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Twitter as a Terrorist's Tool?

POSTED: 11:18 AM ET, 10/29/2008 by Derek Kravitz

The social networking Web site Twitter could be used by terrorists to communicate as they execute a potentially catastrophic attack, according to a military intelligence report obtained by the Federation of American Scientists.

The draft reported, published Oct. 16 by the Army's 304 Military Intelligence Battalion Open Source Intelligence Team, provides three hypothetical scenarios of terrorists co-opting the Twitter social networking tool, citing the use of Twitter by activists during the Republican National Convention to update each other on police movements and arrests and Hezbollah-organized "tweet" feeds.

"For example, terrorists could theoretically use Twitter social networking in the US as an operation tool," the report said. "However, it is unclear whether the same theoretical use would be available to terrorists in other countries and to what extent."

Download Document (PDF) | Full Report | More Hot Documents

The three Twitter scenarios described in the report:

Scenario 1: Using cell phones and a Google maps/Twitter mash-up to plot where they are, terrorists use Twitter to communicate near-real time to update each other about troop movements and plan an ambush.

Scenario 2: The first terrorist has two mobile phones -- one for using Twitter and another which is connected to an explosive device or a "suicide vest." The second terrorist also has two mobile phones -- one for Twitter and the other to detonate the bomb. They communicate using Twitter to coordinate the "precise" time for the attack.

Scenario 3: A cyber-terrorist finds the Twitter account of a member of the armed forces. The terrorist gets information out of the target and uses it for identity theft, hacking or physical attacks. (PC World's Ian Paul examined the feasibility of these scenarios and deemed them "far fetched.")

Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, told InformationWeek that the report was more like "a student exercise, not as a serious threat assessment."

"Terrorists can use credit cards and can openers, so they can probably use Twitter too," he said. "But that doesn't make it a national security concern."

By Derek Kravitz |  October 29, 2008; 11:18 AM ET Hot Documents
Previous: Election Coverage, Stevens Trial, Bisphenol A Ruling Flawed | Next: Report Criticizes Spending at Smithsonian


Please email us to report offensive comments.

The question is, who is monitoring Twitter for this kind of thing? If terrorists did use it to communicate with one another (which I find more likely than the stealing of a military ID), then someone should be able to see that chatter. It would almost be easier for the terrorists to have plans already laid out, and talk to each other over cell phones, which aren't as easily monitored if you're not someone already on a watch list.

Posted by: akchild | October 30, 2008 11:02 AM

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