Hunt For Bin Laden Moves To Twitter

Oct 25th, 2008 | By | Category: Commentary

It looks like the hunt for Bin Laden is moving to Twitter.

A draft US Army intelligence report (pdf) looks at ways Twitter, social media and other new technologies could be used by terrorists. The posting of the report on the FAS site was reported Friday by Wired magazine contributing editor Noah Shachtman on his national security blog Danger Room.

The report bases its concerns on the fact that Twitter has “become a social activism tool for socialists, human rights groups, communists, vegetarians, anarchists, religious communities, atheists, political enthusiasts, hacktivists and others to communicate with each other and to send messages to broader audiences.”

“Twitter is already used by some members to post and/or support extremist ideologies and perspectives,” the report notes. “Extremist and terrorist use of Twitter could evolve over time to reflect tactics that are already evolving in use by hacktivists and activists for surveillance.”

While it may frighten some to think that Bin Laden could be on Twitter – it’s just as scary that the Army lumps human rights groups, vegetarians, religious communities, atheists and political enthusiasts together with communists and anarchists in order to build a case for monitoring Twitter.

The report outlines three scenarios for how Twitter could be used by terrorists:

  1. Scenario 1: Terrorist operative “A” uses Twitter with (or without) using a cell phone camera/video function to send back messages, and to receive messages, from the rest of his cell. Operative “A” also has a Google Maps Twitter Mash Up of where he is under a code word for other members of his cell (if they need more in-depth directions) posted on the WWW that can be viewed from their mobiles. Other members of his cell receive near real time updates (similar to the movement updates that were sent by activists at the RNC) on how, where, and the number of troops that are moving in order to conduct an ambush.
  2. Scenario 2: Terrorist operative “A” has a mobile phone for Tweet messaging and for taking images. Operative “A” also has a separate mobile phone that is actually an explosive device and/or a suicide vest for remote detonation. Terrorist operative “8” has the detonator and a mobile to view “A’s” Tweets and images. This may allow “B” to select the precise moment of remote detonation based on near real time movement and imagery that is being sent by “A.”
  3. Scenario 3: Cyber Terrorist operative “A” finds U.S. Army Smith’s Twitter account. Operative “A” joins Smith’s Tweets and begins to elicit information from Smith. This information is then used for a targeting package (targeting in this sense could be for identity theft, hacking, and/or physical.) This scenario is not new and has already been discussed for other social networking sites, such as My Space and/or Face Book. 
via Yahoo News
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  1. […] VentureBeat, Silicon Alley Insider, TechCrunchIT, Twitter Technology Blog, Podcasting News and Danger Room October 25, 2008 | jason | tinyComb  […]

  2. I agree with you 100% that the only thing is actually outrageous is the army putting terrorists and vegetarians in the same position. To me it seems like yet another case of blaming the messenger instead of figuring out how to be more efficient with working with available tools.

  3. James Lewin says:

    Svetlana – thanks for the feedback.

    I do think it makes sense for the government to keep on top of new technologies, like Twitter, but they shouldn’t be lumping anybody that’s socially active in with bin Laden!

  4. podcastmama says:

    Hackers, vegetarians, terrorists, they’re all the same to the DoD. They’re haters of meat, freedom, and DRM, you know?

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