WASHINGTON – Extremists no longer need to leave their homes to organize suicide missions for Al Qaeda, raise terror funds and spread ideology, counterterrorism analysts say.
The Internet allows radicals to communicate anonymously and do their business online as demonstrated in recent terrorist attacks, experts told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Thursday.
Internet chat rooms are supplementing and replacing mosques, community centers and coffee shops as venues for recruitment and radicalization, said Frank Cilluffo, associate vice president for homeland security and director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at The George Washington University.
"The real-time two-way dialogue of the chat rooms has taken the fight global, enabling extremists' ideas to be shared, take root, be reaffirmed and spread exponentially. This mutual affirmation, in turn, gives rise to a sense of community and belonging, in essence a virtual uma," Cilluffo said.
"The Internet is more than just a tool of terrorist organizations, however; it is also the primary repository of the essential resources for sustaining the culture of terrorism," said Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Support to Public Diplomacy Michael Doran. "It houses hundreds of thousands of pages of books that define the extremist interpretation of religion that feeds the global terrorist movement."
The Web also works as a tool for terrorists to develop new ways to kill.
The Madrid train bombs in March 2004, which killed 191 people in a series of coordinated attacks, were orchestrated by terrorists on computers with more than 50 electronic books, downloaded from the Internet about operations and Al Qaeda ideology.
Those who follow the Islamic forums know that Al Qaeda is a thinking enemy developing ways to put information on Web sites that is hard to detect.
"An Iraqi insurgent group held a contest. The prize was an opportunity to launch a rocket attack against U.S. troops via a click of their own mouse. They are a clear and present danger," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.
FOX News' Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.