Western spies possibly corrupted al Qaeda propaganda e-mag

Global Organizations

The latest issue of the online magazine Inspire – a password-protected journal tied to the Boston bombings – was rendered illegible following publication.

It is suspected the site was hacked by Western intelligence agencies.

The magazine, produced by al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, regularly includes how-to instructions for followers on carrying out terrorist attacks in the West.

Marathon terrorist Tamerlan Tsarnaev is believed to have consulted Inspire and its material on bomb-making.

The new issue was located by Flashpoint Partners, an American outfit that monitors jihadist websites. Analysts said they found the publication May 14 on the administrator account of the secure forum “Al Fidaa,” a site used to disseminate radical propaganda.

“All the links led to the same corrupted PDF file, and within minutes, the posting had been deleted from the web forum completely.”

Analysts said that there are “several possible explanations for the scrambled file, ranging from a hoax perpetrated by a sophisticated hacker to intervention from intelligence agencies.”

There apparently is no doubt that someone hacked the al Qaeda web forum.

“Western intelligence often has a window in which to disrupt al Qaeda publications before they are posted on password protected forums because the online mechanics of creating such postings - and connecting the content to multiple web links to ensure it can be downloaded - takes time.”

According to Flashpoint, so-called metadata files show the post was last modified on April 8, a week before the Boston bombings. “Metadata is electronic data on the creation and modification of files, but it can itself be corrupted.”

When the first issue of Inspire was released in summer 2010, its content was similarly scrambled. According to the Washington Post, the British government deliberately garbled several sections. Two weeks later AQAP released a corrected version of the magazine.