The United States pulled a switcheroo on al-Qaeda by hacking into the terrorist group's Yemeni websites and replacing anti-American ads with versions showing the atrocities the criminal terrorist group is committing in that country.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed Wednesday the different covert approach the U.S. is taking to fight the extremist group in the cyber world. She was speaking at a Tampa conference attended by hundreds of U.S. and international special operations commanders, the Associated Press reported.
Within 48 hours, our team plastered the same sites with altered versions of the ads that showed the toll al-Qaeda attacks have taken on the Yemeni people, Clinton said.
The cyberattack is just one of the many ways the U.S. is fighting back against al-Qaeda beyond the use of deadly weapons. Clinton said the attack was launched by an interagency group of specialists known as the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications.
According to the AP, the center has experts who scope the Internet and social media sites in an effort to counter al-Qaeda's recruiting process.
The Yemen-based group, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is a big danger for the U.S. as it was reported that Yemen was the base for three foiled U.S.-targeted attacks. There was an attempt to take down a U.S. airliner over Detroit with an underwear bomb on Christmas Day 2009. The following year, explosives were sent to Chicago-area synagogues. Last month, CIA agents managed to intercept an upgraded version of the underwear bomb, which could have gone unnoticed by airport metal detectors, and prevented it from being detonated on a U.S.-bound flight.
Evan Kohlmann, an terrorism expert who tracks jihadist websites, told the Washington Post that highlighting al-Qaeda's atrocities does a tremendous amount of damage to the terrorist group's image, to its recruitment campaigns and its effort to launch renewed attacks.
However, Kohlmann said putting out such information on Yemeni web forums may not reach a wide audience because If you're already living in Yemen and in a tribal area, you probably don't need to go to a Web site to join al-Qaeda.