America’s strategy to combat terrorism, resulting from Al-Qaeda’s 2001 attacks, falls short of its intent to defeat transnational terrorism. While the tenets of the current counterterrorism strategy were written broadly to enable global employment, this template approach proved ineffective. While focusing its efforts on dismantling terrorist organizations in Afghanistan and Iraq, America neglected parts in Southeast Asia that provided sanctuary to Islamic terrorists. Such sanctuaries facilitated the regrouping, recruiting, and training of Al-Qaeda operatives to conduct subsequent attacks against America and its allies throughout the world. The central research question is: What strategy can I employ to eliminate Al-Qaeda’s influence throughout the Southeast Asian countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines? Recommended strategy changes were generated from applying a three-step analysis approach. First, analyzing the adversary established a foundation from which to develop recommendations to counter Al-Qaeda’s operations. Second, analyzing three Southeast Asian governments’ responses to terrorist threats within their country assisted in the formulation of a counterterror strategy for the region. Finally, the analysis of the current counterterror strategy resulted in recommended adjustments to each of America’s instruments of national power--diplomatic, informational, military, and economic-to facilitate elimination of Al-Qaeda’s influence in Southeast Asia.
As mentioned, some of the most detailed information on the military structure of al-Qaeda has come from a training manual found in a computer file seized in Manchester, England by the FBI. The introduction of this document defines the three main principles of the al-Qaeda military organization: 1. Military Organization commander and advisory council. 2. The soldiers (individual members). 3. A clearly defined strategy. Immediately, these three components can be viewed as being bound to one another as a network. While the manual does implicate some form of ranking (the commanders and advisory councils), these individuals are not required for the network to function. The clearly defined strategy is stated as: “The overthrow of the godless regimes and their replacement with an Islamic regime.” is the driving force of the entire network. The claim made in my article is that terrorist networks act as “peer-to-peer” (P2P) networks, and the best candidate for study is the thriving file sharing network known as the Gnutella network. The Gnutella network is an excellent network to study for many reasons. Most importantly it is relatively small in comparison to the greater Internet, yet it is extremely powerful and effective at transferring information. Second, the Gnutella network is what is known as an open-source software project. This means that all of the code and techniques used to develop the network’s software are readily available online and are freely distributed. Finally, just as the al-Qaeda uses its network to disseminate information and resources to conduct criminal activities, the Gnutella network is primarily used as a means for distributing copyrighted material. For this reason many security features have been built into the Gnutella network to preserve the anonymity of its users. This can be directly applied to the al-Qaeda network’s desire to operate in secrecy. The focus of this piece then becomes the application of known methods for disrupting the Gnutella network to the development of defense polices for dismantling the al-Qaeda terrorist network. I believe that Hacking Networks of Terror has been unsuccessful with respect to devising real policy perspectives because the focus was too broad (looking at the Internet as a whole, instead of observing niche networks). Now, we must consider why the Gnutella network the best network to use as a basis for comparison. As we will see, there are many other, large, and more established networks...
References: “Al Qaeda Training Manual.” United States Department of Justice. Feb. 23, 2004.
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