A non-profit organization in Washington, DC is exposing more than 100 websites run by jihadist organizations but hosted by Internet service providers in the U.S. The Middle East Media Research Institute is publishing the websites on its own Internet site, in the hope that the U.S. companies will voluntarily eliminate the sites -- some of which teach violent activities and urge terrorists to attack. And VOA's Jim Fry reports some sites began disappearing within hours.
Al Qaida terrorists have shown executions. They have videotaped and posted attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. And communicated to the world their intentions -- all on the Internet.
Yigal Carmon runs the Middle East Media Research Institute in Washington, DC. He says everything on the Internet eventually ends up in the servers of U.S. Internet service providers, or I.S.P.s. "Internet is America. All internet is America," he says.
And so, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad website, he says, is hosted in Texas. An Afghan mujahideen jihadist site is on a Pennsylvania company's server.
"Supporters of Jihad in Iraq--hosted in Washington State. The caption at the top of the page says: Kill the Americans everywhere," Carmon tells us.
Rodney Loges, who runs a digital marketing firm and worked at two Internet service providers, says I.S.P.'s pledge not to monitor content under U.S. freedom of speech regulations. "And with that, they are not allowed to monitor content. Otherwise, they become responsible for that content."
But Internet providers can take down websites run by known terrorist organizations. And Carmon says the Internet companies did just that three years ago when his organization exposed what he calls Islamist websites. "No one contacted them. It just happened. We went to check what happened a week later. They were not on anymore."
Within hours of Carmon's Capitol Hill briefing Thursday, an Iraqi organization's website had been suspended by its host -- a company in Texas. Carmon claims Internet providers that learn they host terrorists or websites that incite violence can be prosecuted.
Two members of Congress lent their support to the institute.
New York Democrat Gary Ackerman, chairman of a subcommittee on the Middle East, says it is possible to act on national security grounds despite the U.S. guarantee of free speech. "One has to delve into the details, for sure,” said Ackerman, “but there is more than legal space to distinguish between argument and incitement, between conspiracy theory and conspiracy fact."
The images of terrorist training before September 11th often came from Al Qaida camps in places like Afghanistan. Now, Carmon says, the Internet is the jihadist training ground.
"This is the non-conventional weapon of the enemy. This is where they recruit people. This is where they train people. This is where they encourage them to act. The Internet is the whole world for those organizations. And without it, it is, like, without limbs."
The institute plans to continue exposing terrorists' on-line activities in the hopes of denying them a powerful weapon.