Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/GettyImages.
The State Department recently hacked an al-Qaida-affiliated website and replaced its anti-American propaganda with information on terrorist killings of civilians, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday in what appears to be a rare admission of the cyber counter-terrorism practice.
The Washington Post explains that after learning that an al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen had been using tribal websites to spread recruitment propaganda, the government hackers went to work. "Within 48 hours, our team plastered the same sited with altered versions," Clinton said in a speech to the Special Operations Command in Tampa.
As the AFP notes, the hackers work for the State Department's new Center for Strategic Communications, which includes intelligence and defense experts. "We monitor the extremists venting their frustration and [ask] their supporters not to believe everything they read on the Internet," Clinton said.
The program is part of a broader effort to prevent recruitment to radical Islamist groups and ideologies, the Post notes, though some experts have questioned whether websites are a particularly important source of recruitment among al-Qaida-heavy regions like tribal areas of Yemen.