Ansar, provides strategic guidance, theological arguments and moral inspiration (virtual leadership); may be used to direct AQ operational cells One of main sources for recent Internet Zip books Considered to be AQs official media organ; resilience of site shows its importance to the network UNCLASSIFIED

17 Sawt al-Jihad: AQs Newest Mass Media Vehicle Biweekly on-line magazine published by CISR since mid-Oct 03 Concerned with the situation of mujahedin and the jihad in the Arabian Peninsula 2-3 feature articles in each issue: - Interviews with top AQ leaders, and first hand battle stories from participants in attacks - Wills of mujahedin who have been martyred - Religious justifications for jihad (articles and religious rulings) - Coverage/criticism of international cooperation and domestic anti-terror activities of the Saudi regime - Excerpts from AQ books, such as al-Zawahiris Knights Under the Prophets Banner Appears to be a replacement for Al-Ansar UNCLASSIFIED

18 Al-Qaida: Key Political Themes Palestinians plight and their liberation is a central cause for Muslims, as is fighting against the anti-Islamic campaigns in Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Kashmir Bin Ladin is not only the leader of AQ, but the imam for all Muslims, thus the Islamic nation should rally around him Muslims need to wake up to their depressed condition, not stand passively by but actively participate in the (armed) jihad Complicity of the Arab/Muslim agent regimes makes them legitimate targets of the jihad too The far enemy must be targeted first, but beware of the continuing threat from the near enemy Since the UN is a lackey of the US and its tool for oppression, and is itself against Islam, it is also a legitimate target UNCLASSIFIED

19 Key Political Themes (2) Two forms of terrorism: - Commendable: the fight to stop Americas oppression of/injustice toward Muslims, and its support for the Zionists (Israel); and - Abhorred: what Israel is practicing (and US supporting) in Palestine, and what America is doing in Iraq, Afghanistan, and all over the world Americas crusade against the Islamic world will fail: Muslims adhere to their principles/faith; they are more cohesive domestically and internationally; AQ and Taliban are now a major presence on the world political and psychological map; and the Crusader enemy front is in conflict/disintegrating Fall of Baghdad marks the return of direct colonialism in the Arab world (and follows fall of Jerusalem, Beirut and Kabul) UNCLASSIFIED

20 Key Political Themes (3) US really out to control regions oil wealth, dominate Muslim territories: veiled colonization The 9/11 ghazwah (raids) were legitimate and justified, due to US mistreatment of Muslims, continuing occupation of Saudi Arabia, and support to Israeli aggression US is mistreating, illegally holding the mujahedin at Guantanamo (in subhuman conditions), they are suffering for a noble cause, and must be freed UBL is still alive, and AQ will stay the course in the fight against the US, in spite of losses in personnel and its base of operations in Afghanistan Women mujahedin are being mobilized to join the jihad AQ even took credit for the Aug 03 power outages in the Eastern US, and highlighted Americas structural weakness and ineffectiveness of response to the situation UNCLASSIFIED

21 Al-Qaida: Key Military Themes AQ is familiar with the art of war, but US military has ignored past lessons in favor of technology, and is ignorant of its current foe AQ is familiar with US writings on 4th generation/asymmetric warfare, and is using this strategy effectively to defeat the US (which still has a Cold War mentality) Guerilla warfare is the best weapon Muslims have, and the best way to prolong the conflict with the Crusader enemy Examined US nightmares – threats from: WMD; naval jihad attacks; attacks against oil supplies and US economy; Internet jihad; and the forging of interests/links between jihad groups and organized criminal groups US doesnt understand Arab/Middle East/Muslim culture, and is thus losing the information war Frequency of strikes has increased from one every two years (before 9/11) to two operations per year Iraq is now the key battlefield for the global jihad UNCLASSIFIED

22 Key Military Themes (2) Use of historical comparisons/lessons: Munich Olympics attack and 9/11 New York and Washington attacks: great propaganda victories - Surprise achieved in 9/11 conquest exceeded that of the Japanese attack against Pearl Harbor - Victories of Soviets at Stalingrad and Palestinians in Jenin were both decisive battles: revealed stronger sides weaknesses (and urban jihad ops is a strategic choice since its an Israeli COG) - US military has a history of barbarity, war crimes against civilians; targets civilians deliberately as political pressure card and for psychological warfare - Al-Aqsa Intifada is Israels Vietnam: winning the battles does not win the war - Iraq fell to America in the second Gulf War due not to US combat proficiency but treachery of Baathist regime UNCLASSIFIED

23 Key Military Themes (3) Al-Qaida has the right to use germ warfare/WMD against the US (pro- jihadist fatwa issued thereafter) US Intelligence will continue to fail due to: bureaucratic obesity and interagency competition; and a lack of understanding of a determined and creative enemy (mujahedins unconventional structure and methods, strong religious faith, decentralized ops, and constantly adapting military doctrine (denotes detailed study of our vulnerabilities) Sniper tactics are a neglected but effective tactic against infidel forces (on-line sniper manual posted soon after) US is trying to apply center of gravity theory to AQ but has missed it; but AQ knows our COG (our economy), and they are targeting it all over the world Al-Qaida has been recruiting blue eyed foreign fighters for operations in the West since they can move freely, disappear in target societies New kidnapping manual reportedly provides tactics for snatching Americans in Muslim countries, to force release of detainees UNCLASSIFIED

24 Al-Qaida: Key Religious Themes Quranic basis for perpetual hostility between Muslims and unbelievers; and (armed) jihad is obligatory (and an individual duty) for all against the infidels The West is conducting a New Crusade against all of Islam, not a war against terrorism as it claims Not all ulama (Islamic scholars) truly represent Islam: beware of those under the control of the agent regimes All who cooperate with the Crusaders are infidels Those ulama not under apostate government control need to actively support the jihad to free Muslims from injustice The importance of jihad as a means of destroying the infidel countries: annihilation of the infidels is a divine decree The Islamic Awakening is frightening the enemies of Islam UNCLASSIFIED

25 Key Religious Themes (2) Islamic law permits the killing of infidels (7 grounds); and the killing of fellow Muslims (6 grounds) The West is using radical Christian doctrine and the Crusader Church (Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox) to Christianize the Muslim world in a two-stage process: - Separate the people from Islam so they no longer have morals or ties to the faith; they then live like animals and are spiritually empty; - Missionary organizations can then influence and control Muslims, get them to do what the West wants Christianization can only take place after the campaign to spread vice and corruption succeeds; main methods are sex, corruption of women, alcohol and drugs, and imposition of deviant curricula in schools - US campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq illustrate this process - NGOs have helped to corrupt Muslim societies UNCLASSIFIED

26 Key Religious Themes (3) The Jews intend to make Iraq part of Greater Israel Shia renegades in Iran and Iraq are as much of a threat as the Christians and Jews are Western intellectuals are helping to mobilize public opinion against Muslims, justify waging a long-term crusade against Islam: Islamic threat to Western civilization (Friedman, Huntington, Lewis, Pipes) Client governments are aiding the Zionist-Crusader alliance by supporting its Westernization/anti-Islamist campaign US is imposing secularism on the region by force, and will implement this throughout the Muslim world after occupation of Iraq Separation of religion and state transforms the human being from a servant of God into a base animal driven by self-interest Democracy: one of fruits of secularism that takes ultimate authority away from God, places peoples will above Gods UNCLASSIFIED

27 AQ Lays Out Its Strategy Primary mission before 9/11: arm, train, ideologize and finance as many mujahedin as possible, and assist Islamist groups worldwide Objectives of 9/11 attacks: provoke massive Western response to show it is really at war with Islam; and force Westerners and Muslims to take sides (since their fundamental values are incompatible) Another consequence of 9/11: successfully globalized Islamist war against the West (negated regional perceptions, nationalist dimension of the conflict) Convince both Muslims and Westerners that they are in a fight to the death: make violent clash of civilizations (Huntington) a reality Attacks help to show high treason of Arab governments against their publics, as well as emphasize Western ineffectiveness Increased investment in propaganda to compensate for physical losses Current focus: expand the battlefield and exhaust the enemy: targeting US interests everywhere stretches resources, spreads fear UNCLASSIFIED

28 AQs Counterpropaganda Strategy Scientific foundations & principles to counter US media use and psychological warfare: - Determine strongest parts of enemy propaganda to identify degree of importance, then refute them - Remove enemys ideas from symbolic and emotional framework so they can be attacked and contradictions identified - Attack weak points and avoid confrontation when enemy propaganda is at its strongest - Respond with events - Turn peoples eyes toward their leaders to put enemy on defensive, and take the initiative to affect public opinion US Info Dominance strategy must be understood, opposed Muslim technical experts need to break US computer monopolies so infidels wont know mujahedins secrets UNCLASSIFIED

29 Four Strategic Stages to Conflict 1. Current guerilla and information war against the external enemy, since the West cant be defeated in a traditional confrontation 2. Defeat Arab agent regimes by influencing/removing their patron: getting US to limit their power and direct their actions removes their legitimacy; and undermining US support makes them more vulnerable 3. Stage of Isolation: remove the US Administration from its own citizens and from its allies (exploit Afghan and Iraqi campaigns) 4. Direct confrontation with the US: defeat of Great Crusader on its own soil will lead to loss by the West, shift international COG back to the Islamic world But…no real political vision of how modern Islamic world would look post-conflict; utopian sharia-based society and global jihad are the only well-defined goals UNCLASSIFIED

30 Shifts in Targets and Audiences Main targets (physical attacks): - Initial focus on US and Israel, and Arab/Muslim agent regimes - Shift to non-Arab/ -Muslim allies: France, UK, Australia, Russia, Japan - Hard -> soft targets; expand to third world regions - Fellow Muslims anywhere, if they are aiding the infidels Primary audiences (virtual influence): - Focus on Muslims in Arabian Peninsula, Middle East, South Asia -> Central and Southeast Asia, Europe (especially Balkans) - Muslim diaspora (ummah) worldwide, particularly brethren in Palestine and Iraq, and Muslim youth everywhere - Mujahedin networks (both affiliated and not with AQ) - US public: accept Islam or prepare for more attacks; policies in Afghanistan and Iraq doomed to fail - Publics of US allies and even non-aligned nations Ability to move quickly from compromised/blocked websites UNCLASSIFIED

31 AQ University for Jihad Sciences Reported attempt (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, 20 Nov 03) to establish Internet University; claims hundreds of Muslims are joining, some specialists and leaders have already graduated Described as follow-on to Mujehedin Services Bureau (MAK) and training camps in Afghanistan; designed to teach all jihad sciences and their rules and types Vehicle for recruiting and ideological/technical training Faculty reputed to be mujahedin leaders, headed by UBL (Dean of podium of the university) Supposedly consists of several colleges offering specialties in: electronic jihad, media jihad, jihad with self and money, technology of explosive devices, booby trapped cars and vehicles Could be virtual replacement for lost ops base, training facilities UNCLASSIFIED

32 Conclusions Though its methods continue to change and its targets to shift, AQs underlying goals and ideology have not AQs intention to attack has not diminished, even as its operational capabilities have suffered Perception management is central to AQs war against the West Leadership clearly describes networks doctrine, strategy (and even some tactics) in its Internet and news media articles Anniversaries exploited for propaganda value, but not tied to strikes AQs hallmark is adaptability: becoming more a state of mind (ideology), less an operational structure to survive, inspire/ instigate wider Muslim community and other movements, and remain the Islamist vanguard UNCLASSIFIED

33 Conclusions (contd) As Americans, we must first understand our adversaries – get inside their head – to discern what motivates them, how they think and why Study of AQs writings and speeches provides insight into the cultural and religious language they are applying against the West and their own governments and populations Lack of a counter ideology by Muslims is damaging their world, has tilted environment in favor of radical Islam and violence Poor planning and inappropriate conduct of IW/PSYOPS by the West has allowed terrorists to define, shape info environment Knowledge of terrorist political goals and motives matters: can help frustrate their objectives, isolate terrorists from the rest of the community they thrive in (sea of injustice), and protect our own forces and society UNCLASSIFIED

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