MULTIFACETED MEDIA GROUP
LINKSBlogs of War
Gunpowder & Lead
Long War Journal
Making Sense of Jihad
Views from the Occident
American Al Qaeda Members
News, analysis and primary source documents on terrorism, extremism and national security.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
The Value Of Exposing CollaboratorsDaniel Maldanado, an American convert to Islam who went to fight alongside Islamists in Somalia, was once a big hit on the jihadi Internet forums. Arrested in 2007, he wrote craven, apologetic letters to the judge considering his sentence even as he wrote grandiose accounts of his jihad experiences to correspondents on the forums. One such letter described his grand adventures on the lam in the African wild with a group of fellow fighters:
For two weeks we did not eat at all except for one time at the very beginning of our wanderings. One day we came out to a Savannah area; it looked like something out of Lion King! We were careful, as helicopters were still in the sky and we were obviously being hunted by them. We would stay along the edge of the jungle area until we felt it was safe to actually go out into the long-grassed Savanna.This missive became rather popular online, and Maldonado was seen as someone who had been living the dream. Less publicized were his court letters which laid out more bluntly the unpleasantness of his experience, including feeling awkward about being the only white guy in his group and general ineptitude.
Read Maldonado's letters to the court
The court letters didn't get much attention from jihobbyists at the time, but Maldonado is now getting plenty of negative attention from his former friends, thanks to his testimony this week implicating his former friend and fellow Boston-area jihadist Tarek Mehanna.
The former hero is now decidedly the goat. A thread on the hardcore Islamic Awakening forum concerning Maldonad's testimony sprouted 62 posts in just about one day (it was spun off by moderators from a thread on the Mehanna trial). A sampling of the responses:
"Make sure when you see [your children after an early release for cooperating] you sit them in your lap and tell them that this time together is thanks to lies and stabbing a Muslim in the back."There were also those who defended Maldonado, somewhat tepidly, and many who suggested they should not be the judges. Many sharp words, accusations and condemnations were exchanged. In short, it was exactly the kind of thing that ordinary people and counterterrorism officials would like to see on these forums -- fitna, dissent and division.
U.S. officials should make cooperators and collaborators more visible. Since 9/11, many a convicted jihadist has fulfilled the conditions of a plea in total secrecy, never emerging to testify in court, sometimes even being released from prison early without anyone ever knowing what sort of cooperation they provided.
Disclosing this cooperation has multiple positive effects. First, it creates the divisions seen above. Secondly, it discredits jihadist narratives. Maldonado's letter to the forums about his adventures in Somalia will not be so warmly received in the future. It reinforces an existing meme among would-be jihadists that you can't trust anyone, no matter how credible they look. And finally, it hedges against convicted terrorists who play a double game of cooperating and then recanting, whether in letters from prison or after their release. If Maldonado succeeds in getting an early release thanks to his testimony against Mehanna, he won't receive a warm reception among his radical former friends.
For more about American jihadists, check out J.M. Berger's new book, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, on sale everywhere.
Tweets referencing this post:
Book: Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam (Reviews)
E-Book: Beatings and Bureaucracy: The Founding Memos of Al Qaeda
E-Book: Interview online jihadist Abu Suleiman Al Nasser (Abridged)
Sourcebook: The 9/11 Investigation (coming soon)
Sourcebook: Al Qaeda in America
Sourcebook: Ali Mohamed
Sourcebook: Gitmo Detainees
Sourcebook: Siege at Mecca
Sourcebook: Islamic Extremism in Egypt
Sourcebook: The Sadat Assassination
JIHAD JOEJihad Joe: Americans Who Go To War In The Name Of Islam, the new book by INTELWIRE's J.M. Berger, is now available in both Kindle and hardcover editions. Order today!
Jihad Joe is the first comprehensive history of the American jihadist movement, from 1979 through the present. Click here to read more about the critical acclaim Jihad Joe has earned so far, including from the New York Times, Publisher's Weekly, Redstate.com and many more.
New from J.M. Berger: The Enduring Legacy of Awlak...
Bosnian Arms: UN Wartime Embargo Defied, Ignored B...
Al Qaeda in Bosnia: Exclusive State Department Cab...
Larger than Death
Anwar Awlaki Killed
Affidavit: Rezwan Ferdaus Allegedly Planned To Bom...
Letter From British Jihadi Describes Contacts With...
Declassified State Department Cables On Al Qaeda-L...
The Utility of Lone Wolves, Or Lack Thereof
Well, Is Al Qaeda Winning Or Not?
New York Pipe Bomb Suspect Linked to Revolution Muslim
The Utility of Lone Wolves
Interview with Online Jihadist Abu Suleiman Al Nasser
A Way Forward for CVE: The Five Ds
How Terrorists Use The Internet: Just Like You
PATCON: The FBI's Secret War on the Militia Movement
Interview About Jihad With Controversial Cleric Bilal Philips
Forgeries on the Jihadist Forums
U.S. Gave Millions To Charity Linked To Al Qaeda, Anwar Awlaki
State Department Secretly Met With Followers of Blind Sheikh
State Department Put 'Political Pressure' On FBI To Deport Brother-in-Law Of Osama Bin Laden In 1995
FBI Records Reveal Details Of Nixon-Era Racial Profiling Program Targeting Arabs
Gaza Flotilla Official Was Foreign Fighter in Bosnia War
U.S. Had 'High Confidence' Of UBL Attack In June 2001
Behind the Handshake: The Rumsfeld-Saddam Meeting