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Terrorists' Web Sites Hosted by City Firm
Scranton Times (Pennsylvania) ^
| Sept. 15, 2002
| David Falchek
Posted on 09/17/2002 10:04:11 AM PDT by JohnathanRGalt
A Scranton Internet company has found itself under the microscope of at least two political groups for hosting radical Islamic Web sites.
| Terrorists' Web Sites Hosted by City Firm
| BY DAVID FALCHEK THE SUNDAY TIMES
BurstNET Technologies Inc., which services thousands of Internet sites, hosts at least two inflammatory terrorist-related Web sites, one pro-Palestinian and another pro-Taliban, BurstNET officials and political groups said.
The Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism, said it has connected the Palestinian site to the militant group Hamas.
But the role of BurstNET may be quite different than meets the Internet eye. The company said it is working with cyber cops who are monitoring terrorists.
The sophisticated Hamas-connected Web site links to hundred of photographs and gruesome video of severely wounded Palestinians -- often children. It is interspersed with calls for the "reprisals" against Israelis and alludes to American support of Israel.
"We vow to turn each and every Zionist house and street into a funeral," the site reads. "We will not enjoy sleep until we see
Zionists turning into scattered remains in all of their restaurants, buses, and pavements."
The Sunday Times has decided not to publish the exact Web addresses of the sites.
BurstNET officials refer to an "entity" requiring them not to divulge information about their arrangement in hosting the radical Web sites.
"We cannot comment on this due to the fact that we are obligated by the entity," said Jason Brozena, a BurstNET vice president.
BurstNET's Prescott Avenue location is an unlikely setting for radical Islamic Internet content -- and the story contains a Tom Clancy-like twist: BurstNET is owned by Shawn M. Arcus, who is Jewish, said the company's vice president of operations, Eric Gregory. It operates from a building owned by Mo Blatt, the kosher butcher whose shop is next door.
The Anti-Defamation League, which monitors anti-Semitic and other hate groups, recently released a report, "Jihad Online: Islamic Terrorists and the Internet." ADL researchers for the study identified BurstNET as owner of servers hosting sites spouting anti-Israel vitriol.
The ADL report explains how terrorist groups and sympathizers use the Internet not only to promote their cause, but to communicate through a code of arcane symbols and language.
The pro-Palestinian site hosted by BurstNET allows the Web surfer to view content in any one of five languages. The site is updated daily and contains a large, searchable archive of photos, news reports, political analysis and position papers.
The pro-Taliban site includes a live chat room.
In a scenario with First Amendment ramifications, the Anti-Defamation League suspects there's a reason BurstNET continues to host such Web content.
"Any of these sites could be removed by the government under the U.S. Patriot Act," said the ADL's director of civil rights, Rosina Abramson. "Of course we prefer the hosts to police their sites, rather than have the government do it."
The federal government likely is monitoring such Web sites in an effort to track terrorist activity or even identify potential terrorists, said Jeremy Reynalds, a freelance journalist who tracks terrorist Web sites and reported on BurstNET on the conservative Web site www.bushcountry.org.
The company seems to have added pro-terrorist Web sites recently. Mr. Reynalds said one notorious site operated by the militant group Alneda was pulled from a Houston server called Everyone's Internet several weeks ago. Last week it re-emerged with a harder-to-find numerical address, resurrected on a BurstNET server.
That site's masthead features an American flag bearing the Star of David on a flag pole being snapped by a jet. The site is entirely in Arabic.
"This site is accepted as the mouthpiece for al-Qaida," said Anti-Defamation League researcher Brian Marcus. "This site transmits their information on servers owned by BurstNET."
Mr. Reynalds said BurstNET's claim that an "entity" has prompted it to host radical sites is not unprecedented. Everyone's Internet claimed the U.S. government had forced it to host the Alneda site, which is reputed to be the site of choice for official statements by Al-Qaida and the Taliban.
Mr. Reynalds is worried that the government may be using a heavy hand on private citizens and businesses.
"My concern is that if what BurstNET says is true, that it is illegal," he said. "Unwanted government interference could know no limits."
PIONEER TURNED SHERIFF
BurstNET was founded in 1991 and began hosting Web sites in 1996, making it a veteran of the relatively new industry. It maintains about 50,000 Web sites on more than 600 servers for clients in at least 150 countries.
As a Web host, the company leases "space" for groups or individual to create sites accessible through the Internet.
Mr. Gregory, responding to e-mailed questions from The Sunday Times, said he does not know how long terrorists have been using their network. He noted that BurstNET leases dedicated servers and said hosting companies generally do not police content.
"The sites in question reside on dedicated servers, which means that a client rents an entire server and hosts sites of their choosing," Mr. Gregory said. "They act as their own hosting business."
Mr. Gregory declined to talk about specific sites, but said BurstNET lets law enforcement know about certain sites and provides them with any further information.
"If they give us the go-ahead, we'll shut certain sites down," he said. "I cannot give any more details than that."
Message boards on www.webhostingtalk.com, a forum for the hosting community, have raged in recent weeks over BurstNET's hosting of terrorist sites.
BurstNET client Joe Angerson, chief executive of Pittston-based DigiSquid Studios, said his company may have been an innocent victim of the attention drawn to the terrorism sites.
DigiSquid rents server space from BurstNET. Mr. Angerson said hackers have attacked the terrorists sites to bring them down. Their patriotic fury may be misplaced, however. Their acts have brought down innocent BurstNET sites, like those created by Mr. Angerson.
When Mr. Angerson phoned BurstNET about his failing sites, he said he nearly laughed when he heard their story about intelligence agencies and confidentiality, he said. Mr. Angerson said he is convinced BurstNET is working with the U.S. government and BurstNET doesn't condone viewpoints espoused by the terrorism sites.
"BurstNET has a great reputation nationally and internationally," Mr. Angerson said. "This whole situation, getting their Web sites attacked and going down, is detrimental to their business. I think their hands are tied. I know those guys and I certainly don't think they would ever do anything anti-American."
U.S. intelligence agencies have the technology and ability to monitor activity on Web sites and will keep pro-terrorists sites up, said FBI spokesman Paul Bresson.
"We have shut down sites that further criminal activity," he said. "Often it is more beneficial for us to keep such sites up and running."
Mr. Bresson declined to comment on BurstNET or Web sites on its servers. However, he said Web sites being monitored are likely part of a current investigation.
"We can't freely roam Web sites," he said. "There must a predicate to our monitoring. We have to obtain a warrant, and it becomes part of something like an undercover investigation."
If federal officials were to order terrorism Web sites shut down, that wouldn't necessarily mean a terrorist network couldn't communicate on the Internet, said Christopher Carney, an associate professor of political science at Penn State's Worthington Scranton campus and a Navy intelligence officer advising the Department of Defense. Terrorists can communicate over any Web site, not just terrorist ones.
"That's a false front," he said. "Terrorists can take their codes and encryption to any Web site -- all they have to do is agree on which one to use."
Dr. Carney doubts the intelligence agencies would bully a company to do something against its conscience.
"The government can't force them, but no one wants to not cooperate with the government when asked to help in an effort like this," Mr. Carney said. "I would hope the war on terror hasn't come to our government coercing citizens and businesses."
BurstNET, in the meantime, is in a difficult position. The company claims to be cooperating with government officials yet participates in disseminating information contrary company officials' own conscience while leaving its network vulnerable to enraged pro-American hackers.
"It's not that we don't want to talk about it," Mr. Brozena said. "We can't."
TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; US: Pennsylvania
KEYWORDS: alqaeda; azzam; islam; islamicviolence; islamist; jehad; jihad; jihadinamerica; talibanlist; talibannewscom; terrorism; terrorist; website
To: The KG9 Kid; Audit_Jesse; Aaron_A; LibWhacker; facedown; MarMema; JohnathanRGalt; Sharif; ...
Jehadi website ping: (let me know if you want on or off)
To: JohnathanRGalt; *JIHAD IN AMERICA; Grampa Dave; Clovis_Skeptic; ladyinred; veronica; ...
Why don't you include the keyword --JIHAD IN AMERICA -- in your ping list and the banner following this somewhere in the thread.
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Ok, Will do.
posted on 09/17/2002 12:54:43 PM PDT
posted on 09/17/2002 4:36:07 PM PDT
posted on 09/17/2002 4:51:05 PM PDT
I am guessing you sent the local newpapers links to you blogs...excellent!
posted on 09/18/2002 3:47:59 AM PDT
I am guessing you sent the local newpapers links to your blogs...excellent!
Yes. All the news media I could find in Scranton, Harrisburg, Philly, Allentown, Pittsburg, ...
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