Report: Bin Laden Uses Web To Plan

Wednesday, February 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Osama bin Laden and other Muslim extremists are using the Internet to plan terrorist activities against the United States and its allies, USA Today reported Tuesday.

The paper said weeks of interviews with U.S. law enforcement officials and other experts disclosed details of how extremists hide maps and photographs of terrorist targets in sports chat rooms, on pornographic bulletin boards and other popular Web sites.

The report said instructions for terrorist activities also are posted on the sites, which the officials declined to name.

``To a greater and greater degree, terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas and bin Laden's al Qaida group, are using computerized files, e-mail and encryption to support their operations,'' CIA Director George Tenet wrote last March to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

USA Today said the testimony was presented at a closed-door hearing and made public later.

Following up on that report, the paper said it learned from various unnamed officials and investigators that the messages are scrambled using free encryption programs set up by groups that advocate privacy on the Internet.

``It's something the intelligence, law-enforcement and military communities are really struggling to deal with,'' Ben Venzke of the cyberintelligence company iDEFENSE told the paper.

``The operational details and future targets, in many cases, are hidden in plain view on the Internet. Only the members of the terrorist organizations, knowing the hidden signals, are able to extract the information.''