Duncan Campbell talks about several major anti-terror operations and the way encryption techniques were used by jihadis to organize their attacks.
Younis Tsouli was arrested in London and quickly found to be the long-sought-after “Irhabi 007”. When his computers were seized, it was found that he had managed and set up a series of Islamic websites on behalf of al-Qaeda using money stolen by carding. Tsouli and others in his circle were active members of the Russian-based carding sites “Carders Army” and “ShadowCrew”.
He was alleged to have raised over 2 million Euro from carding and he had become al-Qaeda’s principal video distribution outlet at the time. He hacked websites to place and then distribute new al-Qaeda videos. Now, Tsouli did use PGP, and used it properly. He communicated over Hotmail, MSN, and the usual networks, but only with a small PGP key directly, there weren’t many people in his network, and it appeared that they mainly used GAIM – that’s an instant messaging system which supports encryption over normal instant messaging.Tsouli and his colleagues were cyber criminals as much as they were jihadis. From the evidence presented, Tsouli was a competent enough hacker and data manager. He did encrypt using PGP, but only with what seems to have been a rather small core of international and iKey-competent correspondence. And just as they were moving in, he had a plan for a new website which was going to look a bit like the YouTube for Jihadi videos, but it’d have a different name, “YouBombit”. As far as I can recall, “YouBombit” never went live.
Oceanblue at the time lived in the North of England, and he was already the subject of a very closed surveillance operation by the United Kingdom Security Service. Siddique was claimed also by a fellow university student to have announced that he wanted to be a suicide bomber, and he’d said so in a university cafe. After Siddique was arrested, Scottish police used an international warrant to subpoena all of the Internet records from AOL for the second alleged groomer, and this was Khalid the Shahid.Khalid turned out to be an American living in a town he said was Centreville, Maryland, which doesn’t exist. However, Khalid’s real identity was established by the U.S. Department of Justice, and then they went through all of his records and screen names on AOL to see what he’d been doing as a groomer. So this is his list of screen names: “Khalid the Shahid”, “RyanRobinAnne”, “Miss Em 2301”, “Florida JW Gal”, and “Intel Cutie 2006”. It seems that Mr. Khalid was perhaps indeed a groomer, but you have to wonder who he was trying to groom and for what.
Mohammed Siddique was convicted, not of associating with that lot, but he was convicted, astonishingly, of assisting terrorism by just hyperlinking on a website he’d set up as a student. He’d hyperlink indirectly to al-Qaeda material which had been published elsewhere in the Internet, and he was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment for that. However, that sentence was fully quashed in January of 2010.
The suspected manager of this operation in Britain, Mohammed Gulzar, had come in to Britain and re-entered on a contrived identity with a new bride who disappeared as soon as he landed. He came with a laptop that had been reformatted, reloaded with Windows, and made to look really clean and sweet – wedding pictures, family chat, nothing more. Suspicious of itself, actually. But there was no attempt on this computer at hidden partitions, complex tricks, information hiding.However, experience shows that in both sides of the business – the terrorists and the anti-terrorists – they make mistakes, and in this case both of them made inconceivably bad mistakes. For the terrorists, although they’d reformatted the computer, they had not wiped the unallocated clusters to null, as a consequence traces were left, clear traces, of previous research on hydrogen peroxide, which is completely damning evidence. They should, therefore, have been a conviction achieved in the view of the prosecutors. But this vital evidence was missed at trial. It was fished out of the unallocated clusters apparently too late to be used. As a result, although the co-conspirators who’d recorded their suicide videos were jailed for life, Mr. Gulzar was acquitted and walked free. These are the 8 who were accused of making bomb plots.