In a move that seems to be straight out of Mad Magazine’s beloved Spy vs. Spy, the United States this week says that it has been posting anti-al-Qaeda propaganda on websites used by al-Qaeda to disseminate anti-U.S. propaganda, particularly in Yemen, where al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been particularly active as of late. Specifically, the U.S. altered al-Qaeda recruitment ads.
According to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the United States’ counter-propaganda team (our term for them, not theirs – they are officially known as the “digital engagement team”) “plastered the same sites with altered versions of the ads that showed the toll Al Qaeda attacks have taken on the Yemeni people”
Added Clinton, “We can tell our efforts are starting to have an impact because extremists are publicly venting their frustration and asking supporters not to believe everything they read on the Internet.”
Some news stories this week have reported that the U.S. had actually hacked al-Qaeda websites, but that’s not strictly accurate. In fact, says William McCants, who is a jihad research analyst with the Center for Naval Analyses, “There was no hacking involved at all,” explaining that the digital engagement team had simply signed up for public forums for which anybody can sign up, and on which AQAP had posted recruitment ads.
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