The Internet has played a key role in radicalizing a number of key players in alleged terror plots this year. From Fort Hood accused shooter Nidal Hasan to the five young Americans detained in Pakistan this month allegedly en route to fight U.S. forces in Afghanistan, authorities claim the suspects needed no face-to-face contact with jihadist recruiters. Instead, the Internet is serving as an electronic funnel for extremists to infuse U.S.-based Muslims with a justification for jihad.
But wait a minute. The U.S. military invented the Internet 40 years ago. Why can't it simply hunt down and destroy the web sites that inspire murderous fanatics? While the Saudi government estimates there are 17,000 such websites, most experts say that only around a half-dozen of these generate original material. "Most jihad cyber domains initiate very little, if any, original discussion, primarily reposting material from popular jihad forums," said a report earlier this month from MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, an organization that monitors and translates much jihadist material. "Hence, disabling the few prominent domains could seriously cripple Islamists' ability to conduct mass online discussions, and could also hamper the rapid spread of jihad material in cyberspace."