How the Internet Fuels Terrorism

The First Amendment is the bedrock of the United States, and without adherence to First Amendment rights and privileges, America will suffer. The Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA) was first enacted in 1978 and subsequently modified extensively with the USA Patriot Act of 2001. After

the tragedy of September 11, 2001, the federal government ramped up its security investigations to gather intelligence on foreign terrorist groups seeking to destroy the spread of democracy. The proliferation of satellite communications is allowing these terrorist groups to exchange information and coordinate attacks on their “enemies.”


The First Amendment’s protection of free speech is the United States’ bedrock and is being threatened by the internet explosion that is being misused by global terrorists. The explosion in technology over the last two decades laid the framework for interconnectivity opening communication channels twenty-four hours per day, 365 days per year to every corner of the world. Internet connections can be achieved with satellite technology through out the globe allowing entrepreneurs to maintain continuous trade, medical professionals to collaborate cures, academics to correlate research, law enforcement to snoop on every human being and terrorists to plot world destruction. With any good technology, there are always those schemers trying to make illicit profits or to cause harm to settle personal vendettas or advance personal goals. In particular, the United States has taken up radical Islamists as its twenty-first century enemy. The U.S. government has reorganized national security to battle the terrorists until financial ruin or victory is achieved over the terrorists.
To battle terrorists, America primarily uses the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA) first enacted in 1978 and subsequently modified extensively with the USA Patriot Act of 2001 (—-000-.html). After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, the federal government ramped up its security investigations to gather intelligence on foreign terrorist groups seeking to destroy the spread of democracy. The proliferation of satellite communications allows terrorist groups to exchange information and coordinate attacks on their “enemies.” FISA provisions of court ordered warrants by Supreme Court nominees and the Constitution are now being ignored for the sake of fighting the global war on terror.

Freedom of Speech
When the founding fathers began writing the constitution of the USA it focused on individual rights and responsibilities. The first known formalization of the concept of free speech recorded is the appearance of Sir Thomas More before King Henry VIII in 1523 (Freedom of Speech, 2007). Since free speech has been a governmental concept for only the last six centuries, continued prescription is inevitable. With today’s litigious society, limits and expanses of free speech will be continually challenged. The United Nations in 1948 attempted to universalize the right to free speech without fear of incarceration (Freedom of Speech, 2007). Certain speech that is intended to incite a riot or violence is generally restricted as the public need to peace and tranquility takes the forefront. Referencing Wikipedia, one must note that many countries are listed for their advances in declarations of rights to free speech, but it is quite notable that Middle Eastern countries are missing. This paper will attempt to bring to the forefront the immense challenge of encouraging technology deployment while maintaining a vigilant watch on terrorists that seek to do harm to America and its many freedom partners.

Regulations That Promote Free Speech
The Constitution and its Bill of Rights are the foundation of the Freedom of Speech. Our judicial system continually referees challenges to the First Amendment. Landmark cases that limit free speech are noteworthy and somewhat numerous: 1) Miller test for obscenity, 2) Copyright protections, 3) Roth versus the United States, and 4) the Pruneyard Case. Freedom of speech in the U.S. generally allows anyone to say anything, print any publication, or broadcast any media without censorship only to defend its permissibility and its innocence after the fact. Larry Flint is one of those willing to challenge all boundaries of obscenity and be very willing to suffer the consequences. Flint could definitely be called a First Amendment martyr. With so many means of media and communication, many federal agencies come into the foray to protect free speech. Besides federal, common and case law, the United States takes to heart international law such as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of that UN declaration states, everyone has the right to opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers (Freedom of Speech, 2007).

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with its traditional challenge of reigning in unruly broadcasters and publishers must now face the perils of unfettered internet access. The internet opens up so many means of communicating – both beneficial and harmful. Specifically the FCC utilizes post facto sanctions to punish media providers that violate community standards definitions of obscenity or indecency. Since internet transmissions can come from anywhere in the world into every living room in the world, the FCC has an almost insurmountable challenge to protect the new digital age of communication while building “firewalls” to protect against terrorism.

Protecting Internet Free Speech
The First Amendment will always take the form of granite for America with the judicial system continuing to define the crystals that form the rock. Public action groups such as and serve as citizen referees to maintain the internet and other public venues available to all to express opinions openly. A recent victory for these groups was the defeat of Senator Ted Stevens’ H.R. 5252 Telco bill that was seen as very pro-industry and anti-public in nature (Huge Victory…, 2007). The bill and the subsequent fight to defeat featured the concept of net neutrality. Net neutrality focuses on the process design of the internet and not the content; passage of the Stevens’ bill would have allowed internet providers to price web content according to a scale that would have left public non-corporate content at hit 1,000,000 plus. Most call the processing system of the internet, the pipes (internet backbone on servers, fiber optic networks and web portals). Supporters of net neutrality stress that the pipe owners maintain a reasonable separation so content will not be slanted too far left or right. Traditional media such as newspapers definitely show political leanings by their editorials, and the internet serves as the virtual scales of justice.

While net neutrality focused on the backbone, other groups trying to protect the internet are the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT). One example of federal law protecting internet content was the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that offers protection to intellectual property (Free Speech, 2006). Such property takes the form of something as simple as clipart: ?. One well established protection for reporters that allows anonymous sources to remain anonymous is being afforded via internet bloggers for the most part. These attempts to extend free speech protections to the digital world closely track laws and regulations in the traditional beacons of transparency: vagueness, overbreadth, and prior restraint. With the internet being the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed, the right to free speech will be tested until the end of time.

Invasions of Privacy
Big brother is watching. George Orwell would love to rewrite his classic book, 1984, based on such organizations as the Army Web Risk Assessment Cell (AWRAC) (Reed, 2007). AWARAC operates automated surveillance of troops’ blogs and web content to control careless or possible malicious release of secret data. In the meantime AWARAC can scan soldier’s complaints. Many soldiers typically disagree at one time or another about command’s direction, but the internet allows a bon fire of unlimited blogging that could lead to detrimental troop morale. This example portrays the possibility of common citizen monitoring very plausible. Of course, it is not illegal to search the internet for say military complaints randomly, but if the government sets up digital programs to monitor all lanes of free speech that leaders find displeasing, an invasion of privacy is inevitable.

The internet has given birth to the newest crime category and venue of today: cyber crime and internet terrorism. These new crime areas threaten aviation, financial security, national security, identities and national defense. Committing criminal or forbidden acts can take the simple form of posting a blog where an Army unit is traveling. Travel fears should ripple when someone hacks into the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control server to change location displays of various aircraft in order that several horrendous crashes occur simultaneously. The question remains, if individuals knowingly or innocently violate laws and regulations, does that give the government carte blanche to monitor all internet transmissions? This appears to violate the innate right of Americans to say and print almost anything to only suffer consequences later.

To battle these new crime channels, governments must tune traditional intelligence gathering and sharing paradigms. To establish and adjudicate security clearances for all levels of government is essentially unachievable. To fight these new breeds of terrorists, all levels of government must be keen to threats, vigilantly share information with other agencies and in turn receive valuable intelligence to shift resources in preparation for upcoming attacks. Intelligence officers today need to be master surfers as well as master data analysts. When all sects of society join together and the federal government sharpens their intelligence frameworks, homeland security can be continuously improved.

Global Internet Technologies
To imagine that America’s homeland security can be threatened by something as simple as a bicycle powered generator and a 30-inch dish with a $150 laptop changes all preconceived ideas of typical criminal backrooms. Simple technology is being developed to spread educational opportunities throughout the world, but that same capability can easily deliver Al Qaeda’s next operation order to attack a U.S. Embassy in Tanzania. Communication has always been vital to the battlefield, but with instantaneous messaging, Osama Bin Laden could direct a strike against any target at any time with a $100 GPS that is accurate to within 100 feet.
Various groups will continue the development of simple and easy to use computing technologies, and this information sharing may help inform diverse groups to understand others so they are not feared or hated. One such foundation is One Laptop Per Child which deploys laptops to impoverished children (Hilton, 2006). These laptops do not have much software but come with wireless network connectivity. Network connections take the form of existing cellular telephone networks, long-range microwave and satellite fed networks. Besides expansion of educational opportunities, this technology explosion opens up new venues for holding national elections, agricultural trading, medical treatment extension, and banking.

Internet Technologies Used by Terrorist
Originally hackers were very annoying to the point that computers were corrupted requiring operating systems to be reinstalled. Bruce Berkowitz stated in 2001, “the real threat is not the hackers you see; it’s the ones you don’t.” Now those same hackers are being hired by terrorists to look for data to discover vulnerabilities of their enemies to cause havoc. The simplest method to battle an electronic enemy is to develop advanced technology continuously: firewalls, encryption programs, and training vigilant users. This technology of course has to be home grown. Traditional national security intelligence efforts are known for their reports and briefs and now need to be known for their internet savvy. If the federal government can attract young techies with the glamour to be the next 007, our intelligence efforts will be back at the forefront.
As vast and diverse illicit uses of the internet become evermore prevalent, the costs to society to counter cyberterrorism will impact the free flow of information. Intelligence agencies must reform around internet connectivity to analyze potential enemies as well as serving as the microscope to dissect who and what is being planned. Some of the many ways the internet can be used by terrorists are psychological warfare, propaganda, fundraising, recruitment, data mining, and coordination of actions. Foreign Terrorist Organizations designated under the U.S. Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 almost all unanimously maintained websites by year 2000 (Weimann, 2004). These organizations employ webmasters that change internet protocol (IP) addresses almost daily and upload and remove websites as quick as a mouse click.
The first avenue of eight different ways to use the internet by terrorists is psychological warfare. All modern armies use some psychological warfare. Terrorist are very good at disinformation causing fear and panic with fake attacks. This method draws eerie similarities to Orson Well’s War of the World’s infamous radio show nearly effecting pandemonium. Information is powerful, and terrorists who learn how and when to spread disinformation may cause almost as much damage as rockets. The USA’s most wanted terrorist organization, Al Qaeda, wages continuous fake attacks on the US, like white envelopes with white powder. These attacks typically cause some level of alarm that impacts the stock and bond markets, but principally diverts intelligence resources away from a possible another September 11, 2001.

The second focus area, publicity and propaganda, are used by terrorists to gain public awareness and empathy for their cause and financial support. One key area that is always stressed is the perils faced by their captured comrades. Those prisoners are touted as being religious zealots – not terrorists. Religious groups should have a free reign to practice their religion, but when that practice takes the form of collaborated Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), those groups must be controlled. Terrorists claim that their point of view will not be heard without explosions, that their way of life is being attacked by the West, and that their espousing of sovereignty is their sole goal. All of these goals gel easily around the internet’s free, unfettered and uncensored communication. It is strange to think that the internet is the ultimate symbol of a free world but is also a terrorist’s greatest weapon.

The third area that terrorists focus on is data mining. This area is exploited by all parties – good and bad. When one thinks that there are over a billion pages of information on the internet, it is easy to see that this is much more valuable than all the South African diamond mines together. A simple Yahoo search on the term “internet terrorism” yields over 24 million hits. Since the internet grows by the nanosecond, information analyzing is becoming infinite. Terrorists form such organizations as the Muslim Hackers Club who disseminates sensitive or classified information such as Secret Service radio frequencies, electronic virus tutorials, and building blueprints (Weimann, 2004). When the US discovered Al Qaeda with U.S. dam drawings, the Army Corps of Engineers stop posting engineering project designs as a part of contract solicitations. These contract packages are now only available on a bona fide need to know. A real security challenge remains to protect key infrastructure sites around the world, and this increasing effort to protect will no doubt close venues to public access in the future.

How is all of this paid for? Fundraising on the internet becomes a very economical means. Howard Dean displayed in the 2004 US Presidential election that raising funds on the internet is very viable. Terrorist publish overseas account numbers for sympathizers to make deposits. Many groups that appear to be legitimate non-profits are in fact fronts for jihadist groups. One uncanny example is that of Sami Hussayen who was a doctoral candidate in computer science supported by the National Security Agency. He was found to be creating websites that disseminated radical jihadist messages.

Supporters of various terrorists are recruited and mobilized easily through the web and its many tangles. The perils of internet cookies tastes bitter when one is considered to be targeted for donations or moral support because of their perusing of terrorist websites. Principally the internet is used to sway sympathizers to join the militias based on their anti-American propaganda and religious decrees. Al Qaeda is the principal group using the internet to stage recruitment campaigns. The internet is also used to invoke public displays of support as demonstrated by the world wide collective protest to the arrest of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdist terrorist group, Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) (Weimann, 2004).

The internet perfectly enables Al Qaeda and Hamas to form loose coalitions of terrorism organizations. Since these organizations are constantly being hunted by the western world, a traditional hierarchical structure is not easily maintained. The internet lends itself to horizontally organized groups dispersed all over the world. Bombs are being built by these groups with online assembly manuals, and the terror cells are formed lightening quick and text message operation orders are issued to place and detonate those bombs.

The seventh area terrorists are using the internet is information sharing – collaboration. Three scary publications found on the internet are 1) The Terrorist’s Handbook, 2) The Anarchist Cookbook and 3) The Mujahadeen Poisons Handbook. Of course the best of those 3 manuals along with other terrorist publications are collated into The Encyclopedia of Jihad (Weimann, 2004). Information on the internet with evil purposes is not solely privileged for Jihadist groups but also inspires individuals to formulate individual evil. Many other examples in the free world display the unpredictable consequences of having such malevolence information available freely on the internet.

The eighth portal that the internet opens to terrorists is the planning and coordination efforts that can be conducted virtually. Planners of September 11, 2001 used public free email accounts to transmit cryptic messages from public internet terminals. Graphic files are used frequently with operation orders embedded behind the graphics for concealment. Anti-terrorist organizations have focused their efforts normally on cyber terrorism and not the routine transmission of complex encrypted email messages containing the next 9-1-1.
When the battle begins on the many ways that terrorists use the internet, democracy may be dealt blows with losses of privacy. Terrorists are starting to finance their campaigns by conducting cyber crimes, e.g. brokering stolen corporate secrets. Gabriel Weimann stated in 2004, “It is a paradox: those movements who criticize Western technology and modernity are using the West’s most advanced communication technology, the Internet, to spread their message.” As this digital cat and mouse continue their chase, the U. S. Government must balance their aggression against sacred freedoms.

Counter Internet Terrorism
FISA, Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act, first enacted in 1978 as a reaction to the new cold war, started with good intentions, but have gone awry in recent years. FISA is the federal government’s most lethal homeland operation platform available to fight terrorism in general. Along with FISA, the more recent USA Patriot Act added complimentary defensive postures. Besides laws, our government uses Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening Systems (CAPPS II), Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC), the Defense Advanced Projects Administration (DARPA), Terrorist Information Awareness (TIA), and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board (PCLB) (Steinberg, Graham & Eggers, 2003). These modern efforts to secure our national security are force multipliers to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). If all of these national laws, regulations and agencies are worked in concert, all Americans will be safer.

FISA details procedures for electronic and physical surveillance and gathering of foreign intelligence information that is between foreign powers. This intelligence gathering should be for the sake of finding terrorist cells that intend harm on America or Americans living abroad. FISA’s very secret court that approves almost baseless warrants to perform physical searches or electronic surveillance programs started being used extensively in year 2000 under President Clinton and even more frequently under the Bush Administration. This secret court is comprised of 11 judges appointed by the Supreme Court Chief Justice and is housed in the Department of Justices. Troubling concerns became public in recent years that the President of the United States conducted electronic surveillance specifically without FISA warrants in the name of fighting the Global War on Terror. FISA was significantly revised with the USA Patriot Act of 2001 to allow intelligence gathering activities on foreign groups that may or may not be backed by a foreign government.

The USA Patriot Act approved by Congress as a result of the tragedy of September 11, 2001 was the greatest step-change that the Federal Government has promulgated to protect America while threatening our freedoms commonly called privacy rights. Privacy rights are definitely going to be violated as the Patriot Act is utilized, but it is the terrorist that the wire taps, data mining, and various cyber probes were supposed to target. The Patriot Act is supposed to be used to find foreign threats that generally reside within the United States. Common reactions leading to the Patriot Act were to never allow terrorist to be trained to fly planes in the U.S., travel around the country freely or violate VISA requirements. One overarching goal of the Patriot Act is to coalesce local, state and federal law enforcement agencies into a homogenous intelligence gathering and sharing team to stop terrorists.

CAPPS II is being tested by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an agency formed as a result of 9-11-01 (Steinberg, Graham & Eggers, 2003). TSA intends to scan all commercial airliner passenger manifests looking for potential terrorists. TTIC a creation of 2003 vintage by the George W. Bush administration offers another very pervasive avenue into our everyday lives (Steinberg, Graham & Eggers, 2003). TTIC seeks to coordinate information sharing between various intelligence gathering agencies. The goal of TTIC is not to gather more information, but rather to facilitate the collaboration of intelligence agencies to gain analytical synergies. Successful collaboration could lead to protections for critical infrastructure such as agriculture, transportation, water resources, and energy. DARPA sponsors research into data mining techniques and pattern recognition technologies that could develop new tools to discover terrorist plots or battlefield plans by the enemy. One such program to mine data is TIA (Steinberg, Graham & Eggers, 2003). TIA is designed to detect terrorist groups planning attacks against America. TIA serves as the ultimate blender to integrate various technologies to provide tools to authorized intelligence and law enforcement agencies to gather critical data to detect terrorists.

To possibly balance the three above intelligence agencies, the five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Board has secretly operated for almost a year and will make its first report to Congress soon (Yen, 2007). The Board was intended to be a watchdog over the various FISA and Patriot Act reforms to determine if they have caused unruly invasions into private lives. The Board has looked at international financial transaction monitoring, warrant less eavesdropping, and the Homeland Security Department’s no-fly lists. The Board was tasked with looking at how the various oversight activities were conducted so that national security validated warrants and searches without warrants did not cause irreparable harm to America.

Citizen Protections from Counter Terrorism Activities
FISA courts were set up to serve the President while providing some means of protection for our citizen liberties. One really has to wonder why President Bush avoids the court formed to protect America. In 2000, Judge Lambert discovered that the FBI was misleading the court on the purpose of national security wiretaps. As a result of this court’s actions, tremendously needed wiretaps of Al Qaeda suspects were shut down. Immediate search and seizures in the name of foreign terrorist surveillance can be made without a warrant, but must be certified by the Attorney General after the fact.

Domestically, the FISA court serves as the principal gatekeeper, but internationally the young Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime (CECC) steps into the foray to offer some common sense (Cybercrime & Hacking, 2007). Anytime a process is validated by several countries, it should offer greater individual freedom protections. Only time will tell if this international intelligence gathering venue truly gets to the source quicker and more efficiently while avoiding violations of citizen’s personal life.

Since all of these information gathering methods involve some form of communication, it must be obvious to realize that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) must play a key role in protecting constitutional freedoms. A crucial supporting cast to the FCC is the Homeland Security Policy Council (HSPC, 2007). HSPC was formed in late 2001 to strengthen measures to protect U.S. telecommunications, broadcast and communications infrastructure. HSPC was also tasked with being the emergency coordination agency in the event of terrorist attacks on communication systems, providing the means of last resort for first responders to effectively communicate. It is essential that the FCC plays a key role in terrorism awareness as that agency is able to reserve vital frequencies for communication. National disasters such as Hurricane Katrina clearly displayed the importance of interoperability.

Besides government sponsored internet protectors, grass roots organizations such as Reporters Without Borders (RSF) maintain websites devoted to uncovering enemies of the internet (Enemies of the internet, 2006). As of November 2006 RSF listed 13 blacklisted countries. RSF has organized online coordinated protests to show worldwide support to maintain a free open internet. A free uncensored internet will keep bloggers posting their complaints about countries that are traditional human rights violators, e.g. China, Iran and North Korea. It will certainly be very interesting to watch whether penetrating U.S. intelligence activities could actually plop America on the predator of freedoms list.

Global War on Terror (GWOT)
Over $700 billion spent in the last four years and no closer to finding Osama bin Laden or weapons of mass destruction (WMD) makes every taxpayer cringe at the thought of continuing the fight for years to come. The answer to this world dilemma will come from innovative novel solutions. One such potential solution is allowing young scientists to craft means to destroy satellites – virtually or physically. The Air Force Research Laboratory in New Mexico houses one such simple group formed to achieve those results. The group is named Space Countermeasures Hands On Program or Space CHOP (Shachtman, 2007). For example this group may go to the neighborhood electronic store to build simple devices that block vital satellite signals. Discovering these vulnerabilities along with hacking in their free time, define the next defensive front that must be armed and ready to protect national assets.

For the free world to achieve a semblance of terrorism control, it is simple to see that to be able to fight modern terrorists, one must think and act like one. When someone considers that an individual can peddle an exercise bike to generate electricity to connect to the World Wide Web to transmit a lethal operational order that releases deadly attacks on trains in Spain, advances in counter-terrorism are critical. Instant messaging becomes a normal means of communication for battlefield commanders via PDA’s linked to satellite or cellular systems. Information is available to understand the issues; one such web page by the Counterproliferation Center of the U.S. Air Force lists 28 pages of links (GWOT, 2007). One day, counter terrorism classes may become as common as First Aid classes.

Sacrifices for Security
Intelligence gathering will not subside anytime soon, so the question must be answered how America will maintain privacy for every citizen and organization. Discussions are really just beginning to start with the apparently never ending GWOT. The public has only learned within the last year or so that the President of the United States authorized search and seizures without warrants to gain information about potential foreign terrorists. Regulations to protect us also offer invasions into every personal life. FISA, CIA, FBI, and our military are intended to make peace, but they also offer chaos.

Becoming a better and stronger nation must be the goal of our leaders for all facets of life: education, economics, medical care, safety and democracy. Democracy is what sets America apart with its unlimited entrepreneurial spirit. This spirit in a sense makes close bedfellows with internet hackers. Hopefully each reader can see that creating an atmosphere that allows some harmless hacking actually presents opportunities to build new firewalls from terrorists. The key to fighting today’s and tomorrow’s radical terrorists lies within the internet. Sophisticated terrorists are the norm, and America must develop a new army of cyber warriors. Do you feel the calling?


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