US hacked Al Qaeda websites in Yemen, says Hillary Clinton


A screen shot of Said al-Shihri, an official tied to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a militant group that operates mainly in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, in a 2010 video.



The US government's cyber experts recently hacked into Al Qaeda websites in Yemen, Hillary Clinton has said.

In what the Associated Press called "a rare public admission of the covert cyber war against extremists," the Secretary of State said last night that her department had targeted sites that contained anti-American, pro-terrorist propaganda.

"Within 48 hours, our team plastered the same sites with altered versions of the ads that showed the toll Al Qaeda attacks have taken on the Yemeni people," Clinton said in a speech to the Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida.

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"We can tell our efforts are starting to have an impact because extremists are publicly venting their frustration and asking supporters not to believe everything they read on the internet."

According to the AP, Clinton said the attack was carried out by the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, a group of military and civilian specialists that uses the web and social media to track and undermine Al Qaeda's efforts to recruit new members.

They are part of what Clinton calls the "smart power" that Washington relies on to fight extremists, ABC News reported.

However, a terrorism consultant who specializes in jihadi websites, Evan Kohlmann, told the Washington Post that the local Yemeni forums to which Clinton was refering might not reach a wide enough audience to make any real difference.

"If you're already living in Yemen and in a tribal area," he said, "you probably don't need to go to a website to join Al Qaeda." 

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