An international fundamentalist Islamic organization founded by Osama bin Laden in the 1990s and classified as an international terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, and various other countries. The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are attributed to this organization.
As a result of the capture by the U.S. military of some Al-Qaeda terrorists in recent years, some experts have maintained that Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations may start to use computer technology more frequently to commit their acts of terrorism. For example, seized computers belonging to al-Qaeda indicate that its members are becoming familiar with cracking tools freely available over the Internet. Moreover, as more computer-literate members join the ranks of Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, they will bring with them an enhanced awareness of the advantages of a cyber-attack against highly networked critical infrastructures. And after a “new information technology” attack gets media attention, it will likely motivate other computer-savvy terrorist groups to use cyber attacks against targeted nations and their people.
Evidence suggests that some of the terrorists in the September 11, 2001, attacks used the Internet to plan their terrorist operations. Mohammed Atta, the so-called spearheader of the attacks, made his airline reservation online, and Al-Qaeda cells reportedly used Internet-based telephony to make contact with other cells overseas. Moreover, in an April 2003 news report on the Public Broadcasting System television news program “Frontline,” reporters said that an Al-Qaeda computer seized in Afghanistan had models of dams as well as computer programs to analyze them. And on April 22, 2005, Zacarias Moussaoui, the 36-year-old Morroccan sometimes called the twentieth hijacker, not only pleaded guilty to charges related to the September 11 air attacks but also announced in court that his primary objective was to crash a Boeing 747 jet into the White House. He said that he was computer savvy and that though he took flight lessons in Oklahoma and Minnesota, he learned most of his flight lessons through a Boeing 747 computer simulator.
The implications of this kind of evidence, terrorist experts maintain, is that al-Qaeda may be using advanced information technology to assist them in future terrorist attacks against targeted nations and may even be employing some highly skilled crackers to assist them in their terrorist plans.
Freeman, A. Moussaoui Pleads Guilty to Terror Charges. The Globe and Mail, April 23, 2005, p. A15; Wilson, C. CRS Report for Congress: Computer Attack and Cyberterrorism: Vulnerabilities and Policy Issues for Congress. [Online, October 17, 2003.] CRS Website. http:// www.fas.org/irp/crs/RL32114.pdf.