An interesting article in the August 6th New York Times “After 9/11, an Era of Tinker, Tailor, Jihadist, Spy,” revealed that the United States government has been employing teams of hackers who are skilled at entering jihadist websites and sending confusing and contradictory messages to those who visit the sites. The objective is to make it difficult for the jihadis to use the site to communicate and to recruit. But then comes the disturbing part: some of the material they post is “so virulent” that visitors to the site seeking information “might be driven away.”
I can only speculate on what that kind of information could consist of, but would have to suspect that it is calls for mass killings and other terrorist acts, possibly also kidnapping and assassination of political leaders. Which means the US government, acting in secret, is making posts on militant sites calling for terrorist acts in hopes that the acts would be so over the top that some radicals would be turned off and would stop viewing the site. But what if they are not turned off and go ahead to stage an attack based on the instructions provided by the US government? This is blowback of the worst kind and might even be considered entrapment in that some might claim that the crime would not have been committed without the US government involvement.
This is reminiscent of a number of recent FBI cases in which dissidents living in the US were approached by a Bureau informant under cover who then convinced them to carry out a terrorist act and provided them with a fake bomb or gun. When the militants attempt to use the fake weapon, they are arrested, but a plausible case can be made that the attempted terrorist act would never have taken place but for the insertion of the FBI informant. That is called entrapment if the court believes the government played the key role to bring about the criminal act, but, over the past ten years, the courts nearly always side with the authorities and accept that the suspect was going to engage in terrorism with or without the FBI’s help. One wonders if a similar standard is being applied when government hackers send out their own messages on the jihadi websites?