Agencies Aim To Counter Threat Of Online Extremism As the power of the Internet is used to promote change in Egypt, it also is used to promote violence around the world. When working to counter those violent online campaigns, specialists say, the messenger is as important as the message.
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Agencies Aim To Counter Threat Of Online Extremism

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Agencies Aim To Counter Threat Of Online Extremism

Agencies Aim To Counter Threat Of Online Extremism

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: Counterterrorism officials and specialists met in Saudi Arabia recently to fight that threat. NPR's Deborah Amos reports from Riyadh.

DEBORAH AMOS: Carie Lemack's mother died on 9/11, a passenger aboard American Airlines flight 11. She was invited to speak, here, by the Saudis.

AMOS: To have the opportunity to talk about preventing future terrorist attacks and to do that and honor my mom is something I couldn't say no to.

AMOS: Lemack was invited because she is often called on to talk to youths considered susceptible to violent ideologies. In Britain recently, Lemack said she had to convince one group that her mother had actually died in the 9/11 attacks. That's not what they read on the Internet.

AMOS: And they were shocked because they had been told that there were no passengers on the planes. And there are so many conspiracy theories out there, and they hadn't heard from someone who had actually lost a loved one. And so it was really powerful experience to be able to share the truth with them, because it's the first time they'd ever seen it face to face.

AMOS: Richard Barrett, coordinator of the U.N.'s al-Qaida/Taliban monitoring team, says that finding messengers is a new trend in fighting terrorism to help dissuade people from being recruited online. And, Barret says, Saudi Arabia is in the forefront.

AMOS: They've done quite a lot on looking at the Internet and trying to counter the radical messages that appear on the Internet.

AMOS: Inspire is dangerous, says Marc Sageman, an authority on Islamist extremism, because it encourages what he calls lone wolves - individuals who cross the line to violence.

AMOS: It's written in a very kind of lively way, the first issue was a little heavy handed, and so they are learning, and I think that its dissemination is increasing among Jihadist English speakers.

AMOS: And on the sidelines of the conference, Evan Kohlmann, a New-York based consultant, says he's already seen al-Qaida's new English language magazine downloaded on computers seized in U.S. terrorism cases.

AMOS: The product is excellent, and I can tell you right now it's being digested, like you have no idea. They are receiving letters every day, people are sending in letters from the United States to Inspire, saying how wonderful they are, how great this document is.

AMOS: So how to counter these violent messages?

AMOS: I'm Alistair Millar. I'm the director of the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation.

AMOS: You need the right messenger, says Millar. If governments try, he says, they will fail.

AMOS: Youth and others who might be susceptible to the allure of the terrorist narrative are going to be repulsed by any overt effort by government to tell them what to do.

AMOS: It may be up to people like Carie Lemack, daughter of a 9/11 victim.

AMOS: Our motto is to speak truth to terror, which is a very American way of approaching it.

AMOS: (Speaking foreign language).

AMOS: And this is a voice that Millar also calls credible. Abdullah Kemal Sharayed was introduced at the conference. He was a leader in an al-Qaida inspired group in Jordan. He and another former al-Qaida member explained how they were radicalized at an early age - and why they turned against the group, a message they often deliver to young people susceptible to calls for violence, says Millar.

AMOS: They have credibility amongst the people that we are trying to reach. And I think it highlighted exactly what we wanted to do, in terms of showing that we need to have the right messengers to deliver the message.

AMOS: Deborah Amos, NPR News, Riyadh.

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