Al Qaeda Wields Press as a Terror Weapon

Jennifer Harper reports in the Washington Times about an Arizona State University study of 300 al Qaeda statements, letters and other papers. The study was conducted by the university's Consortium for Strategic Communication and a Defense Department .

Says the director of the consortium, Steven Corman, "People are surprised the jihadis think of the media as a weapon."

His study analyzed almost 300 al Qaeda statements, letters and other documents, many of them captured during U.S. military actions in the Middle East and recently declassified by the Pentagon.

The report found that jihadist operations use consistent patterns of outreach that establish them socially and religiously, generate public sympathy and intimidate opponents. Threats, in fact, are part of terrorist "talking points."

"Jihadis pursue these strategies using sophisticated, modern methods of communications and public relations," Mr. Corman said. "There's evidence in the documents that jihadis segment audiences and adapt their message to the audience."

This week, audio and video messages from Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab Zarqawi were posted on the Internet and immediately picked up by international news organizations....

Mr. Corman and co-author Jill Schiefelbein said the Arizona study is a response to "controversies about efforts by the U.S. to influence foreign media coverage of jihadi activities. ... While we deliberate such issues, the jihadis are busy executing a communications and media strategy of their own."...

Mr. Corman offered six measures to counter al Qaeda's media savvy. He recommended that the United States try to improve its credibility with Muslim audiences, "degrade" the jihadis' outreach efforts, draw attention to terrorist messages that contradict Islam, deconstruct idealized historical concepts, systematically disrupt Internet operations and seek assistance from sympathetic American Muslims.

How long are journalists going to serve as willing spreaders of the terrorist message? Five years? Ten years? 20 years? Most view the fight against terrorism as a game, with both sides trading baskets and neither side in the right.