Most recent news on hacking has centered on China’s data theft from U.S. companies. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters have drawn much less attention, even though in late March they temporarily disabled the online banking systems of American Express and Wells Fargo Bank, both major U.S. financial players. The inspiration for the attacks is instructive.
Izz al-Din al-Qassam was a Syrian preacher of jihad killed in a guerilla attack against the British in 1935. He inspired the PLO’s Yasser Arafat and the Islamic Resistance Movement, the military wing of Hamas, is named after him. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters first launched their campaign the week of September 11, 2012, when jihadists attacked U.S. embassies in several countries, most notably Libya, where they killed four Americans including ambassador Christopher Stevens.
The pretext was not any U.S. diplomatic or military action – indeed, the United States had aided anti-Gadaffi Libyan rebels – but an internet video “Innocence of Muslims,” reportedly portraying the prophet Muhammad as a fraud. Few had seen the trailer, which Hillary Clinton, then U.S. Secretary of State, called “disgusting and reprehensible.” Susan Rice, president Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, claimed the Libya attack was “spontaneous – not a premeditated response” to “this very offensive video that was disseminated.” She did not say by whom.
The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters claimed that Western agencies made the film and demanded that it be removed from YouTube. They launched “Operation Alababil,” a series of attacks on Bank of America, Wells Fargo, PNC and other U.S. financial heavyweights in “revenge in response to the humiliation of the Organization of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) by some Western countries.”
Richard A. Clarke a former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism, told ABC news that it was the first time an entity from the Middle East, perhaps a government, “had attacked websites, critical infrastructure in the United States.” The hackers claimed to be independent defenders of Islam taking orders from no one. But senator Joseph Lieberman and American computer security experts saw the hand of Iran in the attacks, more intense than those Russia directed at Estonia in 2007. Experts note that financial disruption is the calling card of state-sponsored attacks and the sophistication far exceeded the level of amateurs. It is entirely possible that Iran was responding to Western economic sanctions using the al-Qassam group as its proxy and the video as the pretext.
The Al Qassam squad continued the attacks until late October, 2012, then resumed the campaign in December claiming the attacks would continue until the U.S. government pulled the video off YouTube. The attacks have continued in March 2013, on the same pretext and with the same solution: pull the video and the attacks will stop. One doubts it, and now the context is different.
Jihadist mobs are not currently besieging American embassies and murdering ambassadors. On the other hand, Iran, an Islamic regime with a harem of carefully fondled hatreds, particularly for the United States, continues its pursuit of nuclear weapons. North Korea has canceled its armistice with the United States and continues to rattle its nuclear saber. As Americans face this double nuclear jeopardy, they might keep some realities in mind.
U.S. officials are fond of claiming that the nation is not at war with Islam but the cyberattacks are evidence that supremacist Islam remains at war with the United States and its allies. The video pretext, meanwhile, was a phony from the beginning, part of a carefully planned series of terrorist attacks on U.S. facilities and interests. The renewed attacks by the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters should serve as a reminder that the Obama administration, acting through Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, essentially parroted a jihadist propaganda ploy.
That sent a strong signal to al-Qassam, al Qaeda, Hamas, Iran and North Korea alike. If any terrorist group or nation seeks to attack the United States with weapons of mass destruction, the conditions are now the most favorable they can expect. The world is now more dangerous than during the Cold War when the Soviet nuclear arsenal was the major threat.
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