May 27, 2006 12:10 AM   Subscribe

Freelance spying. How and why Rita got into the counterterrorism business, running and publishing SITE, where she and her researchers mine online sources for intelligence, which they translate and send out by e-mail to a list of about a hundred subscribers.
posted by semmi (12 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Pretty interesting, Semmi. A nice little bit of background on where some of our news comes from....
posted by ph00dz at 6:57 AM on May 27, 2006

"Katz called officials in Washington, and was met with institutional resistance: “They said, ‘Oh, Rita, I’m not sure you should even be communicating with them—you might be providing material support!’ And they wanted to get approval from the Department of Justice to look at the e-mails."

posted by jaronson at 7:42 AM on May 27, 2006

Yeah, I notice that the material support phrase gets interpreted very broadly by supporters of this administration...
posted by hattifattener at 10:29 AM on May 27, 2006

the material support phrase gets interpreted very broadly by supporters of this administration...

And also by Katz. Maybe it's karma.
posted by carter at 11:45 AM on May 27, 2006

The I.P. sometimes sent Katz to events where non-Muslims would stand out; she pretended to be the wife of a radical Iraqi-American businessman. She taped crowds outside the Israeli Embassy screaming in Arabic, “Jew, Jew, Muhammad is coming to get you.” At particularly radical fund-raisers and conferences, she wore a burka, spoke a deferential Iraqi-accented Arabic, and sat apart from the men, averting her eyes.

Awesome. Grassroots counter-terrorism.
posted by russilwvong at 3:06 PM on May 27, 2006

"The world of private, open-source counterterrorism operations is tiny—a few dozen people, if you’re counting liberally—and it tends to have the same characteristics as other self-appointed, at-the-barricades élites, like the neoconservatives, or the old American left, or, for that matter, an underground terrorist organization. There are the same personal allegiances and petty feuds, the same mixture of importance and self-importance."
posted by semmi at 3:39 PM on May 27, 2006

There's definitely a cell-like feel to the whole thing - secret hq, disguises, etc. I wonder sometimes exactly how many people in those chat rooms are militants, and how many are undercover spooks.
posted by carter at 4:07 PM on May 27, 2006

Rita wrote/published a book in 2003 called "Terrorist Hunter: The Extraordinary Story of a Woman Who Went Undercover to Infiltrate the Radical Islamic Groups Operating in America".
posted by pruner at 8:14 PM on May 27, 2006

Katz believes that the terrorists have been underestimated, and that more people should have direct access to what they are thinking and saying.

posted by taosbat at 10:04 PM on May 27, 2006

Gee, I wonder why the US is losing the war.
posted by blacklite at 10:23 PM on May 27, 2006

What war?
posted by jaronson at 10:21 AM on May 28, 2006

A jihadi had posted a link to the SITE Institute’s Web site. “The SITE is lurking,” he wrote. Its people were on the boards, using false names and acting as spies. He urged his brothers to ferret them out and expel them.

But another poster responded that SITE might be providing a valuable service. He wrote, “They translate the statements into English on our behalf, and they do not analyze them. Why do we not grab the opportunity?” Eventually, a moderator on the site weighed in: “All right, men, do not argue. We will carry out an election, and then we will see if we should keep them or expel them—what do you think? I am a democratic operative, don’t you think?” He ended with a smiley-face emoticon. By the time attention shifted to a new thread, opinion was running fifty-fifty as to whether SITE was, on balance, good for jihad.

Jihadi emoticons aside, my own opinion was running about 50-50 after reading the article. As a child, Rita Katz suffered at the hands of Saddam Hussein, but I don't see that SITE's activities have accomplished anything.
posted by lukemeister at 1:43 AM on May 29, 2006

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