Last week, a note on an online message board touched off a flurry of international speculation. It said that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, lay near death after suffering a serious injury.
Subsequent postings only deepened the confusion; one said Zarqawi had left Iraq, yet another said that a deputy had been appointed in his place. The speculation only ended when Zarqawi himself posted an audio clip to prove he was still alive.
These message boards do a lot more than send out press releases. They tell terrorists how to build bombs, and which targets to attack. U.S. authorities are faced with a choice: They can try to take these sites out of commission, or they can exploit them to collect valuable intelligence.
Rita Katz, director of the SITE Institute, and author of “Terrorist Hunter”
W. David Stephenson, Principal of Stephenson Strategies, a consulting firm dealing in Homeland Security