The global jihadist movement wants the world to adopt Islam's 7th century values, and it's using 21st century technology to do it. In fact, radical Islamic Web sites are years ahead of any Western counter-efforts, say Web watchers and terror trackers.

“In terms of the propaganda war, they are way ahead of us — they are 10 years ahead of us,” said Stephen Ulph, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation, where he is a specialist in Middle East and North African affairs. “[The Internet] seems to me to be the real center of gravity for the jihad movement.”

On Wednesday, a video broadcast by Al Jazeera television network showed the deputy leader of Al Qaeda saying the United States is negotiating with the wrong people in Iraq and implying the U.S. needs to talk to his group.

The video — which bore the logo of Al Qaeda's media production house, al-Sahab — was the 15th time this year that Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahiri has sent out a statement. The video bore the hallmarks of his previous messages — all authenticated by CIA analysts.

Aside from the video itself — the growing technical sophistication of the terrorists was marked by the fact that U.S. intelligence officials learned about the emergence of a possible message by Al-Zawhiri from speculation that spread across "Jihad-type Web sites."

Days before the video surfaced, intelligence officials warned U.S. news outlets not to get too carried away by the announcement of an impending tape because the pattern of promoting upcoming videos via the Internet had been a technique used in the past to maximize media coverage.

Laws exist in the United States and other countries against Web sites that directly incite violence, but the U.S government has had a tough time monitoring and shutting those down. That challenge has been compounded by the fact that these jidahist sites are typically not in English, can be posted and removed quickly and utilize servers scattered across different countries on the globe.

Web sites that seek to inspire, indoctrinate and recruit Muslims for jihad don’t necessarily call for violent action. Instead, they seek to persuade potential recruits with mountains of literature, religious text, interpretations and the allure of a worldwide community of brotherhood.

Robert Steele, a former clandestine case officer for the CIA who works in open source intelligence, that is, building intelligence by monitoring and trolling public information, like the Internet, said one-third of the Jihadist Web sites operating today are used to incite violence, one-third raise funds for organizations that fund terrorists, and another third indoctrinate through theology and intellectual discourse.

They are all growing in popularity.

“It’s spreading like wildfire. It’s phenomenally successful,” Steele said.

Stephen Schwartz, author of "The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'ud from Tradition to Terror," said he is struck by the sophistication of technology and breadth of content on the sites, which are primarily used for indoctrination into the radical Muslim ideology of jihad.

“The jihadist Web sites are pretty extraordinary when you look at them,” he said. “The combination of money, youth imagination, fanaticism, the desire for simplicity and the desire to sweep people away — it’s really a potent mixture.”

Opinions differ about the goals of these sites are, but most agree they include spreading the pursuit of cleansing the Muslim world of tyrants and apostates — those Muslims not loyal to their vision of the faith — through jihad. Other more vociferous sites, particularly those linked to Al Qaeda, advocate some form of action and almost all reflect hostility toward the United States and the West.

The sites are generously funded by sources in Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, countries that are typically very restrictive about Internet activity but have so far been inept at controlling Web sites or fairly lax in their concern about this particular content, say those familiar with these outlets.

“The Saudis shut down a number of these sites for a while,” said Schwartz. “I don’t think Pakistan has done anything to control the e-jihad. A lot of the e-jihad is being run from Europe, some is run from the United States.”

Some terror analysts note the Catch-22 associated with controlling jihadist messages on the Internet — they suggest that Western adherence to civil liberties, like freedom of expression, is preventing law enforcement types from choking off the lifeblood of these Web sites.

“They are successful because they use the legal system of the West and hide under it,” said Walid Phares, terrorism expert for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. "[They] use liberties to their advantage.”

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, raised eyebrows recently when he suggested that such liberties might need to be re-examined against the threat of Internet jihad and the associated possibility of terror attacks against Americans.

But Schwartz said the issue is more complicated than that. While sites inciting violence already violate U.S. law, indoctrination sites may be useful in terms of keeping an eye on what extremists are planning. The Zawahiri video is a case in point.

“My ability to know what is going on depends on my ability to monitor what is going on,” he said, noting that transparency seems like the best policy in order to spot a real terror threat creeping out of the shadows.

Ulph, Phares and Schwartz also said the best way to combat cyber-radicalization is through a well-orchestrated, relentless propaganda machine on the other side, engaging the jihadists on a theological and cultural level and employing moderate Muslim scholars and activists willing to bully their way onto the Internet battlefield.

"We really need to get our acts together and martial the entire liberal movement in the Muslim community, plus the non-Muslim West, to starting chipping away" at the religious arguments for jihad, said Ulph.

He said weaknesses in their intellectual defenses, like the question of violence against other Muslims, could be exploited by aggressive, loud, publicity-grabbing moderate Muslims.

"What you want are bullies -- a clever media response from people who are of the right age group, not camera-shy and proactive," he said.

But others say they are doubtful. Michael Scheuer, a former CIA analyst who headed the counterterrorism unit dedicated to tracking Usama bin Laden in the 1990s, said anti-terror forces cannot win by fighting radicals on a theological level because the so-called moderate and liberal Muslims are more wary of U.S. influence in the Muslim world than they are of extremists in their ranks.

"The reality is, liberals, moderates and conservatives in the Muslim world all hate our foreign policy" and no amount of counter-propaganda is going to curb the spread and popularity of these Web sites, said Scheuer. "You can argue religion all you want … but as long as the argument is the Americans are still occupying Iraq, well, it's hard to discredit that argument."

Phares countered that jihad was growing long before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and it is wrong to think it is all about U.S. foreign policy.

"This is a very old ideology with objectives much wider than the specific goals of U.S. policy in the region. Just the opposite, a U.S. policy that supports democracy and freedom in the region is the only rational response to the rise of the terrorist ideologies," he said.

While calling the extremist Web sites "dangerous and very hard to combat," Abbas Kadhim, an assistant professor of Islamic Studies at the Naval Postgraduate School in California, said the United States has so far failed in its pledge to help democratize the region. Continued oppression in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, two U.S. allies, are examples of that. This status quo has only served to encourage extremist rhetoric while dissuading sought-after moderates.

"The reason for not being on top of this war in cyber space is the same reason the U.S is not winning the war of ideas on Al Jazeera and other media," Kadhim said. "It's about not being able to compete in terms of popularity in the Middle East. People see the inconsistencies in policy and they see rhetoric not matched by action."