Category Archives: Internet and Society

Middle East Dilemma from the Caliphate to Open Source Jihad

Middle East Since 2008, the Internet and cyberspace tools were the most important sources of dissenting opinion[1] in Middle East and second to private media such as Aljazeera.  Thence, it played crucial role in the uprisings that took place in MENA region since Tunisian uprising in 2010. Although these uprisings helped people organize, communicate and collaborate to topple their authoritarian governments, it didn’t succeed in solving any critical issue or changing society culture. Due to the lack of leadership in the so called “Arab Spring” protests, Middle East witnessed the reign of more organized Islamist groups in Tunisia[2], Egypt[3] and Libya[4] and they effectively hijacked the goals of those protest. In this context, Ambassador Marc Ginsberg stated:

“…While radical Islam is not part of the narrative, Islamist parties are going to gain more influence because the real economic grievances cannot be addressed by youth movements. And, there’s not enough money among the non-oil producing countries to fulfill the economic and social grievances that gave the youth the power to cause these revolts in the first place.”[5]

Due to many reasons, failure of establishing the so called “State of Islam” by Islamists resulted in dramatic increase in types of attacks and crimes committed against nation states, civilians, or government facilities under the cloak of “Jihad” to establish the so called “Caliphate”[6]. Subsequently, this chaotic environment in the region fueled guerrilla warfare, proxy wars, politically motivated attacks, and terrorism. But this time, the latter is based on the dangerous ideologies of the 13th century employed with the 21st century technologies.

To read the full research, click here!

 

Middle East and NSA leaks

nsa-leak-snowden-live-updates2222.siThe latest NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden[i] sparked constitutional clash in the US and other European countries. These leaks revealed also that Middle East countries were under surveillance in a program called “Boundless Informant”[ii]. This program reminds me of Echelon[iii] project which was (or still) a secret agreement for signal intelligence (SIGNIT). Echelon project is actually a vast network of electronic spy stations located around the world and maintained by five countries (USA, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).

In 1945, the US started secret project called “Shamrock”[iv] to spy on telegraphic data entering into and exiting from the United States. The NSA was not known at this time but the FBI, CIA and defense department were granted daily access to telegraph messages without any warrant.

In 1952, President Harry Truman established the NSA[v] with a presidential directive to help break secret codes gathered during WWII. But this was just the beginning until the NSA started to be involved in everything.   In my opinion, this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to surveillance and digital spying. This might be the norm due to unwarranted influence of the military and police state in the US.

Accordingly, the surveillance state is not new in the US but citizens are tend to forget or even don’t have time to search or read history.  One of the well-known scandals related to NSA was the AT&T case in 2006[vi] which brought the Israeli company, NARUS[vii], to the surface.

The latest NSA leaks in addition to AT&T scandal in 2006 revealed the rule of NARUS software and gears in Internet surveillance. NARUS, which acquired by Boeing in 2010, was founded in Israel in 1997. Since 2004, NARUS was major player in Middle East surveillance when it comes to blocking VoIP services[viii]. Arab dictators were overwhelmed by the new VoIP technologies, especially Skype, when governments in Egypt and Saudi Arabia wanted to block it due to economic and political issues. VoIP services helped activists bypass government surveillance in Middle East. It was also very cheap or free when compared to local telephone services. This company, NARUS, helped also Arab regimes in Egypt[ix], Libya[x] and other countries to spy on their citizens using deep packet inspection technology (DPI). They also used these tools to block specific services and websites that might contain materials against governments or religious issues. In Middle East, under the cloak of “National Security”, everything can be blocked, no questions asked!

Do Arab countries understand what they installed in their ICT infrastructure?

Blocking YouTube: Is that all what we can do?

youtubeblockedThe amateurish and controversial trailer of the movie “Innocence of Muslims”[1] which posted on YouTube was behind violent riots[2] all over the Middle East[3]. Paradoxically, most notable events were sparked in Egypt and Libya. The US ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, was killed[4] by Islamist militants as ‘revenge’ for the prophet Mohammed. In Egypt[5] there were violent riots, killings and clashes in front of US Embassy in Cairo between protesters and police.

Earlier this month, an Egyptian court imposed a 30-day block[6] on YouTube over the same video, which considered offensive to Islam. But a representative from National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority, NTRA[7], claimed that blocking YouTube service alone is not possible. All other Google services must be blocked if we want to block YouTube, he added[8].

As an IT researcher, I should say that blocking YouTube in Egypt will not be effective and will fail!

If government can use one costly solution to block certain website or service, people will use many free solutions[9] to bypass censorship. Government needs to understand that censorship will not work in the 21st century and might backfire on real life events, especially in economically[10] troubled country like Egypt. Consequently, I would like to remind the government that this action violates Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights-ICCPR[11], of which Egypt is a signatory. This unwary decision reflects how judiciary deals with Internet issues that might violate other International treaties and might ends with undesirable consequences.

I understand that cyberspace affects our life and will be far more effective in the upcoming years, especially in politics. Indeed, I see this amateurish movie trailer as a political cover-up propaganda rather than religious issue. In Middle East, nothing moves people better than religion, exploited by politicians and mixed with today’s cyberspace viral effect.
But do our policymakers understand the dilemma we live in?
I doubt they even understand the new boundaries being redrawn in the new Middle East!

Accordingly, I will ask few questions that need to be answered in order to understand Middle East dilemma:

When did this amateurish trailer appear on the Internet?

Who did market this trailer online?

Who was behind this trailer production?

Did this claimed movie even exist?

Who did market this trailer via mass media in Middle East?

Is there another story behind this movie and the assassination of Christopher Stevens?

Why the US did not protect its envoy in Benghazi?

Why the US left its embassy for angry protesters in Egypt?

Did the US exploit the religious effect to cover up political issues?

Is there a relation between this movie and the situation in Syria?

If you can’t find relevant answers to these questions, then you will be deceived next time…!



[5] Dropping down the American Flag, US Embassy in Egypt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vzSlGwksEsY#!