A draft US Army intelligence report has identified the popular micro-blogging service Twitter, Global Positioning System maps and voice-changing software as potential terrorist tools.The report by the 304th Military Intelligence Battalion, posted on the website of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), examines a number of mobile and web technologies and their potential uses by militants.
The posting of the report on the FAS site was reported Friday by Wired magazine contributing editor Noah Shachtman on his national security blog “Danger Room” at wired.com.
The report is not based on clandestine reporting but drawn from open source intelligence known as OSINT.
A chapter on “Potential for Terrorist Use of Twitter” notes that Twitter members sent out messages, known as “Tweets,” reporting the July Los Angeles earthquake faster than news outlets and activists at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis used it to provide information on police movements.
“Twitter has also become a social activism tool for socialists, human rights groups, communists, vegetarians, anarchists, religious communities, atheists, political enthusiasts, hacktivists and others to communicate with each other and to send messages to broader audiences,” the report said.
Hacktivists refers to politically motivated computer hackers.
“Twitter is already used by some members to post and/or support extremist ideologies and perspectives,” the report said.
“Extremist and terrorist use of Twitter could evolve over time to reflect tactics that are already evolving in use by hacktivists and activists for surveillance,” it said. “This could theoretically be combined with targeting.”
The report outlined scenarios in which militants could make use of Twitter, combined with such programs as Google Maps or cell phone pictures or video, to carry out an ambush or detonate explosives.
“Terrorists could theoretically use Twitter social networking in the US as an operation tool,” it said. “However, it is unclear whether that same theoretical tool would be available to terrorists in other countries and to what extent.”
Besides Twitter, the report examined the potential use by militants of Global Positioning Systems and other technologies.
“GPS cell phone service could be used by our adversaries for travel plans, surveillance and targeting,” it said, noting that just such uses have been discussed in pro-Al-Qaeda forums along with the use of voice-changing software.
“Terrorists may or may not be using voice-changing software but it should be of open source interest that online terrorist and/or terrorist enthusiasts are discussing it,” the report said.