Windows Into Al Qaeda Online Still Open, Say Experts

Private contractors working with the U.S. government to monitor and track al Qaeda Internet communications say their windows into the various operations are not closed, despite two published media reports to the contrary.

"The sources, methods and techniques utilized by IntelCenter to collect terrorist video material remain intact," said Ben Venzke, the CEO of IntelCenter, a private contractor providing counterterrorism support work to the intelligence community.   

A front-page article in today's Washington Post featured an interview with Rita Katz, the founder of the SITE Intelligence Group, a small firm that monitors terrorist Web sites and propaganda video releases.


Katz told the Post she had obtained an early copy of the latest Osama bin Laden video last month, the first to be released in three years. Katz says she sent the link to the video to the White House under the condition that they not release it until al Qaeda's media wing officially released the video, but that insiders leaked the transcript and video to various media outlets. Katz claims this leak revealed to al Qaeda how Katz was able to obtain an early copy.

"Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," Katz told the Post.

Others, however, say that in order to monitor these communication networks effectively, they are constantly adapting and modifying their techniques.

Like Katz, Laura Mansfield, a pseudonym she uses for security reasons, also monitors extreme Islamist forums and Internet traffic looking for propaganda videos that are often released by al Qaeda's media wing, As Sahab and others. Mansfield says that despite the recent video leak, she still has access to the material.

"It's a cat-and-mouse game," said Mansfield. "They know we're watching them so they move around. I'm reprogramming my search tools at least once a week."

Rita Katz declined to comment to

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