Internet terrorism has permeated the home
On April 12, 29-year-old Tarek Mehanna was sentenced to 17 and a half years in prison for conspiring to help Al-Qaeda by promoting their idealology online to recruit followers.
When Mehanna went to Yemen in search of terrorist training and came back empty-handed, he then turned to one of the newest weapons available in the terrorist arsenal: the Internet.
Mehanna has attracted significant support from the Muslim community and civil rights groups. Supporters sent more than a hundred letters to the judge and U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, pleading for leniency. In addition, while being escorted out of the courtroom, Mehanna's followers cheered and applauded wearing "Free Tarek" T-shirts.
There were many stirring parts of the trial, most notably the speech Mehanna delivered to the judge prior to being sentenced.
A transcript of this speech has gone "viral" on the Internet.
Mehanna used excellent rhetoric in his speech to show he is not trying to reduce his sentence, but rather simply trying to convey the truth.
He started by saying that he learned from Batman to side with the oppressed, not the oppressor. He attempted to make the case that what Paul Revere and the Minutemen accomplished at Lexington and Concord by defeating the British soldiers is simply called Jihad. He falsely compares the U.S. "Shock and Awe" attack of Iraq in 2003, when America obliterated infrastructure among other things to start the war, to Sept. 11. None of these things, Mehanna said, makes the headlines.
He ended his speech by stating, "The government says that I was obsessed with violence, obsessed with killing Americans. But as a Muslim living in these times, I can think of a lie no more ironic."
According to the Anti-Defamation League, a leading civil rights and human relations agency, at least 12 of the 30 groups on the U.S. State Department's list of designated foreign terrorist organizations maintain websites on the Internet.
The uses of these websites range from basic terrorist training-called on some websites "the terrorists handbook"-to selling books and propaganda that support their cause. In addition to terrorist sites, the Internet also houses dozens of sites run by domestic white supremacist and militia groups using the information superhighway to promote their radical anti-U.S. Government agendas.
In today's era, the Internet has become a new way for all sorts of dangerous groups, including terror organizations, to find sympathizers and radicalize them.
In addition, "cyber-terrorism," or an attack on online databases or websites, has grown recently.
Cyber-terrorism has been in the media recently with attacks by both Israeli and Palestinian radical groups. Israeli banks and the Israel national airline, EL AL, have been attacked in the past year. In response, Israeli hackers have stolen the credit card information of thousands of Palestinians and posted the infornatuion online.
Both the U.S. and Israel have created new agencies in the past few years to defend themselves against cyber-terrorism. This type of warfare is no longer limited to novels and movies; it is a real threat.
All sorts of terrorist propaganda can be found by simply doing a Google search. Tarek Mehanna grew up in Boston and had a normal life. Mehanna, in his defense speech, credited research that he did on the Internet in influencing his views on America. According to the official ruling, Mehanna was ultimately convicted for spreading his terrorist message. Mehanna is a college graduate, not a radical, but the Internet was able to change that.
A website, freetarek.com, has been created in the belief that Mehanna is not an actual terrorist because he never hurt anyone physically. The website quotes Mehanna assaying that his arrest had "little to do with terrorism," implying that it was more of a statement by the oppressive American government.
However, this website fails to realize that in today's age of the Internet, Mehanna is as dangerous to society as an extremist criminal. Although he never killed or physically harmed anyone, he preached Al- Qaeda's message, which is just as dangerous. There is no limit to the number of people his words could affect because everyone is a viable target on the Internet. To quote the federal prosecutor on the case, Aloke Chakravarty, "We don't know how many people this defendant radicalized, who he has wound up and sent along their way."
Internet terrorism is a rising threat that must be recognized as a threat and stopped. We must acknowledge that the War on Terror is no longer limited to the battlefield; it has entered the home.