Army Intelligence on the Twitter Threat

Could terrorists use Twitter, the instant messaging and micro-blogging service?  Presumably so, just as they could use credit cards and can openers.

The potential use of Twitter and other communications technologies by terrorists is considered in a new draft Army intelligence paper, based on a review of jihadist web sites and other public sources.

The Army paper on “al Qaida-Like Mobile Discussions & Potential Creative Uses” was dissected by Noah Shachtman in “Spy Fears: Twitter Terrorists, Cell Phone Jihadists,” Danger Room, October 24.  A copy of the paper itself, which is more like a student exercise than a finished intelligence assessment, is available here (large pdf, for official use only).

No Responses to “Army Intelligence on the Twitter Threat”

  1. Philip Henika October 28, 2008 at 1:33 PM #


    Twit or Tweet
    By Roderick Jones

    The Army’s 304th Military Intelligence Battalion recently produced a presentation entitled, “ al Qaida-Like Mobile Discussions & Potential Creative Uses”. The presentation has some interesting information regarding, ‘Pro Terrorist Propaganda Cell Phone Interfaces”, mobile phone target surveillance, “Voice Changers for Terrorist Telephone Calls” and finally, “Potential for Terrorist use of Twitter”. This last topic has received some commentary having been seized upon by Wired’s Danger Room Blog. As usual with discussions centered on the terrorist potential use of any new technology, negative comments focus on the, “ why don’t they just use the telephone” argument. However, this as ever misses the wider point.

    Twitter has been around since July 2006 and is billed as a micro-blogging service with a social networking aspect – it is a highly fluid platform that can be meshed with a variety of other online tools. As with many innovations in this space its full utility is simply unknown – therefore, it is useful to speculate on both the potential negative and positive uses. As a society we now have a pretty good idea of how the telephone works.

    The military intelligence report highlights three scenarios relating to how Twitter could be used – terrorist command and control, terrorist real-time targeting for suicide operations and pre-operational research on terrorist targets who use Twitter. Of these scenarios it is the latter that is so far potentially the most ‘negative’ use of Twitter. It is possible to produce an unnerving amount of information relating to specific Twitter users based on their social patterns and individual entries. As a rule of thumb it seems that it is never the primary functions of these platforms, which are the most revealing but their secondary and tertiary applications.

    Twitter along with its competitor Jaiku continues to develop and as it does so will its impact on society. It is worth noting that the LA Fire Department is making good use of Twitter as a real-time incident information platform. Perhaps the terrorist use of Twitter will be the revival of alhesbah as a micro-blog sending ideological updates to followers as well as including LAFD style incident updates – I would add this as, potential use scenario 4.

    October 27, 2008 03:40 PM Link

  2. K Rovelinski October 28, 2008 at 3:17 PM #

    I notice that the “list” of users of twitters that pose a threat does not include “skin heds”, “neo-nazis”, KKK members, etc. and et. al.

    None of the right wing wackos. I wonder why that is.

    After all, in the last week we have seen Ashley Todd; atodd@twitter, report a robbery/ sexual assault alleging that a Barrack Obama supporter was the culprit.

    As it ended up, she admittd that she made up it all up, nd apparently the events happened only in her little right wing head.

    More recently, we have skin-heads@twitter that planned a terrorist attack planning the mass murder of black school children, and an assasination of Barrack Obama.

    Yeah, we should be looking at terrorist that not “might” use twitter as a terrorist tool, but at the right wing kooks that “are using” twitter right now.

    BTW, the politics of Al Quida, the Talliban, the KKK, skin heads, neo-nazis, …….

    are all RIGHT WING. Fanatics and extenmist dont have any place in a decent society.

    So again, why arent any of these groups mentioned. Maybe this report actually came from the same people that brought you the evidence of WMDs in Iraq.

  3. chris peters October 29, 2008 at 11:12 PM #

    bug spray, aisle 7

  4. R. Watkins November 5, 2008 at 11:38 AM #

    In Reply to K Rovelinski’s reply posted on October 28th, 2008. I noticed that you have a huge agenda against “Right Wingers” in your reply’s tone. The intelligence assessment was released by the U.S. Army Military Intelligence section is targeted at all aspects of exploitation of either a forgien or domestic terror group. As an American Citizen, I hold our collective security threats in mind of past events regardless of who is in office. As to your referal of that lady who is a McCain Supporter, I suggest that you read the local paper to find out that she is a crimminal filing a false report. The Local Police found out that it was a political hoax that she came up with. Regardless of her politics, she is still a crimminal and should be dealt with by the courts of our nation.