Category Archives: TERRORISM

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, YouTube up the ante on curbing terrorist propaganda

The companies have furthered their commitment to curb online terrorist content, pumping funds into research and pledging to work with 50 smaller tech players to keep the content away from their platforms.

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, comprised of Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube, has made a “multimillion-dollar” commitment it said will support research on terrorist abuse of the internet.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Google’s SVP and general counsel Kent Walker said the new commitment focuses on conducting and sharing research about how terrorists use the internet to influence their audiences so the forum can stay one step ahead.

In a bid to better tackle terrorist content on the companies’ respective platforms, Walker told the United Nations in New York on Wednesday that the forum, which formed earlier this year, has now set a goal of working with 50 smaller tech companies to help them curb online terrorist propaganda.

“On Monday, we hosted dozens of companies for a workshop with our partners under the UN Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate,” he said. “There will be a workshop in Brussels in December and another in Indonesia in the coming months. And we are also working to expand the hash-sharing database to smaller companies.”

The forum also hopes to determine how governments, tech companies, and civil society can fight back against online radicalisation. Walker revealed that the third and final pillar of the consortium’s plan is to work together to find “powerful messages and avenues to reach out to those at greatest risk of radicalisation”.

The group of companies announced they would be joining forces last year at the EU Internet Forum to curb terrorist content, specifically promising at the time to build a shared database of unique digital fingerprints — or hashes — for violent terrorist imagery, or terrorist recruitment videos and images, which have been removed from their services.

On Wednesday, Walker said the companies are putting their best talent and technology against the task of removing terrorist content and are “doing a better job of sharing breakthroughs with each other”, pointing to the forum’s hash-sharing database as being an early success.

“We have to deal with these problems at tremendous scale. The haystacks are unimaginably large and the needles are both very small and constantly changing,” he explained.

“In recent months we have more than doubled the number of videos we’ve removed for violent extremism and have located these videos twice as fast.”

Between August 2015 and June 2017, Twitter suspended more than 935,000 accounts for the promotion of terrorism. According to a company blog post, during the first half of 2017, over 95 percent of the accounts it removed were detected using its in-house technology.

Facebook, Walker said, is also leveraging artificial intelligence to root out “terrorist clusters” by mapping out pages, posts, and profiles with terrorist material before shutting them down.

“There is no magic computer program that will eliminate online terrorist content, but we are committed to working with everyone in this room [during his UN address] as we continue to ramp up our own efforts to stop terrorists’ abuse of our services,” Walker added.

Also addressing the UN in New York on Wednesday was Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who said Australia is keen to work with communications companies to crack encrypted messages used by terrorists, and congratulated Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Google, and YouTube for joining with governments to combat terrorists online.

While Australia supports an open, free, and secure internet, Bishop said encrypted messaging apps used by extremist groups are in the Australian government’s sights.

“Australia is very keen to work constructively with communications service providers to prevent terrorists from using encryption to hide online,” said Bishop, who was expected to hold a bilateral meeting with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates following the UN proceedings.

“This is a significant challenge as encryption is vital for the protection of many legitimate activities including national security ecommerce and personal privacy.”


Google: Here’s how we’re going to crack down on terrorist propaganda

Google responds to criticism that it and other platforms aren’t doing enough to prevent online indoctrination.

Facebook outlines its AI-driven efforts to fight terrorism

After facing criticism from EU leaders following the string of terrorist attacks in the UK, Facebook is stepping up its efforts to curb extremist content online.

The laws of Australia will trump the laws of mathematics: Turnbull

Despite calling the laws of mathematics “commendable”, the prime minister of Australia told ZDNet the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia when it comes to legislating decryption.

Henry Sapiecha

Federal Budget 2017: Gangs, terrorists targeted in $321 million Australian Federal Police shakeup

A MASSIVE $321 million boost to the Australian Federal Police budget will mean 300 extra covert intelligence operators and forensic specialists to help protect Australians from the threat of terrorism.

GANGS and local terrorists will be the target of a beefed-up Australian Federal Police force in a $321 million Turnbull government plan to tackle ­violent crime.

A major drive to recruit 300 specialist police will see AFP ranks bolstered by new tactical response teams, undercover investigators and forensic experts, some of whom will ­support Victoria Police to iden­tify and arrest gang members.

The security package, to be announced today, is part of a Budget spending spree, which will also benefit Victorians with $100 million to help struggling manufacturing businesses adapt after the car industry closure. Treasurer Scott Morrison told the Herald Sun Tuesday’s Budget aimed to deliver fairness, security and opportunity, sharing the benefits of Australia’s economic growth with everyone.

“We know that things are improving globally and we’ve got to make the right choices to secure those better days ahead,” Mr Morrison said.

“We have to keep the economy growing for more and better paying jobs, to guarantee the services that Australians rely on, to put downward pressure on rising costs of living, and to ensure that the government lives within its means.”

The four-year AFP funding boost will pay for 100 intelligence experts, almost 100 forensic specialists and more than 100 tactical response and covert surveillance officers.

The package will fund more 100 intelligence experts and more.

Firearms specialists, bomb response technicians, intelligence analysts, negotiators and covert online investigators will be added to the AFP’s ranks, with several new officers placed on the National Anti-Gangs Taskforce to help Victoria Police.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said violent crime and criminal gangs were “two of the biggest issues facing Victoria” and the government would back the AFP to “crack down” on them.

“Victorians, like all Australians, deserve to feel safe to go about their daily lives without fear,” he said.

Mr Keenan said it was the largest funding boost for the AFP’s domestic policing operations in a decade.

“This will equip the AFP with new capabilities and greater flexibility to respond rapidly to emerging crimes today, and into the future,” he said. “The additional experts will fast-track investigations and lock up criminals sooner, targeting areas of priority including terrorism, criminal gangs, drugs, organised crime, cybercrime, fraud and anti-corruption.”

The AFP had previously raised concerns about its lack of funding, but Mr Keenan said the investment was “the first step in the AFP’s 10-year plan” for its future.

Another key element in the Budget will be the $100 million package to help struggling manufacturing businesses grow and adapt to changing technologies.

It includes $47.5 million over the next two years to pay for a third of the costs of capital upgrades to businesses in Victoria and South Australia that are trying to compete in the wake of the car industry closure.

“We shouldn’t fold our tents and believe Australians can’t compete. We can,” Industry and Innovation Minister ­Arthur Sinodinos said.

Mr Morrison said the Budget aimed to help Australians who had not shared in the ­nation’s strong growth.

“Our economic growth has been very good in a global context. At a personal level, at a household level, at a business-by-business level, things have been and felt a lot tougher.”

The manufacturing package also includes $5 million to help automotive research, particularly by students at ­universities.

Australia’s most successful businesswoman Gina Rinehart says Malcolm Turnbull must learn from Donald Trump to make Australia great again.

Ms Rinehart has urged the Prime Minister to cut spending and waste in Tuesday’s federal Budget, saying it is “frustrating” Australia is losing crucial investment.

“We have to do more to cut out spending. We’ve got to cut out a big slab of the expense of government,” she said.

Henry Sapiecha

Courts gave Hacker who gave Isis ‘hitlist’ of US targets 20 years in prison

Do the crime do the time.Good to see.Let this be an example of what the courts can, will & do do to these masked ISIS cowardly terrorists & their support groups. These lessons should be learned by all who deliberately or inadvertently create danger to a country & its people or threaten national security.

internet-hacker image

Ardit Ferizi struggles to explain why he sent extremist group the details of hundreds of US government and military officials

Ardit Ferizi, a 20-year-old native of Kosovo, is the first person convicted in the US of both computer hacking and terrorism charges Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

A hacker who helped Islamic State by providing the names of more than 1,000 US government and military workers as potential targets was sentenced on Friday to 20 years in prison.

The sentence was much higher than the six-year term sought by defense lawyers, who argued their client, Ardit Ferizi, meant no real harm and was not a true Isis supporter.

“He was a nonsensical, misguided teenager who did not know what he was doing,” said public defender Elizabeth Mullin. “He has never embraced Isil’s ideology.”

Ferizi, a 20-year-old native of Kosovo who was arrested last year in Malaysia, is the first person convicted in the US of both computer hacking and terrorism charges. He admitted hacking a private company and pulling out the names, email passwords and phone numbers of about 1,300 people with .gov and .mil addresses. Isis published the names with a threat to attack.

At Friday’s sentencing hearing, Ferizi struggled to explain why he did it, when asked directly by US district judge Leonie Brinkema for an explanation. He said that it all happened very quickly.

“I feel so bad for what I did,” he said. “I am very sorry for what I did, making people feel scared.”

Prosecutors asked for the maximum sentence of 25 years.

Assistant US attorney Brandon Van Grack said: “The defendant’s conduct has indefinitely put the lives of 1,300 military members and government workers at risk.”

He disputed the idea that Ferizi’s crime was a whim. Before turning over the names to the “Islamic State hacking division” last year, he operated a website devoted to propagating Isis propaganda. In online conversations, Ferizi defended Isis, and when he gave the 1,300 identities to the group, he knew he was putting them in would-be terrorists’ crosshairs, Van Grack said.

“This was a hitlist. The point was to find these individuals and hit them, to ‘strike at their necks’,” Van Grack said, mimicking the language Isis used when it published the names.

Van Grack quoted a letter from one of the victims, who said she had an easily identifiable name and was now nervous when she interacted with Muslims, something she felt guilty about. And Van Grack cited another terrorism case in northern Virginia, in which the defendant, Haris Qamar, allegedly used a hitlist, similar to the one Ferizi created, to stake out the homes of two neighbors in the town of Burke.

Mullin countered that nobody on the list has actually been harmed, and said much of the information Ferizi helped disseminate was publicly available anyway.

Court papers describe a difficult life for Ferizi, who was nominally raised as a Muslim and was just four years old when Nato airstrikes forced Serbian forces to withdraw from the territory, which subsequently became independent. Ferizi’s uncle was murdered and his father was kidnapped during the war, according to letters written by Ferizi’s family.

As a teenager, Ferizi got in trouble for hacking into Kosovar government databases, but he avoided jail. Ferizi went to Malaysia to study cybersecurity, but continued his hacking activities and developed worsening mental health problems, defense lawyers said.

He met an Isis recruiter on the internet while he was trying to expose online pedophiles, his lawyers said.


Henry Sapiecha

High Risk Terrorist Offenders Bill under scrutiny

aust gov logo white on black

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has reconvened for the 45th Parliament, electing Mr Michael Sukkar MP as Chair and the Hon Anthony Byrne MP as Deputy Chair and commencing work on a number of inquiries.

Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016

The Committee has commenced an inquiry into Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016, which was introduced into the Parliament on 15 September 2016.

The bill establishes a scheme for the continuing detention of high risk terrorist offenders at the conclusion of their custodial sentence. Measures in the bill include:

  • the Attorney-General can apply to the Supreme Court of a State or Territory for a continuing detention order during the last six months of the sentence of a ‘terrorist offender’,
  • a ‘terrorist offender’ is a person convicted of certain terrorist offences against the Criminal Code and serving a sentence of imprisonment for the offence,
  • the Supreme Court may make an order if satisfied to a high degree of probability that the offender poses an unacceptable risk of committing a ‘serious Part 5.3 offence’ [terrorist offence] if released,
  • under a continuing detention order a ‘terrorist offender’ is committed to detention in a prison for the period the order is in force, which can be up to three years,
  • a continuing detention order must be reviewed by the Court at least annually,
  • the continuing detention of minors is not permitted, and
  • an interim detention order of up to 28 days may be made by the Court in circumstances where an offender will be released before the application for a continuing detention order has been determined, and consecutive interim orders may be granted for up to three months.

The Committee invites submissions to the inquiry. Please email the Secretariat at by Friday 23 September 2016 if you intend to make a submission. Submissions are requested no later than Wednesday, 12 October 2016.

A public hearing will be held on Friday, 14 October 2016. The Committee has been asked to report by 4 November 2016.

Further information about the inquiry can be accessed via the Committee’s website at The Bill and Explanatory Memorandum can be accessed via

Declaration of Islamic State as a declared terrorist organisation under the Citizenship Act

The Committee has commenced a review of the declaration of Islamic State as a ‘declared terrorist organisation’ under section 35 of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007. This is the first time an organisation has been declared under the Act.

Section 35 of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 provides that dual citizens aged over 14 years lose their Australian citizenship if they fight for, or are in the service of, a ‘declared terrorist organisation’ overseas.

Under section 35AA of the Citizenship Act, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security may review a declaration made by the Minister and report the Committee’s findings within the 15 sitting day parliamentary disallowance period.

Members of the public are welcome to make submissions to this review, which should be received no later than Friday, 7 October 2016.

The Minister’s declaration and supporting documentation are available on the Committee’s website.

Re-listing of six terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code

In its third inquiry, the Committee has commenced a review of the re-listing of Abu Sayyaf Group,
al-Qa’ida, al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, Jabhat al-Nusra, Jamiat ul-Ansar, and Jemaah Islamiyah.

Under section 102.1A of the Criminal Code, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security may review listings of terrorist organisations and report on the Committee’s findings within the 15 sitting day parliamentary disallowance period.

Members of the public are welcome to make submissions to this review. Submissions should be received no later than Friday, 7 October 2016.

Further information about these listings can be obtained from the Committee’s website.

Media enquiries: Chair, Mr Michael Sukkar MP (Deakin, Vic) on (03) 9874 1711 (Electorate office) or (02) 6277 4847 (Parliament House)


Henry Sapiecha

Top secret 9/11 report released into Saudis involvement in September 11 terrorist attacks

UNDER wraps for 13 years, the US has released once-top secret pages from a congressional report into 9/11 that questioned whether Saudis who were in contact with the hijackers after they arrived in the US knew what they were planning.

The newly declassified document, with light redactions, names people the hijackers associated with before they carried out the attacks, killing nearly 3000 people in New York, Washington and on a plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. It identifies individuals who helped the hijackers get apartments, open bank accounts, attend local mosques and get flight lessons. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals and several were not fluent in English and had little experience living in the West.

Later investigations found no evidence that the Saudi government or senior Saudi officials knowingly supported those who orchestrated the attacks. But politicians and relatives of victims, who don’t think all Saudi links to the attackers were thoroughly investigated, campaigned for more than 13 years to get the final chapter of the 2002 congressional inquiry released.

top secret pages from a congressional report into 911 image

A section of one of the 28 pages from the once-top secret pages from a congressional report into 9/11 that questioned whether Saudis who were in contact with the hijackers after they arrived in the U.S. Picture: AP

Saudi Arabia has called for the release of the chapter since 2002 so the kingdom could respond to any allegations and punish any Saudis who may have been involved in the attacks.

“Since 2002, the 9/11 Commission and several government agencies, including the CIA and the FBI, have investigated the contents of the ‘28 pages’ and have confirmed that neither the Saudi government, nor senior Saudi officials, nor any person acting on behalf of the Saudi government provided any support or encouragement for these attacks,” Abdullah Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, said in a statement. “We hope the release of these pages will clear up, once and for all, any lingering questions or suspicions about Saudi Arabia’s actions, intentions, or long-term friendship with the United States.”

“Saudi Arabia is working closely with the United States and other allies to eradicate terrorism and destroy terrorist organisations,” he said.

Flight 175 closes in on World Trade Center Tower 2 in New York, just before impact image

FAmerican Airlines Flight 175 closes in on World Trade Center Tower 2 in New York, just before impact. Picture: AP

House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes said that while he supported the release, “it’s important to note that this section does not put forward vetted conclusions, but rather unverified leads that were later fully investigated by the intelligence community.”

However, others — including Former Florida Senator Bob Graham, the co-chairman of the congressional inquiry — believe the hijackers had an extensive Saudi support system while they were in the United States.

Mr Graham has said that the pages “point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principle financier.”

Former US President George W. Bush classified the chapter to protect intelligence sources and methods, although he also probably did not want to upset US relations with Saudi Arabia, a close US ally.

Two years ago, under pressure from the families of those killed or injured on September 11, and others, US President Barack Obama ordered a declassification review of the chapter.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper conducted that declassification review and transmitted the document to Congress, which released the pages online a day after Congress recessed ahead of the national political conventions.

Several investigations into 9/11 followed the congressional inquiry, which released its report — minus the secret chapter — in December 2002. The most well-known investigation was done by the 9/11 Commission, led by Republican. Tom Kean and Democrat Lee Hamilton.

Smoke billows from World Trade Center Tower 1 and flames explode from Tower 2 as it is struck by American Airlines Flight 175, in New York image

Smoke billows from World Trade Center Tower 1 and flames explode from Tower 2 as it is struck by American Airlines Flight 175, in New York. Picture: AP

Mr Kean and Mr Hamilton said the 28 pages were based almost entirely on raw, unvetted material that came to the FBI. They said the material was then written up in FBI files as possible leads for further investigation.

They said the commission and its staff spent 18 months investigating “all the leads contained in the 28 pages, and many more.”

The commission’s 567-page report, released in July 2004, stated that it found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” al-Qaeda. “This conclusion does not exclude the likelihood that charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to al-Qaeda.”

Some critics of the commission’s work say the commission failed to run down every Saudi lead and say various agencies obstructed its work. Mr Kean and Mr Hamilton also complained that various government agencies withheld relevant information.

Saudi minister says 9/11 report exonerates kingdom


Henry Sapiecha

“Skynet” is 4 real, and maybe flag you as a terrorist

National security

terminator-skynet image

A scene from “Terminator.” (Screenshot: Warner Bros. via CNET/CBS Interactive)

It may not be quite the self-aware computer network that takes over millions of computers and machines, but “Skynet” is real.

Documents published by The Intercept, leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, confirm that the Skynet program exists — at least in name only. Its name comes from the intelligent computer defense system in the “Terminator” films, which later destroys most of humanity in a nuclear apocalypse.

The National Security Agency program analyzes location and metadata from phone records to detect potentially suspicious patterns, according to the publication. In one example, it was used to identify people that act as couriers between al-Qaeda leadership. (This may have been the program that helped identify Osama bin Laden’s courier, leading to his targeted killing in Pakistan by US forces in 2011.)

According to one of the documents, it uses “behavior-based analytics,” such as low-use phones that only take incoming calls, SIM card or handset swapping, or frequent disconnections from the phone network (such as powering down cellphones). Also, repeated trips mapped out by location data, including visits to other countries or airports, can flag a person as being suspicious — or a potential terrorist.

More than 55 million cell records collected from major Pakistani telecom companies were fed into the Skynet system to determine targets of interest, the document said.

But questions remain around why the program flagged a prominent Al Jazeera journalist as a “member” of al-Qaeda. It’s probably not a surprise that the system alerted on Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan, a Syrian national, based on his frequent travel between Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the fact that it identified him as a member of a terrorist group is a mystery, as well as a great concern.

Zaidan “absolutely” denied that he is a member of al-Qaeda, and criticized the US government’s “attempt at using questionable techniques to target our journalists.”


Henry Sapiecha

The Intelligence War of the 911 decade retribution & aftermath in these video docos x 4

Immediately after 9/11, the US announced that ‘the gloves were coming off’ in the fight against al-Qaeda. In the first of three films on the aftermath of 9/11, we examine the highs and lows of the intelligence war.

At Al Jazeera English, we focus on people and events that affect people’s lives. We bring topics to light that often go under-reported, listening to all sides of the story and giving a ‘voice to the voiceless.’
Reaching more than 270 million households in over 140 countries across the globe, our viewers trust Al Jazeera English to keep them informed, inspired, and entertained.
Our impartial, fact-based reporting wins worldwide praise and respect. It is our unique brand of journalism that the world has come to rely on.
We are reshaping global media and constantly working to strengthen our reputation as one of the world’s most respected news and current affairs channels.

On the tenth anniversary of the Attacks of September 11th, 2001, expert witnesses gathered at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada to provide evidence-based research that called into question the official story of 9/11. This was known as The Toronto Hearings on 9/11.

Over a period of four days, these experts in Structural Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, and History gave researched and professional testimony to an international panel of distinguished judges. The panel of judges, in conjunction with the steering committee would go on to publish their final analysis of the evidence provided, which called for a new investigation into the Attacks of September 11th, 2001.

This film is a summary of the strongest evidence given over the four days of hearings. To see the hearings in their entirety please visit or read the final report available on the aforementioned website.

911-Not for the faint hearted [Graphic] RIP-Never forget the fallen video

8:46 am NORTH TOWER — American Airlines, Flight 11, from Boston to LA, strikes the North Tower. All 87 on board are murdered. (In addition, there were 5 hijackers.)

9:03 am SOUTH TOWER — United Airlines, Flight 175, from Boston to LA, strikes the South Tower. All 60 on board are murdered. (In addition, there were 5 hijackers.)

9:37 am PENTAGON — American Airlines, Flight 77, from Virginia to LA, strikes the Pentagon. All 59 on board are murdered. (In addition, there were 5 hijackers). In the Pentagon, 125 people are murdered, 55 of which are military personel.

9:59 am After burning for 56 minutes, the SOUTH TOWER COLLAPSES. 630 people murdered.

10:03 am SHANKSVILLE, PA — United Airlines, Flight 93, from Newark, NJ to San Francisco, CA strikes the ground. All 40 on board are murdered. (In addition, there were 4 hijackers.)

10:28 am After burning for 1 hour and 42 minutes, the NORTH TOWER COLLAPSES. 1,462 people murdered.

5:21 pm After being hit from the collapsing North Tower, 7WTC began burning, and at 5:21 pm it collapsed. No one was in the building.

Additionally, 411 First Responders were murdered when the Towers collapsed.

9-11 Photos The Networks Will NOT Show You!!! – Remembering The Jumpers


Henry Sapiecha

Rise of encryption tests intelligence in Isis fight

encryption locks symbol image

One challenge above all stands out for western counter-terrorism agencies fighting Isis: the rise of encryption technology across modern communications.

The jihadis are more than aware of the fact.

Investigators will be focusing on the nature of communications between the eight terrorists behind the deaths of 129 people in Paris on Friday, and their covert planning and logistics support network.

But with a cell of such size, involving co-ordination across several countries, what has come to the fore is the question of whether encrypted apps on their smartphones or secure email on computers obscured the intelligence picture before the massacre.

“There has been a significant increase in the operational security of a number of these operatives and terrorist networks as they have gone to school on what it is that they need to do in order to keep their activities concealed from the authorities,” John Brennan, CIA director, said in Washington at the CSIS think-tank on Monday.

Encryption affects counter-terrorism work on two levels. First, the increasingly off-the-shelf availability of apps and platforms that have high levels of security, particularly those with end-to-end encryption, offers terrorists increasing levels of secrecy.

But second, the spread of less rigorous encryption across a broader range of everyday web and smartphone software, from email to social media platforms, also means that even those with inferior standards are harder to monitor.

Agencies are therefore not just “going dark”, as they refer to their information shortfall, on the activities of specific, high-value targets, but on the broad amount of “chatter” they depend on for the core of their counter-terrorism analysis. Chatter is so crucial because it is what produces the leads for deeper investigations. In an age in which Isis is creating a far more diffuse terror threat, radicalising thousands of young, would-be jihadis through social media, such leads are vital.

“We are trying to pick signals out of the noise,” says a senior official at the Five Eyes signals intelligence alliance that combines the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. “But what encryption is doing is vastly increasing that noise.”

The speed of technological development makes trying to keep up an almost impossible task.

“Almost every new app, whether it’s for file-sharing or sending photos that disintegrate or playing at orcs and dragons these days has some level of communication in it. We have to keep on top of them all,” says the official. “It’s around 1m.”

Isis, for its part, has what one British security source describes as a “highly sophisticated” digital security operation to make the task of signals intelligence work against it as hard as possible.

Isis and encryption technology


Intelligence tracking of Isis under question

Abaaoud killed but presence in France points to failure of EU agencies

The rise of encryption technology poses an increasing challenge for counter-terrorism agencies fighting Isis. Ravi Mattu asks Sam Jones, FT defence and security editor, why intelligence chiefs are so worried.

Isis adapts constantly, he says. Two years ago, its mujahideen were frequent users of messaging services such as Kik and Vibr. Their presence on social media services such as Twitter was particularly noteworthy.

But the opening of Washington’s bombing campaign against the group marked a turning point in which Isis moved to close its digital blackout blinds. The so-called caliphate clamped down on its fighters’ activities and apps. Orders were issued to fighting units on how to scrub tell-tale metadata from pictures and social media output online. And guides quickly circulated on which smartphone apps were the hardest to crack.

The jihadis turned initially to sites such as Russia’s VKontakte and Diaspora or anonymous text-sharing websites such as and Pastebin.

Isis now favours Telegram, a messaging app that advertises its services as “heavily encrypted” with the bonus of a self-destruct feature. For Isis, the app has another crucial benefit. Users can sign up to secure “channels” that broadcast messages.

The militant group has several channels established. The largest was identified by Memri, a Middle East media think-tank, in a report last month. Nashir, Isis’s flagship channel on Telegram, broadcasts in numerous languages: it has more than 10,000 Arabic followers, 998 in English, 348 in French and 340 in German.

Telegram said on Wednesday it had blocked 78 Isis-related channels across 12 languages, identified because of users reporting them to its abuse email. The start-up has responded to requests to remove content such as porn, in countries where it is illegal, but it has also pledged not to block those who express their opinions peacefully.

“It’s a game of catch-up,” says Callum Jeffray, national security research fellow at the Rusi think-tank. “As soon as intelligence agencies find a means of accessing one platform, more spring up. There is this adaptive and learning element of Isis that means this whole debate over encryption and data are going to play out for years to come.”

Additional reporting by Hannah Kuchler in San Francisco


Henry Sapiecha

Paris attacks. Intelligence agencies forced to rethink tracking of Isis

Published on Nov 19, 2015

Western intelligence agencies were forced to rethink their operations and reassess their ability to track Isis yesterday as French officials confirmed the organiser of Friday’s Paris attacks had been operating from under their noses.
Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the 28-year old Belgian jihadi said to have plotted the attacks in the French capital last week — and previously thought to be operating from Isis’s territories in Syria — died during a seven-hour siege in Saint-Denis on Wednesday, authorities said.


Henry Sapiecha

ASIO, Crime Commission granted access to photographs of NSW citizens to aid terrorism fight

The release of photographs must abide by any protocol approved by the Privacy Commissioner image

The release of photographs must abide by “any protocol approved by the Privacy Commissioner”. Photo: Andrew Sheargold

Australia’s peak security agency and the NSW Crime Commission have been granted virtually unfettered access to hundreds of thousands of photographs of NSW citizens to bolster their ability to investigate planned and actual terrorism acts.

The NSW government has authorised the release of photographs taken of people who are granted an extensive range of licences and permits to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the state crime commission without a warrant or court order.

They include photographs for licences and permits for firearms, to work in the security, private investigation and debt collection industries and applications to operate tattoo parlours.

But the change also applies to photographs taken for licences for tradespeople, real estate agents, contractors, pawn brokers, second hand dealers, motor dealers and repairers, strata managers and importers and exporters.


It also allows release of photographs taken for the issuing a Photo Card – a voluntary proof of age card available to NSW residents over the age of 16 who don’t hold a driver’s licence.

The photographs are stored by the state government agency Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) but, until now, RMS has only been permitted to release drivers licence photographs to ASIO and the crime commission.

The extra access was granted by the NSW government on Friday, almost three weeks after the killing of police accountant Curtis Cheng at Parramatta by radicalised teenager Farhad Khalil Mohammad Jabar.

The regulation says that the photographs “or any photographic image or other matter contained in any database of such photographs” may be released to ASIO or the crime commission for “investigation of a terrorist act, or a threat of a terrorist act”.

The release of photographs must abide by “any protocol approved by the Privacy Commissioner”.

But the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said there was no need for the change.

Mr Blanks said people expected their personal information only to be used for the purposes which they agree to hand it over to the government.

“With a single stroke of a pen the government says it doesn’t matter you gave you information on that basis, we’re going to make it available on some other basis,” he said.

“The security agencies needing data in order to foil potential attacks can be done quite properly and adequately through the existing warrant system,” he said.

“That gives an independent oversight of the process and makes sure the access process is not abused.”

An RMS spokeswoman said the change was “designed to assist security agencies and law enforcement carry out their investigations” and the request “was not made in relation to any specific incident”.

“This is one of the measures the government has taken to improve security and co-operation between its agencies,” she said.

“Roads and Maritime respects and values the privacy of NSW citizens and will give access solely for the lawful purpose of assisting security agencies and law enforcement with their investigations.

“In addition, this access is not made available for commercial or marketing purposes.”


Henry Sapiecha