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Al_Qaeda.com (Please Spare Me The Lame Twitter/Tumblr Jokes)

The Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock has a great piece about the mechanics of Al Qaeda’s internet presence. Working off of Sony Vaios (my old, pre-Mac laptop!), the jihadis are able to put out a new propaganda tape every four days or so, meaning that Ayman al-Zawahiri is like the Lil Wayne of terrorism. Note how easy it seems to be for them:

“We all think of them as a bunch of guys living in caves, and Miran Shah may be the other side of the moon,” said a senior U.S. counterterrorism official speaking on the condition of anonymity, referring to a Pakistani town near the Afghan border that has served as a refuge for al-Qaeda operatives. “And yet their guys are all communicating on laptops, just like I do from one of the most wired buildings in Washington.”

Speeches by bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders can appear online less than a week after being recorded, although it usually takes two to three weeks before they are released, officials and analysts said.

“It is clear that they are under no real pressure,” said Diaa Rashwan, an analyst at al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “They are very relaxed. They have plenty of time to go to their film archives and edit their productions.”

Earlier this year, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) tried to get YouTube to pull down a bunch of extremist videos. Not only will that not stop AQ’s distribution network — as an anonymous counterterrorism official tells the Post — but it would be short sighted. What we should be doing is listening to the recordings’ substantive message. We should learn why Al Qaeda uses the themes it uses, and how it uses them, and to what effect, and then counter that strategy.

Under Bush, we’ve been terrible at that. Mike Scheuer, former chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, used to tell a story about how every time there was a new bin Laden or Zawahiri video, the agency would scramble to find ornithologists and geologists to study the tape for clues as to where the terrorists were. A subordinate priority was to find Arabic speakers to understand what they were saying. That’s completely bass-ackwards. Eventually both men will die. But their message will live on. That’s the entire point of spreading their propaganda virally.

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