Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tracking Terrorists: Amateurs better than Pros?

Spiegel seems to think so. Two of the best: SITE and IntelCenter.

Link HT: BeSpacific

When al-Qaida was founded, Josh Devon was nine years old. Ben Venzke was 15. The year was 1988, and Devon and Venzke were as uninterested in the terrorist network as its leader, Osama bin Laden, was in the two young Americans.

Now, two decades later, things have changed. Venzke and Devon have both become fascinated in terrorism and have turned that interest into careers. And al-Qaida now takes careful note of their work.

Venzke and Devon are two of the most prominent "terror trackers" worldwide. In the United States, and increasingly in other countries, the term refers to a community of people who spend their days analyzing traces that al-Qaida and affiliated organizations leave behind, especially on the Internet. The two Americans are essentially digital trackers in the age of globalized terrorism.

IntelCenter and SITE Intelgroup are the companies that Venzke and Devon, respectively, have founded. They enjoy a strong reputation within the relatively small community of terrorism experts. Beyond that, though, they are virtually unknown -- but wrongly so.