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Why US should be wary of attacking cyberradicals, including Al Qaeda

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The Central Intelligence Agency, however, “strongly opposed the Pentagon’s plans” to take down the three Al Qaeda forums, according to BPC research. 

Indeed, “there was quite a debate within the US government as to the wisdom of doing that and, secondly, about the legal authority for doing that,” says Peter Neumann, professor of security studies at King’s College London and director of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization, who wrote the BPC study. NO“The CIA was basically saying that this is not a good idea because we’re getting a lot of intelligence from these websites and online forums, and we’re losing that if you take these sites down.”

Nor did the takedowns reduce traffic to such sites, because their creators simply migrated to other servers. “So we’re losing these sources of information without any tangible gains,” says Dr. Neumann. 

The report argues that the US military should retain its ability to carry out cyberattacks – ”it would be stupid to not have that capability for all sorts of reasons,” adds Neumann. But such takedowns should be used only as a last resort, it maintains. These last-resort instances might include, say, another pending attack on the scale of 9/11.

Some community policing by domestic Web outlets – such as the search engine Google and the video website YouTube – could help diminish the reach of extremist propaganda, too, the report argues. Lawmakers such as Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I) of Connecticut have criticized such outlets for not more vigorously controlling extremist content.

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