EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

August 3, 2013

Column: Beware the jihadi in the gray flannel suit

One of our best hopes for defeating al-Qaida is that it is becoming more and more like an ineffectual medium-size corporation, one that has grown just large enough that proper completion of company paper work is more important that actually producing anything.

There were hints of this in captured document troves in Afghanistan and Pakistan but it was in Timbuktu the West discovered how deeply the red-tape rot had infested the terrorist organization.

There were HR manuals, regular performance reviews, personnel records and detailed monthly expense reports demanding receipts for the usual — office supplies, travel, vehicle repair, entertainment (whole goat or half?), weapons and explosives.

One of al-Qaida’s more effective commanders was dilatory about filing reports when he bothered to file them at all; he frequently refused to answer phone calls from headquarters and had what his superiors considered an offensively dismissive attitude toward paper work.

The 14-member Shura Council in North Africa, a sort of local board of directors, chastised Moktar Belmoktar for failing to keep up his paperwork, and hinted at his cowardice for not carrying out operations when there were money and manpower available.

Belmoktar finally had enough of demands from the corporate suits. The last straw was a letter with 31 bullet points laying out performance standards he was to meet to keep his job. In reply, Belmoktar went out on his own and killed 101 people in attacks on BP facilities in Algeria and Niger.

Now comes another move in the direction of corporate organization — the directives from the Information Technology department. Al-Qaida is not quite at the level of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act but it might prove to be an effective counterterrorism tool to airdrop cases of Arab translations of “Sarb-Ox” regulations into terrorist training camps.

The Pakistan-based extremist site, al-Minbar Jihadi Media Network, has published a list of tips on computer security, including disguising IP addresses, because, with a known IP address, the next visitor through the doorway may be a CIA drone.

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