Gabriel Weimann, Terrorism in Cyberspace (Book Review)

Gabriel Weimann, Terrorism in Cyberspace, Woodrow Wilson Center Press & Columbia University Press, 2015

Book Review by Elias Davidsson, 2 December 2016

The author’s book is presented by Bruce Hoffman, who wrote the introduction, as embodying “the hallmarks of Weimann’s decades of scholarship: presenting a comprehensive, thoughtful, and sober analysis – supported by voluminous empirical evidence and trenchant, revealing examples.” Gabriel Weimann’s book does not deserve such ode. One of the elementary tasks of a scholar is to substantiate the facts he or she is presenting by attaching to factual claims verifiable and trustworthy evidence. Another elementary task of scholarly writing is to refrain from omitting relevant facts. As shown below, Weimann’s book represents a collection of unsubstantiated claims and negligent omissions. His book lacks therefore scholarly value. Bruce Hoffman’s book on terrorism, is incidentally the subject of a review by myself.

The following are merely selections from Weimann’s unsubstantiated claims and negligent omissions, with the page number indicated:

p. 4: “Today, all terrorist organisations, large or small, have their own websites, Facebook pages, or uploaded Youtube videos” [The author failed, upon my written request, to indicate a single URL for such website]

p. 5: “Al-Qaeda core have publicly discouraged sympathisers from travelling to conflict zones in order to join them.” [The author does not provide any evidence for such call by Al-Qaeda]

The author provides on p. 9 the following explanation how he and his team succeeded to locate terrorist websites: “To locate the online terrorist websites, frequent systematic scans of the internet were conducted using the various keywords and names of organisations in the database [that preexisted the search for these organisations…] First, the standard search engines (e.g. Google, Yahoo!, Bing) were used. The Internet is a dynamic arena: websites emerge and disappear, change addresses, or are reformatted [Note the passive language, as if no traceable human beings make these changes]. Years of monitoring the terrorist presence online has provided information on how to locate their new sites, how to search in chatrooms and forums of supporters and sympathisers for the new ‘addresses’ and how to use links in other organisations’ websites to update existing lists. This was often a Sisyphean effort, especially since in certain instances – for instance, al-Qadea’s sites – the location and the contents of the sites changed almost daily.” [Going by this explanation, only people like him – and not ordinary young Muslims – can through “Sisyphean efforts” locate jihadi sites whose location “changes almost daily”.  One is entitled to ask: Who has a motive to create a “jihadi” website and delete it almost immediately, if not those intending to prove that such websites exist but do not wish anyone to examine these sites?]

p. 10: “In 2003 there were more than 2,600 terrorist websites. The number rose dramatically, and by October 2013, the project archive contained more than 9,600 websites serving terrorists and their supporters.” [For these claims, the author provides not a shred of evidence, nor does he explain what is included by the term “terrorist websites”.]

p. 21: “The anonymity of the internet is very attractive for modern terrorists.” [The author fails to explain why anonymity is attractive to organisations that allegedly seek members and sympathizers. The author fails to mention that anonymity is absolutely necessary for intelligence agencies whose agents impersonate jihadists].

p. 22: “An abundance of more sophisticated measures and technologies also increase the difficulty of identifying the originator, recipient, or content of terrorist online communications. These include encryption tools, and anonymising software that are readily available online for download.” [What would organisations seeking members and sympathizers gain by concealing their identity? Concealing one’s identity would be, however, absolutely necessary for agents of intelligence services who impersonate Islamists. The author neglects to mention this fact]

p. 28: “On its website, AQIM published a computer game called ‘Muslim Mali’, in which players operate a military aircraft carrying AQIM’s black flag to attack and destroy French aircraft in the Sahara.” [The author does not indicate the webpage and no source for this claim is given]

p. 30: “In the planned attempt by terrorists to blow up fuel tanks at New Yorks’s John F. Kennedy International airport in 2007, court records indicate that the plotters utilised Google Earth to obtain detailed aerial photographs of their intended target.” [The author fails to mention that this “planned attempt” was led by an FBI informant]

p. 30: “‘It is not necessary […] for you to join a military training camp, or to travel to another country […] you can learn alone, or with other brothers, in [our arms] preparation program”, al-Qaeda leader Abu Hajir al-Muqrin announced in 2004.”  [The author mentioned earlier the difficulty in locating jihadi websites. Now he claims that wannabe terrorists do not need to travel to another country but can “learn alone”, presumably from websites whose locations “change almost daily”. The author does not provide the source for this alleged announcement.]

p. 31: “In November 2008, the SITE Intelligence Group reported that al-Nusra Media Battalion, a jihadist media group, had compiled into a single file a collection of explosives manuals totalling over a thousand pages and posted the file on jihadist forums.”  [SITE Intelligence Group, run by Rita Katz, an Israeli, Zionist, woman, is certainly no impartial source on Islamic terrorism. SITE does not provide evidence that a jihadist media group by the name of al-Nusra Media Battalion at all exists. The author does not mention the possibility that this “jihadist media group” might be located in the offices of Mossad, CIA or in Hollywood.]

p. 32-3: “The eleventh issue of Inspire published online in June 2013, devoted almost all of its forty-odd pages to glorifying what it calls the BBB: the “Blessed Boston bombings”. …The main takeaway from the June 2013 issue is that its editors are unabashedly pleased that copies of their magazine were found in the Tsarnaev brothers’ home.” [The author does not provide the source for this allegedly jihadi magazine – Inspire – whose publisher has no name, address, phone number or website]

p.33: “Al-Qaeda operatives relied heavily on the Internet for the planning and coordination of the 9/11 attacks.  Numerous messages that had been posted in a password-protected area of a website were found by federal officials on the computer of arrested AQ terrorist Abu Zubaydah, who masterminded the 9/11 attacks.” [The author appears to be completely ignorant about the 9/11 attacks. First, there is no evidence, whatsoever, that Al Qaeda operatives planned, coordinated or carried out these attacks (see my book Hijacking America’s Mind on 9/11 for details). This fact alone disqualifies the author from claiming the title of a scholar. Second, not even the US government has claimed that Abu Zubaydah has masterminded the 9/11 attacks. According to the official US legend, which in turn is fraudulent, the 9/11 attacks were masterminded by one Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who allegedly confessed from his prison in Guantánamo to have mastermind 9/11 as well as some other 30 terrorist plots, including an attempt on the life of the pope. The U.S government has shown no inclination to have him tried and sentenced]

p. 33-4: “Mohammed Atta’s final message to the other 18 terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks is reported to have read: ‘The semester begins in three more weeks. We’ve obtained 19 confirmations for studies in the faculty of law, the faculty of urban planning, the faculty of fine arts, and the faculty of engineering’ (quoted in Fouda and Fielding, 2003, 140)” [The author cites controversial authors, who in turn have provided no credible source for this bizarre message. No official source is known to have corroborated the above claim.]

p. 34: “Following a popular business trend, many [terrorists] have turned to e-commerce, selling CDs, DVDs, T-shirts, and books as a means of raising cash.” [The author fails to produce a single concrete and verifiable example of such commerce]

p. 34: “Many terrorist organisations have added links to their sites which advise visitors on how to donate funds electronically via bank transfer.”  [The author fails to produce a single concrete and verifiable example of such attempts at collecting money]

p. 35: “The terrorists who carried out the July 7, 2005 attacks on the London transportation system were also self-financed, in part through credit card fraud.” [The author does not provide any reference to his claim that the alleged authors of the London attacks engaged in credit card fraud. The author omits to mention that the official account of the London bombings is disputed]

p. 37: According to the author Osama bin Laden remarked in 2002: “It is obvious that the media war in this century is one of the strongest methods; in fact, its ratio may reach 90% of the total preparation for the battles.” [The author does not cite any verifiable source for this alleged remark by Osama bin Laden. This statement would not either make any sense, as neither bin Laden nor “Al Qaeda” owned any media with which to prepare a battle]

p. 40: “The most visible part of AQ’s online presence involves the spread of propaganda, which is created by the group’s media production branch, As-Sahab. [The author does not produce any concrete evidence that this “media production branch” exists.]  “This organisation uses modern technology and semiprofessional hardware to produce its video statements and distribute them worldwide.”[The author presents no source for these claims] “Al Qaeda also operates radio and television broadcasting online along with its online production facility, the GIMF, one of Al Qaeda’s mouthpiece groups.” [The author produces no evidence for this claim, either. A German court revealed, incidentally, that GIMF was a joint venture between the FBI, SITE Intelligence Group and German intelligence (BND), who bamboozled a handful of gullible young German Muslims to play around with jihadist materials that they posted on the internet under the name GIMF. The operative behind this scam was revealed as Joshua Devon, Rita Katz’s husband, and employee of SITE Intelligence Group. According to German media scholar Sabine Schiffer, German intelligence (BND) tasked SITE with this scam. These young people did not produce videos but merely posted videos they got from…somewhere. After being entrapped, they were arrested, tried and sentenced, and ensured the production of news reports about the continuous threat of terrorism.]

p. 45: “A simple search for jihadi videos on YouTube, will reveal hundreds of AQ video clips.”  [The author fails to refer to a single example of a video clip on Youtube that is produced by the ubiquitous Al Qaeda, an outfit specialized in promoting the fear from Islam]