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Adam Gadahn and Al-Qaeda's Internet strategy.

In May 2004, the FBI announced that it was searching for Adam Yahiye Gadahn, a 25-year-old American, for his suspected role as an al-Qaeda operative. A few months later, a 75-minute videotape was released in which a masked man calling himself "Azzam the American" claimed to be a member of al Qaeda and threatened that "the streets of America" would "run red with blood." (1) In an interview on the tape, he explained his motivation for joining the terrorist organization. (2) In recent years, Gadahn, a modern-day Tokyo Rose of sorts, has become somewhat of a celebrity on Internet sites such as YouTube and has emerged as one of the leading voices of As-Sahab, al-Qaeda's media arm.

Amazingly, the young native of California and convert to Islam was able to ingratiate himself into the highest echelons of al-Qaeda. A seemingly alienated youth, he underwent a radicalization process and made his way to Pakistan, where he was recruited and served as a translator. Over the years, his various video pronouncements suggest a change in al-Qaeda's strategy. Al-Qaeda has effectively been transformed from a centralized hierarchy to more of a communications hub that exhorts jihadist cells and Islamist lone wolves to commit acts of terrorism and resistance on their own initiative without central direction from the organization.


Adam Gadahn was born on September 1, 1978, in Oregon and raised in California. His parents were products of the 1960s counterculture. Settling on a 40-acre goat farm in a remote part of Riverside County, they decided to abandon the American consumerist lifestyle in favor of austere isolation and self-sufficiency. Their home had no running water, and they produced their own electricity from solar panels. For years, they did not own a telephone or have a mailing address. (3) They learned how to slaughter goats according to Islamic halal strictures. (4) Adam's father, born Philip Pearlman, later changed his surname to Gadahn, which is derived from the biblical name Gideon. Presumably, the Arabic-sounding name would be more palatable to his local Muslim customers in the region to whom he sold meat.

Although Philip Pearlman was born a Jew, he was a non-believer. Adam's mother, Jenifer, was a Catholic from Pennsylvania. Together, they raised their children as agnostics, but Phillip Gadahn later embraced Christianity after undergoing a spiritual experience. Adam Gadahn's paternal grandfather, Carl Pearlman, was a prominent surgeon and urologist. Carl's wife, Agnes Branch, was an editor for The Christian Chronicle newspaper. In 1948, they and their two small children arrived in Santa Ana from the East Coast. Although he did not practice his religion, Pearlman was very active in Jewish causes. He once sat on the Board of Directors of the Anti-Defamation League, a prominent Jewish defense organization. Later, he served as chairman of the United Jewish Welfare Fund and was an avid supporter of Israel. He once won a humanitarian award for promoting peace among religions; yet, he encouraged his children to think freely and raised them as agnostics. (5)

Music runs deep in the family. Carl Pearlman played the violin, and Agnes Branch was an accomplished pianist. While a student at the University of California-Irvine, Philip Pearlman brought rock bands to campus. For a while, he dabbled in the psychedelic rock scene, playing guitar for a band called Beat of the Earth. The band recorded an underground classic titled "Relatively Clean Rivers," which was released in 1967. After he converted to Christianity, some of his new religious ideas were reflected in an album he recorded in 1975 titled "Relatively Clean Rivers." (6) As an adolescent, Adam Gadahn also developed an abiding interest in music. He once wrote for an online death-metal magazine called "Xenocide." Ironically, he is now affiliated with Osama bin Laden, who eschews music, calling it "the flute of the devil." (7)

Adam's parents gave him the middle name Yahiye after the Arabic name for John the Baptist, whom Muslims consider to be a prophet. (8) By all accounts, Adam was an exceptionally bright child. Described as bookish, shy, gentle and conscientious, the young Gadahn enjoyed both rock guitar and classical music. (9) His parents homeschooled him and his three siblings, and they joined several Christian home-school support groups. (10) A former associate, Spinoza Ray Prozak, who operated a weekly radio show on a student-run station at Pomona College, recalled that Gadahn was often withdrawn and interested in things external. (11) In 1995, at the age of 16, Adam Gadahn moved in with his paternal grandparents in the Floral Park neighborhood of Santa Ana, California. He soon found a job in a computer store and became interested in the Internet. A seemingly alienated youth, Gadahn converted to Islam when he was 17 years old.


In a sense, Gadahn's conversion to Islam was emblematic of his family's tradition of personal and spiritual exploration. (12) In an online testimonial titled "Becoming a Muslim," which was posted on the University of California's Muslim Students Association's website in 1995, he recounted his upbringing and spiritual development. (13) As he explained, his father, a nonbelieving Jew, later adopted Christianity after he picked up a Bible he found on the beach. The Bible left a deep impression on him and influenced his subsequent spirituality. During his homeschooling with other children, Adam was exposed to fundamentalist Christianity, which he described as an "eye-opening experience."

Still, Gadahn was never really comfortable with Christianity. As he later explained, he was taken aback that Christians prayed "to Jesus," unlike Muslims, who revered him as prophet, but not the literal son of God. To Gadahn, this anthropomorphic notion of God was "absolutely ridiculous," and he gradually realized that he "could not be a Christian." Nevertheless, still intellectually curious, he listened to the radio sermons of so-called prophecy experts on Christian radio. The various conspiracy theories that they propounded, along with their "rabid support of Israel" and religious Zionism, as well as their sermons about the Islamic threat, exerted a "strange fascination" on him. Around that same time, he became "obsessed with demonic Heavy Metal music." His family did not approve of that, and, in retrospect, Gadahn conceded that their consternation was understandable.

A turning point in his life came in 1995, when he was 16 and moved in with his grandparents in Santa Ana. While there, he had access to a computer, which enabled him to browse the web. Eventually, he came across folders on America Online and various Usenet newsgroups that contained discussions on Islam and other religions. Gadahn found the discussions on Islam to be the most intriguing. (14) To him, the Islamic principle of God as a non-anthropomorphic deity, beyond human comprehension, was more plausible than the Christian conception of God. Fondly recalling his early life experiences with Muslims, Gadahn believed that they did not fit the negative stereotype of the "bloodthirsty, barbaric terrorists that the news media and the televangelists paint[ed] them to be." This attitude facilitated his subsequent conversion to Islam. In the fall of 1995, he visited the Islamic Society in Orange, California, where he told the person in charge of the library that he wanted to become a Muslim. He was given reading materials and, on November 17, made his shahada, or profession of faith, thereby formally converting to Islam at a small ceremony in front of a masjid, or mosque. (15)

Not long after his conversion, Gadahn fell in with a small group of men who held discussion groups in the mosque. More radical than their fellow congregants, they had a rigidly legalistic interpretation of Islam, which was reflected in their discussions. He became very close in particular to Hisham Diab and Khalil Deek, two men who held extremist views. Diab and Deek ran a charity front called Charity without Borders. The Islamic Center was believed to have been a focal point for al-Qaeda in the United States. For example, in December 1992, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman visited the Islamic Society to lecture about jihad. Known as the "blind sheik," Rahman was a very important cleric in the global jihadist movement and was affiliated with the Egyptian al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (the Islamic Group). A year after his visit to the Islamic Society, he was indicted for his alleged involvement in the 1993 plot to destroy the World Trade Center in New York. (16) It later transpired that Deek (AKA Joseph Adams), a computer programmer who resided in Anaheim, was a suspected al-Qaeda operative and had been under investigation since the late 1980s. Reportedly, he had connections with Abu Zubaydah (a principal organizer of the 9/11 attacks who recruited Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the hijackers). It was through Deek that Gadahn most likely made contact with al-Qaeda. (17) Both Deek and Diab belonged to a terrorist cell based in Toronto that included Ahmed Ressam, also a member of al-Qaeda, who was involved in the so-called Millennium plot to bomb the LAX airport and targets in Jordan. (18)

During this time, Gadahn adopted radical political views. Under the influence of his extremist friends, he began growing a long beard and wearing Saudi-style robes. Diab's ex-wife, Sarah Olson, commented that Gadahn's blind obedience to his new peers stood out. Members of the circle frequently castigated "the Jews" and claimed that they were running America to the detriment of the country and Muslims worldwide. They criticized those congregants who fell short of their pious beliefs. For example, they derided the president of the mosque, Haitham "Danny" Bundakji, as "Danny the Jew" and circulated fliers to that effect. In one incident, Gadahn punched Bundakji because he admonished him for not showing proper respect to the mosque's imam. For the assault, Gadahn was convicted and sentenced to two days in jail and 40 hours of community service. He ignored the community service, and a warrant was issued for his arrest; it is still active. (19)

In a thorough study on the radicalization of homegrown American and British terrorists, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross (20) and Laura Grossman identified six manifestations of this process. First, radicals have very legalistic interpretations of Islam in which they adopt a rules-based approach: the Quran and the sunnah provide strict guidelines for virtually every aspect of daily life. Second, they come to "trust only the interpretations of a select and rigid set of religious authorities." Third, they "perceive an inherent schism between Islam and the West--believing that the two are at odds and possibly even incapable of coexistence." Fourth, they tend "to view alternative interpretations and practices of Islam to be theologically incorrect" and regard them as "personal affronts." Fifth, they begin to impose their extreme interpretation of Islam on others. Finally, eventually, they develop a political radicalization reinforcing their religious extremism that can culminate in jihad. The study found that a person's theological understanding of Islam was a strong factor in the process. Around 20 percent of the subjects had a spiritual mentor, a more experienced Muslim who gave specific instructions and directions during their radicalization. (21) These findings fit the Gadahn case quite well. Getting deeper into the radical Islamist milieu, he isolated himself from non-Muslim family members and effectively tried to block out the Western world. He lived in a drab apartment in which the only decorations were Islamic sayings of the Prophet Mohammad and a timetable for salat (prayers). As he adopted an increasingly legalistic view of Islam, some of his instructors guided him to a more radical path, lecturing him on the evils of the United States and Western society. (22) He came to see Islam and the West as irreconcilably opposed. Eventually, Gadahn made his way to Pakistan. While there, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks, is believed to have recruited him. (23)

According to his family, Gadahn moved to Pakistan in 1998 and married an Afghan refugee. His mother last spoke to him by phone in March 2001, when he told her that he was working for a newspaper in Pakistan and that his wife was expecting a child. (24) Not long thereafter, Gadahn made his way to an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan called Al Faruq. At the camp, he translated U.S. military manuals into Arabic so that they could be circulated among mujahedeen. The CIA believes that Gadahn associated with the al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah as well as John Walker Lindh, "the American Taliban," during his time there. (25) According to the FBI, both Abu Zubaydah, who was apprehended in 2002, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was apprehended in 2003, mentioned Gadahn during their interrogations. The CIA believes that Gadahn participated in a number of "face-to-face brainstorming sessions" with Mohammed. Gadahn gained the trust of the senior members of al-Qaeda and began to hear talk of a major attack against America, but he later recalled in a video that he thought it would occur in Middle East, rather than on American soil. (26) Supposedly, Mohammed asked Gadahn to participate in a plot to blow up gas stations in Maryland, but he declined, due to his wife's pregnancy. (27) Gadahn is believed to be a member of al-Qaeda's media committee, under whose direction the organization's propaganda has become more sophisticated. (28)


In his first videotape, released in October 2004, Gadahn appeared wearing black sunglasses and a headdress wrapped around his face. Identifying himself as "Azzam the American," he announced his relationship with al-Qaeda and warned in an angry voice that "the streets of America shall run red with blood." Over the years, his English has attained a vaguely Middle Eastern accent, and his pronouncements are often interspersed with sentences in Arabic, which he seemingly speaks fluently. Other broadcasts soon followed. In 2005, on the fourth anniversary of 9/11, he appeared in a video describing the attacks as "blessed raids." He went on to predict that there would be future strikes in numerous cities, including Los Angeles and Melbourne, commenting that "this time, don't count on us demonstrating restraint or compassion." (29)

Finally, on July 7, 2006, the first video was released in which Gadahn appeared unmasked. Titled "Invitation to Islam," Gadahn appeared sitting next to bin Laden's chief lieutenant, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. Astoundingly, in the introduction, Zawahiri referred to Gadahn as a "brother" and as a "perceptive person who wants to lead his people out of darkness into the light," (30) imploring the audience to follow his example. The video was significant because al-Qaeda's leadership had never before given one of its members such a direct and intimate endorsement. (31) In the 48-minute video, Gadahn urged various "Zionist crusader missionaries"--including Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer, Michael Scheuer, Steven Emerson and President George W. Bush--to accept Islam. Further, he urged U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq to "escape from the unbelieving army" and "join the winning side." (32) While discussing civilian casualties in Iraq, he even went so far as to advocate the killing of Marines in his home state of California: "It's hard to imagine that any compassionate person could see pictures, just pictures, of what the Crusaders did to those children and not want to go on a shooting spree at the Marines' housing facilities at Camp Pendleton." (33) Based on voice analysis, the FBI determined that Gadahn was the person on the tapes. (34)

In May 2004, the FBI issued a BOLO (be on the lookout) for Gadahn. Two years later, he became the first American to be charged with treason since 1952. If convicted, he could conceivably face the death penalty. (35) He was indicted in the Central District of California for treason and material support to al-Qaeda, specifically for making a series of propaganda videos. The U.S. State Department's Rewards for Justice Program announced that it was offering a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest. (36) In May 2008, the FBI and the State Department launched a publicity campaign to spread the word about the reward. (37) In April 2009, the FBI's assistant director for counterterrorism, Michael Hemibach, announced that Gadahn had been added to the agency's Most Wanted Terrorists list, the first American to ever be designated as such. (38)

Becoming more emboldened, Gadahn appeared in another video, released in May 2007, listing five "legitimate" actions that the Bush administration had to take in order to prevent future terrorist attacks. First, he demanded that the United States pull out all "soldiers, spies, security advisors, trainers, attaches" from "every Muslim land from Afghanistan to Zanzibar." Second, he called for a cessation of support to the "apostate regimes of the Muslim world." Third, he demanded an end to all aid to the "bastard state of Israel." Fourth, he implored Bush to "cease all interference in the religion, society, politics, and governance of the Muslim world." Finally, he insisted that the United States stop all forms of interference in the education curricula and media of the Islamic world, "especially [interference] designed to alter or destroy the faith, minds, morals and values of our people." (39) Directly addressing President Bush, he predicted that his legacy would be ignominious:
 Bush, you thought you would be
 remembered by history as the president
 who waged a series of successful
 crusades against the Muslims. Instead,
 you will go down in history not
 only as the president who embroiled
 his nation in a series of unwinnable
 and bloody conflicts in the Islamic
 world, but as the president who sent
 the United States off on its death
 march towards its breakdown and
 disintegration. (40)

In early January 2008, not long after it was announced that President Bush would visit Israel to jump start the peace process, Gadahn appeared in a 50-minute video titled "An Invitation to Reflection and Repentance." He exhorted the mujahedeen to meet Bush not with "flowers and applause," but with "bombs and traps." His Muslim piety notwithstanding, Gadahn is not above humor. Reminiscent of a Saturday Night Live skit, at the end of the video he tore up his U.S. passport, symbolically renouncing his American citizenship, after which he remarked with a smirk, "But don't get too excited. I don't need it to travel anyway." (41)

Later that year, however, rumors surfaced that Gadahn might have been killed in an air strike, when a British newspaper cited intelligence experts on the raid. (42) Adding credence to the rumor was the fact that Gadahn was conspicuously silent on the seventh anniversary of 9/11. He did not produce a new video message, departing from an annual tradition that he had begun in 2004. There was speculation over his presence at an al-Qaeda safe house in North Waziristan that was the target of an airstrike on January 29, 2008. He was believed to have been en route to the village of Khushai Tari Khel to attend an important meeting with other senior al-Qaeda leaders for the purpose of planning a so-called "spring offensive" against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Customarily, al-Qaeda announces when key leaders and operatives are killed. Not long after the strike, As Sahab, al-Qaeda's media arm, released a videotape in which the group's commander in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu Yazid, praised Abu Laith al Libi, a leader of both al-Qaeda and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, who was believed to have been at the same event with Gadahn. (43) A1-Qaeda posted an announcement of his death less than 48 hours after Libi was killed. No announcement, however, was made for Gadahn. (44) Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Los Angeles office, commented that officials had not received "conclusive evidence" of Gadahn's death. After the death rumors, some observers noted that the quality of the media output declined. This added more grist to the rumor mill, as Gadahn had been involved in As-Sahab's productions from its outset in 2001. (45)

These rumors were put to rest on October 4, 2008, when a new video was released in which Gadahn appeared. Information in it suggested that the video was of recent vintage, indicating that Gadahn had not perished in the airstrike. In the video, titled "The Believer Isn't Stung from the Same Hole Twice," Gadahn spoke about current affairs, including the recent economic problems in the United States, the resignation of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, and the efforts of the Pakistani Army to eradicate the mujahedeen. (46) Another video, titled "So That the Gaza Holocaust Is Not Repeated" produced by as-Sahab and released in April 2009, featured Gadahn attired in Pakistani traditional dress. In this sophisticated documentary, he urged Muslims to support the global jihad with "men and money." Interestingly, in several ways, his commentary in the video closely paralleled both far-left and extreme-right narratives. Gadahn decried American imperialism around the world. He claimed that U.S. corporations and financial institutions were operated mostly by corrupt persons who dictated U.S. foreign and domestic policies; he even invoked John Perkins' An Economic Human and The Secret History of the American Empire. Then, sounding like a representative of the extreme right, he bluntly referred to the disgraced financier Bernie Madoff as "the Jew" and went beyond mere criticism of Zionism to excoriate Jewish power in America and the influence of the Israel lobby--mainly AIPAC--on U.S. Middle East policy.

Gadahn averred that the West was on the verge of economic collapse due to the strikes of the Islamic militants. He dismissed efforts by President Barack Obama to improve relations with the Muslim world, citing the new president's assurances to Israel that Jerusalem would remain its undivided capital and his plans to increase the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The introduction catalogued atrocities by U.S. forces in different twentieth-century wars, including Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Vietnam and, oddly enough, Hamburg and Dresden. Also featured were excerpts from statements made by prominent al-Qaeda representatives such as Bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's leader in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu al Yazid, and al-Qaeda ideologist Abu Yahya al Libi. The video contained footage of operations carried out by Arab and Afghan fighters against NATO and Afghan forces, including rocket and IED attacks and suicide bombings. (47)

The fact that a young native-born American could rise to such high stature in the al-Qaeda hierarchy has made good material for conspiracy theories. The sensational characteristics of his story lead some persons to impugn his Islamist bona tides and true intentions. On the far left, some have speculated that Gadahn was recruited by the CIA to serve as a patsy so that the agency could hype the threat that Americans are involved with al-Qaeda, thus justifying repressive measures in the United States under the guise of homeland security. (48) Adding credence to the theory is the fact that the mosque Gadahn attended, the Islamic Society, was the same venue at which Sheikh Abdel Rahman spoke, whom the CIA may have assisted to enter the country. (49) On the far right, in light of his grandfather's affiliation with the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, David Duke, the former Klan leader (and Louisiana state representative) speculated that Gadahn was a Jewish agent placed in the inner circle of al-Qaeda's leadership, According to his theory, Israel, through Gadahn, inserted a plan so that al-Qaeda would attack the United States on 9/11 to ensure that the ensuing "war on terror" would redound to the favor of Israel. Previously, Duke had advanced a conspiracy theory accusing the Israeli Mossad of orchestrating the 9/11 attacks. (50)

Despite these rumors, a close reading of Gadahn's life suggests that he is a sincere jihadist. Watching his videos over the years, one can discern changes in his affect. Initially, his words were full of vitriol, delivered with an angry demeanor. Later, he appeared more soft-spoken and pious. And in his recent appearances, he comes off as a seasoned political analyst. He appeared in an important al-Qaeda-produced documentary film, "Knowledge Is for Acting Upon," which chronicled the organization from its creation during the Soviet-Afghan War through its establishment of training camps around the world to the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington. (51) The film is regarded as a recruiting tool to motivate and attract other Western-born Muslims. Such efforts are part and parcel of al-Qaeda's media strategy.


The Internet is an important aspect of al-Qaeda's campaign, as Dr. al-Zawahiri once opined: "We are in a battle, and more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. We are in a media battle for the hearts and minds of our umma." (52) To that end, al-Qaeda has a media committee led by a jihadist with the nom de guerre "Abu Reuter." In essence, al-Qaeda has become the strategic communicator for a larger global salafist movement, and over the years, it has stepped up its media operations. As Rohan Gunaratna found, "In the twelve-month period ending in December 2007, al-Qaeda produced a cassette, sermon or video every three days." (53) In the six years following 9/11, Osama bin Laden appeared in more than 20 videos and audiotapes. His chief lieutenant, Dr. al-Zawahiri, communicated more frequently; he appeared in more than 40 productions during that period. (54)

Apparently, the Iraq War was the catalyst for the general surge in the number of jihadist online media outlets since 2003. The late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was the recognized leader of the foreign insurgents and al-Qaeda in Iraq, mobilized computer-savvy allies to fight against the U.S. occupation. (55) In the Iraq War, he embraced the video camera as a weapon and encouraged militant groups to tape their operations so they could later be broadcast for propaganda effect. (56) With the use of camcorders and the Internet, he was able to mount international media events at the tactical level, which had a tremendous strategic impact. He pioneered a new method of communication and even employed an online press secretary. The online jihadist "Irhabi 007" was responsible for posting many of Zarqawi's pronouncements on the web and played a central role in his public-relations network. (57)

A thorough study of the Internet revealed that more than 4,300 websites served terrorists and their supporters. (58) Moreover, there are now Islamist sites that target the Western audience. (59) By late 2007, West Point's Terrorism Center estimated that there were as many as 100 English-language websites offering militant Islamic views. What's more, there are sites available for non-Arabic and non-English-speaking countries, suggesting a more multilingual propaganda approach. Thus are the jihadists able to reach new audiences in the West and elsewhere. (60)

As Walid Phares has observed, part of al-Qaeda's strategy is to undermine America's ethnic and racial makeup as a way to weaken the country's national security. (61) Bin Laden once called the United States a "gathering of nations," rather than a real nation. (62) In the spring of 2007, al-Zawahiri announced in a four-minute video, "To Black Americans," that al-Qaeda was fighting for American blacks. He even invoked Malcolm X: (63)
 Al-Qaeda is not merely for the
 benefit of Muslims. That's why I
 want blacks in America, people of
 color, American Indians, Hispanics,
 and all the weak and oppressed in
 North and South America, in Africa
 and Asia, and all over the world to
 know that when we wage jihad in
 Allah's path, we aren't waging jihad
 to lift oppression from Muslims only.
 We are waging jihad to lift oppression
 from all mankind, because
 Allah has ordered us never to accept
 oppression, whatever it may be....
 This is why I want every oppressed
 one on the face of the earth to know
 that our victory over America and
 the Crusading West--with Allah's
 permission--is a victory for them,
 because they shall be freed from the
 most powerful tyrannical force in the
 history of mankind. (64)

Still, terrorism researcher Brynjar Lia found that only limited efforts have been made to recruit non-Muslims to the jihadist cause. Nevertheless, if some converts were recruited, they could conceivably pose a serious security risk. As Robert Spencer observed, by recruiting non-Middle Eastern men, al-Qaeda could enter areas where security measures would prevent Arab men from entering. (65) Some jihadist websites make reference to so-called "White Moors," or converts to radical Islam. (66) Supposedly, al-Qaeda has already entertained this scheme. According to a statement by then U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in May 2004, al-Qaeda was seeking to recruit operatives "who can portray themselves as Europeans." (67) In order to avoid the intense scrutiny of travelers from certain Middle Eastern countries, it is believed that al-Qaeda is using operatives from Chechnya, Bosnia and even Western Europe. Furthermore, some Muslim operatives are believed to have converted to Christianity in order to obscure their backgrounds and allay suspicion. (68)

The main advantage of the Internet for political causes is its interactive nature. The network of computer-mediated communication is decentralized and cannot be controlled or censored. And it permits access to those who want it. (69) According to Brynjar Lia, the so-called "e-jihad" depends significantly on free web hosting, anonymous access to web storage, and file sharing. (70) Websites on which large video files can be uploaded free and without any ID-control are invaluable to the online jihadists, allowing them to disseminate high-quality material. Lia identified several categories of jihadist sites, suggesting a division and specialization of labor. (71) It is now possible for terrorist movements to control the entire communications process, determining the content and context of their messages and the means by which they are conveyed to specific audiences. (72) Thus, al-Qaeda reaches several target audiences, including both supporters and enemies. The Interact makes jihadist terrorism more global in scope, reducing the need for physical contact and making possible the formation of a decentralized structure of autonomous groups that share the same ideology. Furthermore, the anonymity of the Internet allows extremists to interact more freely with fewer constraints than in a real world setting in which monitoring is almost ubiquitous. (73) Such trends make leaderless jihad possible.


Increasingly, individuals and small groups are responsible for some of the most lethal acts of terrorism. To be sure, well-established organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and al-Qaeda continue to mount operations; however, individuals and much smaller cells, sometimes inspired by the ideologies that inform the more established groups, are able to mount operations without central direction. The likelihood of major armed conflicts between nations has diminished; with the collapse of Soviet Communism, the world has entered a "unipolar" era. This development has drastically changed the security environment within which terrorists operate. In many parts of the world, the setting is not conducive to large, clandestine groups. Many governments are coordinating their counterterrorism efforts with the United States, as they seek to dismantle terrorist organizations and deny them funding and resources. This trend accelerated after 9/11. Moreover, new surveillance technology has enabled governments to better monitor dissident groups and potential terrorists. Larger groups cannot operate as effectively as they had in the past; they are more vulnerable to infiltration and disruption. On the other hand, the emergence of new technology also has the potential to serve as a force multiplier for terrorists. The Internet allows like-minded activists to operate on their own initiative without the direction of a formal organization. Hence, the emergence of leaderless resistance as a new operational strategy and the miniaturization of terrorist and insurgent movements around the world today. These developments mark a major departure from previous paradigms of warfare, although there is an ongoing debate in the field of terrorism studies over the significance of leaderless resistance and the degree to which al-Qaeda Central exercises direct control over its affiliates. (74)

As John Robb presaged in his book Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization, the rise of small-scale, "do-it-yourself' terrorism could become more worrisome than the centrally planned attacks about which the United States seems most concerned. (75) In fact, the State Department observed a trend whereby more dispersed, localized and smaller-scale groups are increasingly active in terrorism, often with great lethal effect. (76) All that connects the various individuals and cells is a common ideology, thus making them more difficult to detect and deter. In Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, Howard Rheingold explains how ordinary people could harness new technologies to attain political and social goals. For example, in 2001, "smart mobs" in Manila overthrew President Joseph Ejercito Estrada in organized demonstrations coordinated by forwarding text messages via cell phones. Similarly, anti-globalization activists used mobile phones, websites, laptops and hand-held computers as part of their swarming tactics that halted the meeting of the World Trade Organization in November 1999. (77)

Apparently, such tactics are now being employed by al-Qaeda and its affiliates and sympathizers. Osama bin Laden counsels Muslims that jihad is an "individual duty" for every Muslim capable of going to war, declaring that "no other priority, except faith, could be considered before [jihad]." (78) He encourages Muslims around the world to view their regional conflicts not as isolated, parochial struggles, but as theaters of a larger war in defense of Islam against the West and Zionism. Since the war in Afghanistan began in October 2001, al-Qaeda has been moving toward a more decentralized approach in which loosely affiliated groups that have only slight connections to the central organization commit acts of terrorism on their own volition. Such groups tap into Bin Laden's franchise and adopt al-Qaeda's brand name. (79) Leaderless resistance has now caught on in the jihadist movement. Ironically, the American extreme right has done the most theorizing on the concept. In 1992, Louis Beam, a longstanding activist, released the seminal essay "Leaderless Resistance" in which he argued that the traditional hierarchical organizational structure was untenable under current conditions. (80) This essay was disseminated through computer networks that Beam was a pioneer in exploiting during the 1980s.

Radical Islamists, often with only the most tenuous affiliations to terrorist organizations, have demonstrated the capacity to form ad hoc amalgamations of like-minded individuals who converge to conduct serious acts of terrorism in what Bruce Hoffman referred to as the "amateurization of terrorism." (81) As the embassy bombings in Africa demonstrated, al-Qaeda has mastered a new terrorist paradigm that researchers at the RAND Corporation have referred to as "swarming." The overall aim is for members of a terrorist network to converge rapidly on a target and disperse immediately until it is time again to recombine for a new pulse. This tactical flexibility allows al-Qaeda to stealthily seize opportunities. (82)

A Syrian member of al-Qaeda, Abu Musab al-Suri, has advanced an operational strategy of decentralization to fit contemporary conditions. His 1,600-page online tome, A Global Islamic Resistance Call, seeks to provoke a global Islamic uprising led by autonomous cells and individual jihadists. In it, he argues that it was folly for the movement to fight from fixed locations; their units could be trapped where Western forces could eventually invade and destroy them. Furthermore, he saw the traditional hierarchical model of a terrorist group as outdated, because if authorities could capture one member, this could put the whole organization at risk. Taking into account these factors, al-Suri proposed a "jihad of individual terrorism" in which self-contained cells implement their own terrorist template to start their own jihad. What is critical is a shared ideology that serves to create a feeling of common cause and unity of purpose. There would be no formal organizational links between the cells. This model fosters adaptability and creativity in the realm of terrorism. He advises Islamists to focus on jihad in their own countries of residence. (83)

The power of the Internet is integral to al-Suri's strategy of individual terrorism, in that it serves as a mobilization tool. To make leaderless resistance orderly, al-Suri recognized that it was necessary to direct such actions through strategic guidance from al-Qaeda's leaders so that they would work with a unity of purpose. Al-Qaeda's leaders have taken his advice, as demonstrated by the cases in which locally recruited cells carry out attacks under the guidance of the parent organization, as in the Madrid and London attacks. (84)

To date, Marc Sageman has written the definitive study on so-called "leaderless jihad," stressing the importance of social networks in terrorism. In his initial study, Understanding Terrorist Networks, he found that recruitment was essentially bottom-up and self-selecting, rather than a seek-out-and-recruit process. Jihadists tended to spontaneously self-organize through "bunches of guys" and joined groups with which they had a contact, such as a friend or relative. (85) However, after Operation Enduring Freedom, which began in October 2001, Sageman believes that al-Qaeda has been largely isolated in the Waziristan region and exercises little to no operational direction over affiliate groups that use the al-Qaeda name. According to Sageman, the Internet is central to the evolution of contemporary terrorism. The vast system of active communications--email, listservs and chat rooms--are essential in forging networks. A study conducted by two psychologists, John A. Bargh and Katelyn Y.A. McKenna, found that the intensity of online relationships can actually rival those developed offline. (86) The egalitarian nature of the Internet allows people to have a greater voice and communicate directly with other people scattered around the globe. The Internet has undermined the traditional hierarchy of terrorist organizations, thus paving the way for "leaderless jihad." However, a strategic drawback to this approach is that, without direction, it is difficult for the scattered jihadists to coalesce into a political organization capable of governing a state. (87)

Sageman argues that al-Qaeda's new modus operandi is to advertise demands for terrorist operations on the Internet in the hope that local networks will provide them on their own without guidance from the central organization. In a sense, it is not unlike the marketplace governed by an "invisible hand." Each small organization may pursue terrorist activities for their own local reasons, and by doing so promote al-Qaeda's grand strategy. Often, the local group receives recognition from al-Qaeda only after the fact. (88)

A few examples are illustrative of this tactical approach. On August 1, 2007, an al-Qaeda website promised that a big surprise would soon occur. Although the message did not specify the precise nature of the surprise, the accompanying visual displayed a montage of President Bush with visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf against a backdrop of the White House in flames, thus suggesting that they should be targeted. This was followed on August 5 by a video in which Adam Gadahn warned that U.S. embassies would be attacked. Such threats have, of course, become commonplace in al-Qaeda discourse, but, as terrorism analyst Brian Jenkins observes, highlight the organization's communications strategy. Gadahn's videotape threatened no specific action; rather, it identified targets that ought to be attacked and left it up to jihadists to act on their own initiative. (89) Not long thereafter, he appeared in another video in which he seemingly commanded sleeper agents to attack nuclear power plants inside the United States. (90) Although no such attacks occurred, Jenkins argues that it is still possible for terrorist groups to wreak nuclear havoc. In fact, he characterizes al-Qaeda as the first nuclear terrorist organization. By instilling a sense of nuclear anxiety through Bin Laden's pronouncements on the suitability of acquiring nuclear weapons, al-Qaeda has managed to induce nuclear terror in the United States. (91) Such threats, often conveyed through the new media, are an integral part of al-Qaeda's grand strategy.


From the 1970s through the late 1990s, jihadists focused their efforts primarily on targeting the "near enemy," socalled apostate regimes in the Middle East that they believed were inadequately Islamic. This struggle even took precedence over the war against the United States and Israel, or the "far enemy." (92) Early on in his political career, even Dr. al-Zawahiri advocated first bringing down the regime in Cairo. By the late 1990s, however, the security services in the Middle East demonstrated that they could quell the various radical Islamist movements, thus necessitating a new jihadist strategy. A faction in the movement--with Osama bin Laden in its vanguard--determined that, by attacking the "Zionist-Crusader alliance" and their collaborators, they could regalvanize their movement and reverse its decline. (93) By striking at the head of the snake, they believed that it would be possible to ultimately bring down the apostate regimes in the Middle East. Walid Phares has argued that al-Qaeda employs a "world strategy," seeking to exploit global conflicts so that they serve its long-term goal of reestablishing the caliphate. (94)

In essence, al Qaeda is mounting a global version of fourth-generation warfare (4GW) against the United States and its allies. As Thomas X. Hammes explains, 4GW is an evolved form of insurgency that endeavors to use all available networks--political, social and military--to convince the enemy's decision makers that their strategic goals are unattainable or not worth the cost. (95) Based on this reasoning, Bin Laden's strategic approach has viability. He was greatly influenced by his experiences in the Soviet-Afghan War of the 1980s. He even goes so far as to take credit for the downfall of the Soviet Union, as that war set in motion various trends and developments that ultimately contributed to its dissolution. It is one of the foundational beliefs of al-Qaeda that a major setback in the Middle East could usher in a similar scenario for the United States. A1-Qaeda's grand strategy appears to be aimed at bleeding America to exhaustion and bankruptcy, forcing it to withdraw from the Muslim world so that its regional allies collapse amid a mass uprising within the Islamic world. (96)

The Internet is an integral part of al-Qaeda's strategy. Previously, in the unipolar era, America was thought to have a near monopoly on "soft power," which Joseph Nye referred to as the ability to determine the framework of the debate in international affairs. (97) However, the popularity of the Internet has led to a diffusion of soft power around the world. As of 2006, the global penetration rate of the Internet was estimated to be 12.7 percent of the population. (98) Extremist and terrorist groups are now exploiting the new media and youth culture as powerful recruitment tools to communicate their views and incite violence. In that sense, mainstream popular culture can serve as a bridging mechanism between young people and extremist ideologies. (99) Increasingly, there is cross-fertilization between the "old media"--major television networks and news outlets--and the "new"--YouTube, MySpace and Facebook. (100) Media products created by the major networks can be recycled and refashioned to fit the designs of dissident groups. Local affiliates supplement al-Qaeda Central and combine archival material with local content. The democratization of the media has empowered many people who previously would not have had much voice in the marketplace of ideas. Moreover, there are now communications tools available that are flexible enough to meet people's social capabilities and allow for new ways of coordinating collective action outside the framework of traditional institutions and organizations. (101) As Fareed Zakaria noted in The Post-American World, new technology, mainly the Internet, is one factor that has accelerated the process of globalization. What initially had a decidedly American face has become diversified, as more and more non-state actors and non-Western cultures involve themselves in this historical process. (102) Globalization has come full circle with an American, Adam Gadahn, emerging as al-Qaeda's chief spokesman on the Internet.

(1) Associated Press, "Profile of Terror? American on List Turned to Islam, Vanished," May 27, 2004, http://; "Azzam the American Threatens U.S.," Fox News, October 29, 2004,,2933,136937,00.html; and Annette Stark, "Peace, Love, Death Metal," Los Angeles City Beat, Issue 66, September 9, 2004,

(2) "Al-Qaeda's American Mujahid: Azzam the American AKA Adam Gadahn," Site Institute, http://www. maps/charts_maps_116060481l.pdf.

(3) Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Laura Grossman, Homegrown Terrorists in the U.S. and UK (FDD Press, 2009), p. 31.

(4) Amy Argetsinger, "How a Quiet Californian Turned Up on Terror List," The Washington Post, December 5, 2004.

(5) Peggy Lowe, "Radical Conversion," The Orange County Register, September 24, 2006.

(6) Raffi Khatchadourian, "Azzam the American: The Making of an Al-Qaeda Homegrown," The New Yorker, January 22, 2007.

(7) Lowe, "Radical Conversion."

(8) Khatchadourian, "Azzam the American."

(9) Argetsinger, "How a Quiet Californian Turned Up on Terror List."

(10) Khatchadourian, "Azzam the American."

(11) Ibid.

(12) Argetsinger, "How a Quiet Californian Turned Up on Terror List."

(13) "Al-Qaida American Was Poster Boy for USC Muslim Student Association," WorldNetDailly, July 14, 2006,

(14) Khatchadourian, "Azzam the American."

(15) Yahiye Adam Gadahn, "Becoming Muslim,", accessed May 21, 2009.

(16) Rahman was born in May 1938 into a poor family in the Nile Delta region of Egypt. Although blinded by diabetes by the age of only ten months, he demonstrated remarkable preciosity as a youth; by age eleven, he had memorized the entire Koran by Braille. As he grew into an adult, he became a leading fundamentalist Muslim cleric. In May 1990, while residing in Sudan, Sheikh Rahman received a multiple-entry visa to the United States, valid for one year, despite the fact that he had been on a terrorist watch list for his role in the assassination of Sadat and his involvement with the Al-Jihad movement since 1987. In 1981, Rahman gave religious sanction to the assassination of Anwar Sadat. Amazingly, he managed to escape justice for his role in instigating the attack. Laurie Mylroie, The War against America: Saddam Hussein and the World Trade Center Attacks (Regan Books, 2001), p. 89; Samuel Katz, Relentless Pursuit: The DSS and the Manhunt for the al-Qaeda Terrorists (Forge, 2002), p. 53. According to some accounts, the CIA is believed to have assisted Rahman in entering the country. Peter L. Bergen, Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden (The Free Press, 2001), p. 66.

(17) "Al-Qaeda's American Mujahid: Azzam the American, AKA Adam Gadahn," Site Institute.

(18) Khatchadourian, "Azzam the American."

(19) Ibid.

(20) Interestingly, Gartenstein-Ross, born an American Jew, converted to Islam and later became involved with the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, a Saudi charity that was later designated by the U.S. Treasury Department as a financial supporter of al-Qaeda. He eventually converted to Christianity and, for a while, worked for Steven Emerson's Investigative Project on Terrorism (a private entity that monitors radical Islam in the United States). He now runs his own firm, which monitors terrorism. In a relatively short period of time, he has written extensively on a wide variety of topics concerning militant Islam. In September 2005, Gartenstein-Ross testified before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the recruiting efforts of radical Islamist groups in American prisons. For more on him see his memoirs, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, My Year in Radical Islam: A Memoir (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2007).

(21) Roughly 26 percent had a spiritual leader who sanctioned their terrorist plot and provided the religious authority and theological approval for their violent activity. Gartenstein-Ross and Grossman, Homegrown Terrorists in the U.S. and UK, pp. 11-15.

(22) Gartenstein-Ross and Grossman, Homegrown Terrorists, pp. 31-34.

(23) Bill Roggio, "Adam Gadahn Rumored Killed in North Waziristan Strike," The Long War Journal, February 8, 2009, php#ixzz0GRtnmlKB&A. For more on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his role in 9/11, see Yosri Fouda and Nick Fielding, Masterminds of Terror: The Truth behind the Most Devastating Terrorist Attack the World Has Ever Seen (Arcade Publishing, 2003).

(24) Jennifer Kabbany, "Local al-Qaida Recruit May Have Been Killed in Airstrike," North County Times (California), September 11, 2008, z87c167baaa4794bc882574c100760144.txt.

(25) Steven Emerson, Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the U.S. (Prometheus Books, 2006), p. 110.

(26) Khatchadourian, "Azzam the American."

(27) Ibid.

(28) Ibid.

(29) Brian Ross, "Tape Released: American Al Qaeda Member Warns of Attacks," ABC News, September 12, 2005,

(30) Quoted in Khatchadourian, "Azzam the American."

(31) Khatchadourian, "Azzam the American."

(32) Quoted in Emerson, Jihad Incorporated, p. 102.

(33) Quoted in "Al-Qaida American Was Poster Boy for USC Muslim Student Association."

(34) Ibid. After he saw the tape of Gadahn in 2004, his former colleague at the Islamic Society, Haitham Bundakji, said that he was "100 percent certain" that it was Gadahn in the video because he recognized his voice and gestures. He described Gadahn as impressionable, commenting after he saw the tape of Gadahn in 2004 that "he can be manipulated very easily to feel good about himself. He was pushed to do what you saw on tape." Argetsinger, "How a Quiet Californian Turned Up on Terror List."

(35) Tomoya Kawakita, a Japanese-American, was charged with treason in 1952 for his role in abusing U.S. prisoners of war during World War II. Kabbany, "Local al-Qaida Recruit May Have Been Killed in Airstrike." According to legal scholars, the decision to charge Gadahn with treason is somewhat of a gamble because the government has a mixed record for convictions over the course of American history. Dan Eggen, "Charge of Treason Difficult to Prove, Legal Experts Say," The Washington Post, October 13, 2006, p. A27, 12/AR2006101201585.html.

(36) "Most Wanted Terrorists," terrorists/gadahn_a.htm. Accessed May 24, 2009.

(37) Kabbany, "Local al-Qaida Recruit May Have Been Killed in Airstrike."

(38) "Most Wanted Terrorists."

(39) "American Al-Qaeda Operative Adam Gadahn in Message to President Bush," Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch Series, No. 1602, May 31, 2007,

(40) Ibid.

(41) "Tape: American al-Qaeda Member Renounces Citizenship,", January 6, 2008, http://www.cnn. com/2008/WORLD/meast/01/06/gadahn.tape/index.html.

(42) Nick Meo, "Al-Qaeda's American-born Propaganda Chief May Have Died in Predator Attack," The Daily Telegraph, September 6, 2008, onthefrontline/2695294/Al-Qaedas-American-born-propaganda-chief-may-have -died-in-predator-attack.html.

(43) Roggio, "Adam Gadahn Resurfaces in New Al-Qaeda Tape."

(44) Ibid.

(45) Ibid.

(46) "Video from American al-Qaida Spokesman Adam Gadahn," The NEFA Foundation, October 4, 2008,

(47) American Al Qaeda Operative Says Western Countries' Economies 'On The Brink of Failure,'" CBS News Investigates, April 13, 2009.

(48) Kurt Nimmo, "Adam Gadahn: Domesticating the Fake al-Qaeda Threat," September 13, 2005, http://www.

(49) Peter L. Bergen, Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret Worm of Osama bin Laden (The Free Press, 2001), p. 66.

(50) According to Duke, the Mossad had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attack, yet deliberately withheld such information so that the United States would respond ferociously against hostile nations and parties opposed to Israel in the Middle East. It was a classic case of cui bono logic. The narrative usually went something like this: The horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11 would provoke a ferocious response by the United States government. Moreover, this war on terror would not be limited to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Afghanistan. Eventually, it would encompass Iraq (which it did), along with other Muslim nations including Syria and Iran. Meanwhile, Ariel Sharon could take care of Israel's Palestinian problem as the world's attention was focused elsewhere. Thus, the great beneficiary would be Israel in that its chief geopolitical rivals in the region would be de-fanged and its restive Palestinian population subdued. For more on his theory, see George Michael, The Enemy of My Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right (University Press of Kansas, 2006), pp. 230-235.

(51) "Al-Qaeda's American Mujahid: Azzam the American AKA Adam Gadahn," Site Institute, http://www. charts_maps_l160604811.pdf.

(52) Hanna Rogan, "Abu Reuter and the E-Jihad: Virtual Battlefronts from Iraq to the Horn of Africa," George town Journal of International Affairs, Summer/Fall 2007, p. 89.

(53) Rohan Gunaratna, "Al-Qaedastan: The Sanctuary of the Afghan-Pakistan Border," The Intel File, p. 12, %20TERRORIST%20SANCTUARY%20OF%20THE%20AFGHAN-PAKISTAN%20BORDER.pdf.

(54) Brian Michael Jenkins, Will Terrorists Go Nuclear? (Prometheus Books, 2008), p. 247.

(55) Rogan, "Abu Reuter and the E-Jihad."

(56) Michael Moss and Souad Mekhennet, "An Internet Jihad Aims at U.S. Viewers," The New York Times, October 15, 2007,

(57) It later transpired that Irhabi 001 was Younis Tsouli, a 22-year-old resident of West London of Moroccan descent. Nadya Labi, "Jihad 2.0," The Atlantic Monthly, July/August, pp. 102-108.

(58) Gabriel Weimann, Terror on the Internet: The New Arena, the New Challenges (United States Institute of Peace, 2006), p. 15.

(59) Moss and Mekhennet, "An Internet Jihad Aims at U.S. Viewers."

(60) Brynjar Lia, "Jihadi Web Media Production: Characteristics, Trends, and Future Implications," February 2007, Jihadi_Web_Media_Pro_92100a.pdf.

(61) Walid Phares, Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2005), p. 169.

(62) Phares, Future Jihad, p. 119.

(63) Moss and Mekhennet, "An Internet Jihad Aims at U.S. Viewers."

(64) "Al-Qaeda No. 2 Mocks American 'Failure,'" USATODAY, May 5, 2007, world/iraq/2007-05-05-alqaeda-video_N.htm; and Raymond Ibrahim, "Seeking Sympathy from the Infidel: Zawahiri Invokes the Language of Social Justice," National Review Online, May 21, 2007, http://article.

(65) Robert Spencer, "The New Face of Al-Qaeda,", June 2, 2004,

(66) Brynjar Lia, "Al-Qaeda Online: Understanding Jihadist Internet Infrastructure, Jane's Intelligence Review, January 1, 2006, Al-Qaeda_online_und_75416a.pdf.

(67) Quoted in "U.S. Says al-Qaeda Ready to Hit 'Hard,'", May 27, 2004, worldnews/325459.htm.

(68) John Diamond and Toni Lacy, "Non-Arab Recruits Scout for al-Qaeda," USA Today, August, 16, 2004.

(69) Weimann, Terror on the Internet, pp. 24-25.

(70) Lia, "Al-Qaeda online."

(71) These include, first, the key nodes, or mother sites, that are the official home pages of jihadist groups. Second, there are distributors, a host of various websites that copy and upload material on multiple sites and direct the viewers to the most important sites. Finally, the producers reformat and refashion the raw material from the key nodes into a sleeker and more attractive product. Lia found that the sites have evolved from non-interactive, more official websites that are established by the jihadist groups toward a more multi-layered and redundant media production and distribution system. Lia, "Al-Qaeda Online."

(72) Bruce Hoffmann, "Introduction," in Weimann, Terror on the Internet, p. ix.

(73) Lia, "Al-Qaeda Online."

(74) See Bruce Hoffman, "The Myth of Grass-Roots Terrorism: Why Osama bin Laden Still Matters," Foreign Affairs, (May/June 2008); and Elaine Sciolino and Eric Schmitt, "A Not Very Private Feud over Terrorism," The New York Times, June 8, 2008.

(75) John Robb, Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007).

(76) U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2005 (Government Printing Office, 2005), chap. 2;

(77) Howard Rheingold, Smart Mobs." The Next Social Revolution (Basic Books, 2002), pp. 157-162.

(78) Fawaz A. Gerges, The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global (Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 3.

(79) Adam Elkus, "Future War: The War on Terror after Iraq," Athena Intelligence Journal, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2007, p. 20.

(80) According to Beam, the government is too powerful and will not allow the existence of any potentially serious oppositional organizations. The leaderless-resistance model proffered by Beam rejects the pyramid structure in which the leadership is located at the top and the mass of followers at the bottom. Beam reasons that in a technologically advanced society such as contemporary America, the government through means such as electronic surveillance can without too much difficulty penetrate the structure and reveal its chain of command. From there, the organization can be effectively neutralized from within by infiltrators and agents provocateur. As a strategic alternative, Beam invokes the "phantom cell" model of organization. Applying this model, Beam argues that it becomes the responsibility of the individual to acquire the necessary skills and information to carry out what is to be done. Individuals take action when and where they see fit. Organs of information, such as newspapers, leaflets and now the Internet, enable each person to keep informed of events. Beam concedes that leaderless resistance is a "child of necessity," but argues that all other alternatives are either unworkable or impractical. Furthermore, he points out that this approach presents an intelligence nightmare for authorities insofar as it is much more difficult to infiltrate "a thousand different small phantom cells opposing them." See Louis Beam, "Leaderless Resistance." The Seditionist, Issue 12, February 1992; and Louis Beam, "Understanding the Struggle or Why We have to Kill the Bastards," in Essays of a Klansman (A.K.I.A. Publications, 1983), pp. 45-51, and "Understanding the Struggle Part II," in Beam, Essays of a Klansman, pp. 52-72. For more on the extreme right's theorizing on the leaderless resistance concept, see George Michael, Confronting Right-Wing Extremism and Terrorism in the USA (Routledge, 2003), pp. 113-123.

(81) Bruce Hoffman, "Responding to Terrorism across the Technological Spectrum," Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 6, No. 3, Autumn 1994, pp. 365-389.

(82) John Arqulla and David Ronfeldt, "Afterword (September 2001): The Sharpening Fight for the Future," in John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime and Militancy (RAND, 2001), p. 367.

(83) Paul Cruickshank and Mohammad Hage Ali, "Abu Musab al Suri: Architect of the New Al Qaeda," Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 30, No. 1 (2007), pp. 1-14.

(84) Brynjar Lia, Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of Al-Qaida Strategist Abu Musad al-Suri (Columbia University Press, 2008).

(85) Marc Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).

(86) John A. Bargh and Katelyn Y.A. McKenna, "The Internet and Social Life," Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 55, 2004, pp. 573-590.

(87) Marc Sageman, Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century (University Of Pennsylvania Press, 2008).

(88) Sageman, Leaderless Jihad.

(89) Jenkins, Will Terrorists Go Nuclear? pp. 127-29.

(90) "Al-Qaida American Was Poster Boy for USC Muslim Student Association."

(91) Jenkins, Will Terrorists Go Nuclear?

(92) A chief ideologist in this regard was the Egyptian Muhammad Faraj, whose tract, The Neglected Duty, argued that any means necessary were justified in order to overthrow apostate regimes. Faraj was affiliated with Jama'at al-Jihad and played an important role in the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. For more on Faraj, see Walter Laqueur, No End to War: Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century (Continuum, 2003), p. 37; and Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks, pp. 17-18.

(93) Gerges, The Far Enemy.

(94) See Walid Phares, Future Jihad; and The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad (Palgrave/ Macmillan, 2008).

(95) Thomas X. Hammes, The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century (Zenith Press, 2004).

(96) The noted authority on counterinsurgency, David Kilcullelln, used the metaphor of an infection to explain the process of how al-Qaeda is able to take advantage of hot spots in the Islamic world and establish a local presence from which to attack U.S. and Western interests. In the infection state, al-Qaeda inserts itself into remote areas and creates alliances with local communities. Once ensconced, a contagion phase begins in which the group's influence spreads. By exporting violence, al-Qaeda prompts a Western response, thus leading to the third stage, intervention. The organization then exploits this backlash against the intervention to generate support for its Islamist agenda, which finally results in the emergence of local insurgents or "accidental guerillas," who fight to evict the foreign occupiers, not so much out of some radical Islamist ideology, but, rather, a more elemental desire to resist a foreign body akin to antibodies fighting an infection. David Kilcullelln, The Accidental Guerilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One (Oxford University Press, 2009).

(97) Such intangibles, including media, culture and ideology, are in contrast to tangible resources such as military and economic might. Joseph Nye, "The Changing Nature of World Power," Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 105, Issue 2, Summer, 1990, p. 7.

(98) Weimann, Terror on the Internet, p. 19.

(99) Kara-Jane Lombard, "Gen E (Generation Extremist): The Significance of Youth Culture and New Media in Youth Extremism," in Priyan Mendis, Joseph Lai, Ed Dawson, and Hussein Abass, Recent Advances in Security Technology (Melbourne: The Research Network for a Secure Australia, 2007), http://www.cs.adfa.

(100) Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (New York University Press, 2006).

(101) Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations (Penguin Press, 2008), pp. 20-21.

(102) Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World (W.W. Norton, 2008).

Dr. Michael is an associate professor of administration of justice and political science at the University of Virginia's College at Wise. He is the author of The Enemy of My Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right, Willis Carto and the American Far Right, and Theology of Hate: A History of the World Church of the Creator.
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