A Web of Lone Wolves
Fort Hood shows the world that internet jihad is not a myth according to Evan Kohlmann, senior investigator for the NEFA Foundation and private consultant and expert witness to the FBI, Scotland Yard and other law enforcement agencies in cases involving suspected homegrown terrorists.
Upon learning of the reported "missed" link between the alleged culprit responsible for the massacre at Ft. Hood -- Maj. Malik Nidal Hasan -- and Anwar al Awlaki, my heart sank for a multitude of reasons. Al Awlaki is an infamous character in the halls of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and he has been for several years at least. The cleric's recurring presence again in the Ft. Hood case seems to be powerful and disturbing evidence of how fringe extremists -- who otherwise might remain in obscurity with no real means of living out their private jihadi fantasies -- are quite literally being equipped for battle by so-called "theological" advisors known only to them through the Internet. In short, it is a reminder of how real online terrorism networks have become.
Kohlmann describes Al-Awlaki's fanatical "lone wolf" approach to jihad -- broadcast virally over the Internet -- as the means adopted by, among others, the Fort Dix plotters, who were caught by the FBI in early 2007 discussing the extent of their devotion to al-Awlaki. According to Kohlmann, surrogates of al=Awlaki instruct recruits to download copies of al-Awlaki's lectures, chief among those The Constants of Jihad.
Kohlman explains that the internet has become a powerful tool offering easy access to an "interactive virtual universe" where vulnerable, unstable people around the world can be mobilized and incited to carry out acts of violence. "With such a generalized threat, it will be a continuing challenge for Western governments and societies to draw the fine line between what is protected under the freedom of speech and what is criminalized as direct incitement to murder."