“Jihad Jane” Case Shows Internet Power For Terrorist Recruiting


The abrupt transformation of Colleen LaRose from bored middle-aged matron to “JihadJane,” her Internet alias, was unique in many ways, but a common thread ties the alleged Islamic militant to other recent cases of homegrown terrorism is the Internet, reports the Los Angeles Times. From charismatic clerics who spout hate online, to thousands of extremist websites, chat rooms, and social networking pages that raise money and spread radical propaganda, the Internet has become a crucial front in the ever-shifting war on terrorism. “LaRose showed that you can become a terrorist in the comfort of your own bedroom,” said Bruce Hoffman, professor of security studies at Georgetown University. “You couldn’t do that 10 years ago.”

“The new militancy is driven by the Web,” agreed Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics. “The terror training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan are being replaced by virtual camps on the Web.” Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are scrambling to monitor the Internet and penetrate radical websites to track suspects, set up sting operations, or unravel plots before they are carried out. The FBI arrested LaRose in October after she had spent months using e-mail, YouTube, MySpace and electronic message boards to recruit radicals in Europe and South Asia to “wage violent jihad,” said a federal indictment unsealed this week. That put the Pennsylvania resident in league with many of the 12 domestic terrorism cases involving Muslims that the FBI disclosed last year, the most in any year since 2001. The Internet was cited as a recruiting or radicalizing tool in nearly every case. “Basically, Al Qaeda isn’t coming to them,” Gerges said. “They are using the Web to go to Al Qaeda.”

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