“Just 0.2 percent of the Internet” Is Searchable



Illustration by Sang Mun

The debate over the U.S. government’s monitoring of digital communications suggests that Americans are willing to allow it as long as it is genuinely targeted at terrorists. What they fail to realize is that the surveillance systems are best suited for gathering information on law-abiding citizens.

People concerned with online privacy tend to calm down when told that the government can record their calls or read their e-mail only under special circumstances and with proper court orders. The assumption is that they have nothing to worry about unless they are terrorists or correspond with the wrong people.

The infrastructure set up by the National Security Agency, however, may only be good for gathering information on the stupidest, lowest-ranking of terrorists. The Prism surveillance program focuses on access to the servers of America’s largest Internet companies, which support such popular services as Skype, Gmail and iCloud. These are not the services that truly dangerous elements typically use.

In a January 2012 report titled “Jihadism on the Web: A Breeding Ground for Jihad in the Modern Age,” the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service drew a convincing picture of an Islamist Web underground centered around “core forums.” These websites are part of the Deep Web, or Undernet, the multitude of online resources not indexed by commonly used search engines.

No Data

The Netherlands’ security service, which couldn’t find recent data on the size of the Undernet, cited a 2003 study from the University of California at Berkeley as the “latest available scientific assessment.” The study found that just 0.2 percent of the Internet could be searched. The rest remained inscrutable and has probably grown since. In 2010, Google Inc. said it had indexed just 0.004 percent of the information on the Internet.

Websites aimed at attracting traffic do their best to get noticed, paying to tailor their content to the real or perceived requirements of search engines such as Google. Terrorists have no such ambitions. They prefer to lurk in the dark recesses of the Undernet.

“People who radicalise under the influence of jihadist websites often go through a number of stages,” the Dutch report said. “Their virtual activities increasingly shift to the invisible Web, their security awareness increases and their activities become more conspiratorial.”

Radicals who initially stand out on the “surface” Web quickly meet people, online or offline, who drag them deeper into the Web underground. “For many, finally finding the jihadist core forums feels like a warm bath after their virtual wanderings,” the report said.

When information filters to the surface Web from the core forums, it’s often by accident. Organizations such as al-Qaeda use the forums to distribute propaganda videos, which careless participants or their friends might post on social networks or YouTube.

Communication on the core forums is often encrypted. In 2012, a French court found nuclear physicist Adlene Hicheur guilty of, among other things, conspiring to commit an act of terror for distributing and using software called Asrar al-Mujahideen, or Mujahideen Secrets. The program employed various cutting-edge encryption methods, including variable stealth ciphers and RSA 2,048-bit keys.

The NSA’s Prism, according to a classified PowerPoint presentation published by the Guardian, provides access to the systems of Microsoft Corp. (and therefore Skype), Facebook Inc., Google, Apple Inc. and other U.S. Internet giants. Either these companies have provided “master keys” to decrypt their traffic – – which they deny — or the NSA has somehow found other means.

Traditional Means

Even complete access to these servers brings U.S. authorities no closer to the core forums. These must be infiltrated by more traditional intelligence means, such as using agents posing as jihadists or by informants within terrorist organizations.

Similarly, monitoring phone calls is hardly the way to catch terrorists. They’re generally not dumb enough to use Verizon. Granted, Russia’s special services managed to kill Chechen separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev with a missile that homed in on his satellite-phone signal. That was in 1996. Modern-day terrorists are generally more aware of the available technology.

At best, the recent revelations concerning Prism and telephone surveillance might deter potential recruits to terrorist causes from using the most visible parts of the Internet. Beyond that, the government’s efforts are much more dangerous to civil liberties than they are to al-Qaeda and other organizations like it.

(Leonid Bershidsky is an editor and novelist based in Moscow. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this article: Leonid Bershidsky at bershidsky@gmail.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Mark Whitehouse at mwhitehouse1@bloomberg.net.

“Taliban Negotiators” In Doha Are ISI “Ringers,” Who Have Not Seen Mullah Omar In 12 Years


[Agha and any so-called “Taliban” who are associated with him are mutually acceptable to the CIA and to the ISI as replacements for those real Afghan Taliban negotiators who were on Mullah Barader’s team and are under arrest in Pakistan.   They were negotiating with Karzai, NOT the Americans (SEE: Arresting Taliban To Cover America’s Ass).  This alleged “Taliban office” in Doha does NOT represent either the real Taliban, or the Afghan people; it represents the CIA and the ISI. 

In a Tolo News interview with this Agha guy, he admits that he has NOT been in any kind of consultations with Mullah Omar:


“Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid currently is in a situation where his position is indeterminable.”

He dismisses testimony from known Taliban spokesmen, that they will not negotiate with occupiers or their puppets, by describing these denials as battlefield propaganda:

“What you referred to are the war-time messages that hostile groups in Afghanistan broadcast against each other.”

This Taliban “jinn” has been given human substance, in order that he might create hope in “reconciliation,” as a preferable choice over the specter of “civil war.”  As with all other CIA grand behavioral manipulations, the realistic vision is created in popular opinion, that certain countries are sliding into “civil war,” or that the world in general is headed for world war.  Any conceivable solution would be preferable to either of those options.  This is the “Hobsen’s choice” that the American Imperialists are presenting to the world.  But they are false choices, intended to hide more realistic, “unprofitable” solutions.  The only real “solution” to Afghanistan is the universal freezing of all hostilities, especially those initiated by outside sources and carried-out by mercenary proxy forces. 

The sooner this latest American “negotiations”/”reconciliation” subterfuge is put down, the more likely it will be that American forces will actually end their destabilization operations and leave Afghanistan, instead of just waiting-out the clock on Hamid Karzai as planned.]

Some Taliban negotiators have links to ISI: Saleh


by Mohammad Hassan Khitab
[Pajhwok Afghan News]
KABUL (PAN): Some of the Taliban representatives manning their political office in Qatar have links to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Afghanistan’s former spy chief claimed on Sunday.

A 10-member team of the insurgent movement, including Maulvi Syed Tayeb Agha, Qazi Din Mohammad, Zahid Ahmadzai, Dr. Mohammad Naeem Wardak, Sohail Shaheen, Sher Mohammad Abbas and Nek Mohammad, recently left for Doha.

Amarullah Saleh, ex-head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), told reporters in Kabul the Taliban negotiators had spent the last 12 years living in Pakistan. During the period, he said, none of them had met Taliban’s supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Saleh added based on his information one of the Taliban negotiators was Maulvi Rahim, who was living in Islamabad and his children were studying in Pakistani schools.

“It’s pretty obvious who issues passports and visas to those going from Islamabad to Doha, who checks their documents and who nominates them,” he asked, suggesting the Taliban representatives had connections with Pakistan.

Also a senior member of the opposition alliance, Saleh said the Taliban negotiators fluently spoke English and closer look at their backgrounds would reveal where they had been living and who had sent them to Qatar.

“One of them is Din Mohammad, who I know very well. Coming from Badakhshan province, he has been in contact with me in the past,” remarked the erstwhile spymaster, who recalled the ISI had shifted Din Mohammad from Peshawar to Quetta two years ago when the Afghan government entered talks with the Taliban.

After staying in Quetta for a month and a half, Mohammad was blindfolded and taken to the port city of Karachi. The man remained for three to four weeks in Karachi, awaiting a meeting with Mullah Omar there, Saleh revealed. However, he did not know whether or not the meeting took place.

Kabul is vehemently opposed to the Taliban bureau’s name — the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — and hoisting of the movement’s flag on it, according to Saleh.

Angered by the sign identifying the office as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai delayed talks with the Taliban and suspended negotiations with the United States on the Bilateral Security Agreement.