'Net Posse Tracked 'Jihad Jane' for Three Years

Civilian monitors warn of others like "Jane" on the 'Net who are more dangerous.

ByABC News
March 11, 2010, 12:14 AM

March 11, 2010— -- While the rest of America was stunned to hear that a suburban Pennsylvania woman allegedly used the Internet identity of Jihad Jane and tried to join militant jihadists, for a group of 'Net vigilantes it was old news.

In fact, at least one of the Web sleuths claims to have alerted the feds to Colleen LaRose's alleged efforts to raise money and recruit fighters for Islamic terrorists and to carry out her own jihad.

Groups like JawaReport, Quoth the Raven and the YouTube Smackdown Corps claim they had been monitoring LaRose's growing militancy for three years, and watched as the Internet -- particularly YouTube -- fed her fervor.

They also said "Jihad Jane" is not the only one on the Internet that the groups are monitoring.

"There are certainly many others out there who are more eloquent and appear to be more dangerous from the way they talk," a man calling himself Rusty Shackleford told ABC News.

Shackleford, a pen name, says he is a libertarian college professor who created the blog JawaReport in 2004 after he was enraged that Iraqi Islamists had beheaded an American named Nick Berg.

"It was my way of venting. But mostly it was about countering violent Islamist propaganda, specifically the videos that were being produced by al Qaeda in Iraq and other Salaafist jihadists fighting our troops," he said.

Shackleford said his goal from the beginning was combating violent Islamist material and support on the Web.

"I'm a blogger, but also an activist against violent Islamism. One of the things we do is try and pressure Webhosts to remove Websites that belong to terrorist organizations. An example of this would be the dozen or so times we've successfully had the Taliban's website removed. The websites sometimes pop back up, sometimes not," Shackleford said.

Shackleford and other contributors to JawaReport and sites like it noticed YouTube had become a hub for videos and comments in support of violent extremism and attacks against the West and its allies, leading to the creation of the YouTube Smackdown.

Shackleford said the groups identify videos in support of violent Islamism and pressure the Web site to take them down, "as they would child pornography or other obscene material."

According to the "Quoth the Raven" blog, since the "smackdown" movement began in 2007, users have had over 31,000 videos removed from YouTube, and 695 users suspended. They say LaRose was one of those suspended.