digital nation - life on the virtual frontier

The Taliban in the Director's Chair

The Taliban are making and distributing videos of their attacks against Americans, online and on DVD.

No Comments
What does it look like to the enemy when we send machines instead of men to the battlefiel...
In the Enemy's Eyes
What is it, and what does it say about us?
P.W. Singer is the author of Wired for...
War Porn
For these Air Force pilots, the front line of the war in Afghanistan is right here, at a b...
Taking out the Taliban; Home for Dinner


more more Waging War stories


Modern technology has become one of the most important weapons in the arsenals that military forces and their enemies deploy against each other. In the aftermath of 9/11, Al Qaeda sought to replicate the training, communication, planning and preaching facilities it lost in Afghanistan with countless new locations on the Internet. By leveraging new information and communication technologies, it has transformed itself into an organic social movement, making its ideology accessible to anyone with a computer.

In November 2008, the Lashkar-e-Taiba militants who attacked Mumbai, India, navigated across the Arabian Sea to Mumbai from Karachi, Pakistan, with the help of a global positioning system handset. During this trip, they communicated with the coordinators of the attack using a satellite phone. They had studied satellite photos of their targets which they found on Google Earth. And throughout the three-day siege at two luxury hotels and a Jewish center, the coordinators communicated with the attackers using an Internet-based phone service, Skype, that complicated efforts to trace and intercept calls.

More examples

  • Terrorists have wired cellphones to detonators that connect to explosives. A call to the cellphone sets off the explosion, a simple technique that was used in the 2004 Madrid train bombings.
  • Groups like al-Shabaab ("The Youth") in Somalia organize insurgent activities through text messaging. Al-Shabaab foot soldiers are issued pre-paid phone cards.
  • A Saudi Arabian government official estimates that 80 percent of terrorist recruitment among youth there is done through the Internet.
  • High-resolution satellite images available on Google Earth reportedly have been used by militants in Yemen in 2006 and Iraq in 2007 to plan attacks.
  • One Al Qaeda-linked Web site has offered recruits the chance of remotely detonating an improvised explosive device in Iraq while sitting at their home computer.

Further Reading

posted February 2, 2010

FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation

Series funding by: Macarthur Foundation
Park Foundation
and Viewers Like You.

Digital Nation is brought to you by the Verizon Foundation

Verizon Foundation