Thursday, December 9, 2010

Facebook as Tool in Counter-Terrorism

This story about a failed American terrorist is not that extraordinary: guy buys into truther crap, wants to blow up Americans and then flee to Afghanistan (I don't think he has any idea of what life would be like there), but ends up relying on the FBI to provide the explosives, gets arrested. 

What is striking is how Facebook comes into play--for the guy, for the FBI, and for the NYT story. 
  1. "He apparently came to the F.B.I.’s attention in October after striking up an acquaintanceship with a government informant. That person, the complaint said, showed the authorities Facebook messages from Mr. Martinez that expressed an interest in joining jihadists in Afghanistan."  Facebook might not be useful against the real pro's, but the amateurs (who can do some damage) rely on networking, including social networks to meet other would-be terrorists.  So, Facebook ends up being just one of those places these amateurs may use to meet FBI agents pretending to be terrorist sympathizers.  Kind of like how dating sites have people lying about their age, weight, gender, etc.
  2. So, the NYT then uses Facebook to find out information about this guy and his wife.  No need to send a reporter into the field to find facts as  "His Facebook page says he graduated in 2005 from Laurel High School in Laurel, Md. His wife’s Facebook page says she is a senior majoring in English and education at Pine Manor College."
  3. Indeed, this allows the NYT to get very snarky: 
Mr. Martinez’s Facebook page lists his interests as worshiping God and — using Islamic terms — vocal songs, prayer, proselytizing, religious stories and the Koran. It also lists marriage, learning, work and the movies “The Last Samurai” and “Avatar.”
In a biography section, he wrote: “IM just a yung brotha from the wrong side of the tracks who embraced Islam,” adding: “We gotta rise up inshallah and continue the establishment of Islam on the earth with the help and guidence of Allah we can ya muslimeen!!!”
It also says he is “Looking for: friendship.”
 The good news for him, is that there are all kinds of social networks where he is going--jail.

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