The Times takes a look at some folks who have made it their mission to shut down terrorist websites. It's not exactly what U.S. antiterrorism experts would hope for.
One of them, Joseph Shahda, a Christian Lebanese engineer from Boston, has taken down 40 Islamic fundamentalist sites.
“These sites are very, very dangerous,” Mr. Shahda said. “And I think we should keep going after them. They are used as recruiting tools for terrorists, arousing emotions, teaching how to hate.”
But military experts say this is a mistake. “There’s a lot to be gained by watching these sites,” said Brian Fishman, a senior associate at the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Take for example, a pro-Qaeda site run by Samir Khan from his parents’ home in North Carolina since 2005.
“Isn’t there anything this fellow can be charged with, or is he completely free to aid the global jihad from North Carolina and give interviews to The New York Times?” Robert Spencer wrote on his site, Jihad Watch.
But the Combating Terrorism Center says the site is much more valuable online than off, and that it confirmed an important discovery: that men like Abdullah Yusuf Azzam is far more influential than Osama bin Laden these days.
What should be done with Khan's blog?
“If I were a prosecutor I would look at treason,” said Andrew C. McCarthy, a former chief assistant United States attorney. “I’d also want to look at criminal solicitation. I would probably scrub the information this guy is putting out, and see if it contains what you would need to convince a jury, specific commands to commit acts of violence.”
While leaving the sites up might have intelligence value, it also leads to attacks and death, Shahda said. “They tell people how to build car bombs, use suicide belts, be snipers, do guerrilla warfare,” he said.