Terrorists websites can be shut down, especially when the Internet Service Providers are American. The case of decommissioning three PIJ hate spouting websites, is a case in point.
Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Justice noted that “the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is one of the most violent terrorist organizations in the world" when it announced the indictment of the PIJ North American leader Sami al-Arian last year.
Despite this indictment and despite being designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State as far back as October 1997, and is number 18 on the EU list, a new study by the Center for Special Studies in Israel (http://www.intelligence.org.il/eng/default.htm) reveals that the PIJ’s Internet infrastructure are supported mainly by American Internet Service Providers who provide services for web-hosting companies which in turn host the PIJ’s primary Websites. Of the three US companies— VONOC, Alabanza, and Level3, only the latter, when first approached by this author, stated that the PIJ is not its client. Level3 was providing the PIJ with network access while a wholesale client of Level3 actually managed the "client relationship" with the terrorist organization. Ultimately Level3 acknowledged that the PIJ site was on their network, contacted their client, and as a result the site was decommissioned.
Network Solutions, another ISP, plays a vital role in keeping the PIJ web site palestineway.com online. They host the "shell" of the site (technically known as a frameset), and the PIJ loads content for that shell from whatever other site of theirs happens to be online at any given moment. Palestineway.com posts announcements about the PIJ’s activities, recommends its publications, and praises Palestinian suicide bombers. Palestineway.com is currently pulling content from www.abrarway.com which is running on another Level 3 IP address.
On August 31st, the PIJ issued a statement on Palestineway.com claiming that “Zionist elements shut down three PIJ website in an effort to silence the voice of the Palestinian fighter. Those websites will be up soon again.” Palestineway.com is now using an Algerian company serviced by the US based VeriSign. while the Beirut web hosting company Abrarway.com, is still running on a Level 3 IP address. . The webhost is newtechwebservices.com, a small company in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Another PIJ website, sarayaalquds.com, is the official site of the “Jerusalem Battalions,” the operational wing of the PIJ. The site, registered in Beirut, lists the latest information about the group’s terrorist activities as well as the wills of the suicide bombers and praise for their memories. Two days after Level3 alerted its client - the web-hosting company - sarayaalquds.com is currently down. This same company hosted, and has now removed two other sites of Palestinian Islamic Jihad: rabdullah.com, a PIJ site dedicated to promoting the current leader of the organization, Ramadan Abdallah Shalah, and shikaki.com, which is dedicated to the memory of the founder of the group, Fathi Shaqaqi, a terrorist killed in 1995.
Another Internet service provider, Alabanza in Baltimore, provides network access to a Beirut-registered PIJ domain (www.jimail.com/abrar/), which appears to be hosted by Backbone Internet, a company in Florida. Backbone Internet is likely a wholesale customer of Alabanza.
The PIJ, like the Hizballah, Hamas and al-Qaeda (which also uses a Colorado ISP- Verio, for its Almjlah website), as well other terrorist and criminal groups, is using our democratic belief in the freedom of speech to advance its cause — spreading hate and incitement to commit terrorist acts over the Internet. They also use their web sites as a means of contact and as a tool to deliver instructions from headquarters to members of the organization around the world.
The PIJ was formed in the Gaza Strip in 1979, following the Islamic revolution in Iran. Its headquarters are in Damascus, Syria and it operates with primary financial support from Iran and Syria.
The Patriot Act, enacted by a huge, bipartisan majority after 9/11, defines the facilitation of communication for terrorist purposes as a terrorist act. Providing Internet services to terrorist groups meets that criterion, and one can only wonder what the Department of Homeland Security is doing to identify and stop web-hosting companies from providing services to terrorist organizations, Clearly, such information is attainable, and terrorist’s web site can be taken off, as proved by the swift action taken by Level3.
In the meantime, Aaron Weisburd, Director of Internet Haganah, the foremost terrorist wesbites monitoring organization, discovered that sarayaalquds.com – the website of PIJ military unit, the "Al Quds Brigade" rabdullah.com and shikaki.com - are all being setup on 18.104.22.168 by a Swiss web-hosting company. http://www.shikaki.com/ appears to be the first site that will 'go live'.
Hamas is leading among terrorist organizations in making aggressive use of the Internet as a communications channel. The websites of Hamas appear to be operated by individuals in Lebanon, Gaza, Russia, Great Britain, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. These sites are hosted at datacenters in Russia, Ukraine, UAE, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and mostly by the United States.
Level3’s swift action demonstrated that terrorist Websites which are used as a very effective weapon against us, can be identified and shut down. Congress should enact new legislation requiring American-based ISPs to demand that their clients, the web-hosting companies identify their customers. This can be done through methods similar to Know Your Customer procedures, which are already in place for U.S. banks. As for foreign web-hosting company, OFAC regulations and the Executive Orders behind them seem as a perfect control mechanism
In addition, the U.S. Senate should ratify the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cyber Crime. This convention would enable the enforcement of laws and strip another weapon from the terrorists’ arsenal and help prevent the Islamist Fundamentalists’ hate agenda from spreading like wildfire over the Internet.
Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld is a member of the Committee On The Present Danger (www.fightingterror.org), a bipartisan education and advocacy organization dedicated to building a national consensus for fighting terror around the globe. She is the author of Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It, and Director of American Center for Democracy.