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Is State Dept. hacking Al Qaeda? Not quite, but propaganda war is fierce.

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It is, she said, part of a wider bid by State Department experts fluent in Urdu, Arabic, and Somali to patrol the Internet, using social media to hammer at Al Qaeda propaganda and spotlight abuses committed by Al Qaeda, she said.

Even so, early media reports of Secretary Clinton's speech created a buzz because they mischaracterized State's move on the Yemeni tribal sites as a hacking attack on a rogue website. That would have been novel since cyberwar hacking – taking over, spying on, or attacking a computer network or website – has been the province of intelligence agencies and US Cyber Command.

Apparently the only technical skills needed to do what the State experts did was to know how to create a new user account on the Yemeni tribal forum in question (an open public website, not a terrorist or Jihadi website) and to upload or post a new message and photo to it, experts on the matter say. Add to that an ability to use Photoshop.

"There was no hacking involved at all," says William McCants, a jihadi research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, a research and development center serving the Navy. "They [the State Department team] overtly message on non-jihadi forums that anybody can sign up for. They represent themselves as a member of the US government. By law they have to identify themselves."

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