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12 March 2010
In praise of Jawas...

...and YouTube Smackdown crews, and everyone else involved in tracking, investigating, and reporting the activities of Jihad Jane.[1] I was going to title this post "In defense of..." but there's nothing here to be even a little defensive about. Having had a ring-side seat throughout the entire campaign, if there was something here that concerned me or that I thought in any way might harm law enforcement or intelligence collection activities, I would have said something.


The astute viewer will note that the headline does *not* read
"cyber vigilantes charged with interfering in a lawful investigation"

The work of removing individual videos from YouTube, while tedious, is of enormous value. The global jihad is all about the videos, and the videos don't keep themselves in circulation, al-Qaida activists do. Every once in a while a video may come along that actually has some redeeming educational or intelligence value, but those times are rare. As for the YouTube accounts of these activists, the harder the bastards have to work, the better it is for the rest of use, because all these people are doing is building a case against themselves - they are demonstrating publicly the degree to which they are committed to the cause. For investigative purposes, and to make the most of available resources, we need to know who the most dedicated activists are. Once they are on the radar, smacking down their videos and YouTube accounts does no harm - the investigators are already reading their email and know damn well what they are doing online.

Such efforts are part of what I call a supply-side approach to dealing with jihadi media. For a host of reasons it is a much better approach than trying to track and investigate every person who happens watch one of these videos. Over time such efforts will likely result in the more risk-averse jihadis dropping out, while the risk-tolerant will remain active. The result of that selection process over time is that people who we can see active online in support of al-Qaida will be increasingly likely to be involved in real-world terrorist activity as well: risk is risk, and those who have learned they can tolerate it have this way of seeking out more of it. In case the investigative opportunities this represents are not clear, just remember that at the end of the day the Internet is a public place - we can see what people are doing on YouTube, but not what they are cooking up in their kitchen.

My best wishes to all concerned: job well done. That's one Little Blue AK for Jihad Jane, and one for each of her co-conspirators arrested in Ireland.

[1] I'm not going to link to any mainstream media reports about Jihad Jane's takedown - go here for more information: http://mypetjawa.mu.nu/

Posted on 12 March 2010 @ 20:02

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