Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chechen rebel leader claims responsibility for attacks

As we discussed in class terrorist groups often use the Internet to distribute propaganda. A favorite type of propaganda of various groups is the video claiming responsibility for an attack.

As you all know Russia has fallen victim to a series of suicide bombings this week and according to the Washington Post "Doku Umarov, leader of a separatist insurgency in the North Caucasus, which seeks to establish a fundamentalist Caucasus Emirate in the region, claimed reponsibility for the Moscow attacks in a video posted on the Web site. He said they were retaliation for a Russian attack on civilians in a village last month. He said the retribution would continue."

For those interested, the specific page on can be found here. Additionally, the video of Doku Umarov can be found here on YouTube.


dana said...

In the years since 9/11, terrorist groups around the world have released so many videos that I think the general public is starting to tune them out. But I think this tendency to tune out terrorist videos and propaganda is one we need to avoid. Despite the fact that terrorist videos are all starting to look the same, we need to realize that these videos are in large part the reason why terrorists commit acts of terror.
From everything I’ve read, it seems like it’s pretty well accepted that terrorism is not an effective means for achieving political ends. So it seems that terrorism, if it can’t realistically achieve political coercion, is really just a campaign of communication and propaganda facilitated by acts of terror designed to make people listen. If terrorists can’t win politically, they’ll settle for the next best thing— communicating to the government how costly it’s going to be to maintain the status quo by launching terror attacks, then following them up with videos and other propaganda claiming responsibility and threatening more attacks. After all, if terrorists can’t publicly claim responsibility for attacks, their acts of terror don’t do anything to get them heard.
With this in mind, I think we also need to realize that as the Internet has vastly increased terrorists’ ability to release videos and propaganda after their attacks, it has also vastly increased their payoff for attacking. So I think if we want to combat terrorism, it’s important for us to find ways of impeding terrorists’ ability to use the Internet to release videos and mass propaganda so that terror attacks don’t bring the sort of communication payoff terrorists are looking for.

Deven said...

Umarov is one chilling man.This message was posted on the website used by rebels to convey their statements and messages. His video aims toward intimidation and there are several interesting things of note that relate to class.The sentiments were also echoed by his partner in terror, Emir Dokka Abu Usman, warning "[t]herefore the war will come to your streets, and you will feel it with your own lives and skins".

Umarov waited to claim responsibility for the attacks this week. Although most Russians and members of the international community suspected Umarov and the separatists in the Moscow metro bombings, delaying a release until now has only drawn out the effects. One of the reasons why the use of the internet for terrorism has proliferated since al Qaeda really amped up usage is the pure reach the internet has to the public. As we read in Colf and Glasser'sWashington Post article Terrorists have not only "sought to replicate the training, communication, planning and preaching facilities they lost in Afghanistan with countless new locations on the Internet" but also use the net as a means to intimate and incite fear quickly and publicly.

As for Umarov, his threat to Russians that they will feel the war on their own skin is frightening. Umarov's willingness to expose himself publicly shows how serious and unafraid he is. The internet is his vehicle for intimidation.

Meg Luther said...

The idea of these videos in which individuals claim responsibility for terrorist attacks expresses the strange dichotomy of personal privacy and self-promotion on the web. Before having taken Intro. to Information Privacy, I wondered how, if Osama bin Laden was releasing videos claiming responsibility for attacks against the United States, the US government hadn’t tracked him down yet through what I assumed were the series of tubes that constituted the internet (I wasn’t that ignorant, but you get what I mean). Obviously, now I understand the complexities of tracking a source through web portals but that complexity is the heart of the paradox I mentioned above: through the internet, individuals can absolutely put themselves out there front and center, without compromising their personal privacy.

I do not see such video statements as a way of compromising personal privacy, because these leaders are capable of putting their faces out there on the internet without disclosing their exact location. That is another component of privacy on line: you can reveal who you are without compromises to your own safety. Regardless of government tracking abilities, individual citizens, in whom terrorists wish to instill fear, are able to hide their location. In that vein, such means of disclosure contribute to the entire rational of terrorism being a seemingly spontaneous attack.

Megan said...

Here's my question: how do we know that he truly did orchestrate these attacks? How do we know that anyone does? Attribution is such a huge problem with cyberterrorism that it seems incredibly difficult, to me anyway, to know that the group claiming responsibility actually committed the crime.
What if by assuming that the most outspoken target was the villain, we overlook the true culprit?
Umarov may very well have orchestrated the Moscow attacks, but I would like to know how a government can be certain that they have attributed the attack to the correct group.
For example, the Korean leader Kim Jeung Il has many body doubles, or at least that's what we think, so that if North Korea suddenly decided to issue terrorist threats against another country via internet, how would we know that the threats were legitimate?
I would hope that there is some sort of major video analysis that goes on before the threats are taken seriously, but in this age of media, the government cannot always analyze the videos before the media has broken the story-- contributing to the attribution problem.
Regardless, videos do seem to be the best propaganda strategy for various groups if only because sites like YouTube are so popular.