Spy Fears: Twitter Terrorists, Cell Phone Jihadists

A draft Army report suggests Twitter could be effective in coordinating attacks.

ByABC News
October 24, 2008, 7:08 PM

OCt. 27, 2008— -- Could Twitter become terrorists' newest killer app? A draft Army intelligence report, making its way through spy circles, thinks the miniature messaging software could be used as an effective tool for coordinating militant attacks.

For years, American analysts have been concerned that militants would take advantage of commercial hardware and software to help plan and carry out their strikes. Everything from online games to remote-controlled toys to social network sites to garage door openers has been fingered as possible tools for mayhem.

This recent presentation -- put together on the Army's 304th Military Intelligence Battalion and found on the Federation of the American Scientists website -- focuses on some of the newer applications for mobile phones: digital maps, GPS locators, photo swappers, and Twitter mash-ups of it all.

The report is roughly divided into two halves. The first is based mostly on chatter from Al-Qaeda-affiliated online forums. One Islamic extremist site discusses, for example, the benefits of "using a mobile phone camera to monitor the enemy and its mechanisms." Another focuses on the benefits of the Nokia 6210 Navigator, and how its GPS utilities could be used for "marksmanship, border crossings, and in concealment of supplies."

Such software could allow jihadists to pick their way across multiple routes, identifying terrain features as they go. A third extremist forum recommends the installation of voice-modification software to conceal one's identity when making calls. Excerpts from a fourth site show cell phone wallpapers that wannabe jihadists can use to express their affinity for radicalism:

Then the presentation launches into an even-more theoretical discussion of how militants might pair some of these mobile applications with Twitter, to magnify their impact. After all, "Twitter was recently used as a countersurveillance, command and control, and movement tool by activists at the Republican National Convention," the report notes."The activists would Tweet each other and their Twitter pages to add information on what was happening with Law Enforcement near real time."