Shin Bet head: Internet's reach makes fighting terror harder
'The Internet is providing terror organizations with the kind of intel that was once available only to countries,' says Yuval Diskin at security conference.
Shin Bet security service head Yuval Diskin said on Monday that terror threats facing Israel are gradually becoming far more complex thanks to globalized technological innovations, specifically the world wide web.
"The Internet is providing terror organizations with the kind of intel that was once available only to countries," he said.
Speaking at a security conference in Tel Aviv, Diskin said that "it is possible to fight terror successfully, and even defeat it, but success requires a general cooperation between countries and intelligence agencies and the free flow of knowledge, intelligence and homeland security technology, as well as operational cooperation at a high level and the development of a global judicial system."
"Technology has made the world smaller and flatter," he went on to say. "The availability of technology that has revolutionized economy and communications has also given rise to many global terror opportunities."
Diskin's rare public remarks came as authorities on three continents were investigating a pair of mail bombs that originated in Yemen last week and were intercepted at airports in Britain and Dubai.
Diskin did not directly mention the mail bomb plot, but said that Yemen plays a key role in the transfer of weapons to militant groups in the Gaza Strip.
The Shin Bet chief said terror can now cross more borders, giving as an example the purchase of weapons by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from Iran and Korea, which arrive in Yemen and Sudan and are then smuggled through Egypt into Gaza. Globalization also allows the same terror organizations, based in Gaza, to smuggle fighters through Egypt to Iran to train and prepare terror attacks, he said.
"Terrorists use internet chat rooms," Diskin declared. "These are people who read certain websites, and undergo cyber-brain washing by Al-Qaida operatives. The kind of information that is available teaches them how to handle explosives and evade security service organizations like the one I head."
Diskin said the Internet also makes it easier for terrorists to carry out attacks.
"It is possible to remotely attack essential infrastructure by using the Internet, and cause real damage and loss of life," he said, adding that the most significant development in the field is the breaking down of "psychological inhibitions" from the kinds of mega-terror attacks exemplified by the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City and the Pentagon.
Diskin elaborated on Israel's battle against terror, saying that it has advanced leaps and bounds since a recent restructuring within the Shin Bet and cooperation with different anti-terror bodies.
"In addition to these, one super-capability is required, one for which, unfortunately, no technology has been invented - putting egos aside and knowing to subjugate relative advantages in pursuit of the common goal: the safety of citizens," Diskin added. "For this to happen, we need leadership from the political and operational echelons."
Diskin said time was of the essence for adapting to new realities, though his organization, by working with others, had thwarted 120 terror attacks.
"Getting used to this takes time," he said, "but if we don't do this quickly there will be a painful price to pay. Our intelligence capabilities have been good at times, but when the cooperation wasn't effective, the desired goal wasn't achieved." (The Associated Press contributed to this report )