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The Rise and Fall of bin Laden, or a Dissent into Cyber-terrorism Essay Osama bin Muhammad bin â€˜Awad bin Laden, best known as Osama bin Laden in the west, is a militant Islamist and the reported founder of the terrorist organization known as al-Qaeda. He stepped on to the global arena in 2001 with his broadcasts on Al Jazeera in direct relation to the September 11th attacks. Since then his faction has had a downfall through the western war on terror, but it is widely believed that this is only a ploy, and that al-Qaeda, along with many other radical Muslim groups are planning to continue their reign of terror on the net. The media has deemed the term for this cyberterrorism, and it is the current threat Osama is expected to pose, but some argue that this is merely western propaganda. Bin Laden has been described as a tall and thin man by the FBI. He is said to be between 6â€™4â€™â€™ and 6â€™6â€™â€™ (193-198cm) in height and weighing about 165 pounds. Left-handed with an olive complexion, he usually walks with a cane, and wears a white turban. He is considered to have a mild mannered temperament and to be very soft spoken. He is thought to only be able to speak Arabic. Never the less, he is believed to be the leader and founder of one of the most heinously acting terrorist groups, known as Al Qaeda Osama was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Al Jazeera referenced his birthday as being March 10, 1957. Osama is a member of the prestigious bin Laden family. His father Muhammed Awd bin Laden had known ties to the Saudi royal family, as well as a prominent business. His father, poor and uneducated before World War I, he immigrated from Hadhramaut to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It was here, where he began to work as a porter. In 1930, Muhammed started his own business; he built his fortune as a building contractor for the Saudi royal family during the 1950â€™s. It is estimated that Muhammed bin Laden has as many as 55 sons, of which Osama is assumed to be his seventeenth son, but the only from his tenth wife. This led to an upbringing that kept him unfamiliar with his father. Bin Laden attended the secular Al-Thager Model secondary school from 1968 to 1976 where he was raised as a devout Sunni Muslim. The largest denomination of Islam, Sunni Muslims are also refered to as Ahlus Sunnah wal-Jamaaâ€™h which basically means people of the example, or of Muhammad. As a result of King Faisal welcoming exiled teachers from Syria, Egypt and Jordan to Saudi Arabia in the 60â€™s, it was not too uncommon for members of the Muslim Brotherhood to be found teaching at Saudi schools and universities. During this time, Osama is believed to have been influenced by many of the teachings promoted by these exiles. It is also thought that Osama might have studied economics and business administration at King Abdulaziz University, and that he might have earned a degree in civil engineering in 1979. He is also said to never have graduated from college. Whatever his collegiate experience entails, it is now known that he spent the last 30 years since his college days contributing to the growth of the Muslim Brotherhood known as al-Qaeda, which performed its first military act in 1994. The Talibans first large military operation took place in October 1994 when it seized the Pasha munitions depot and the town of Spin Boldak on the Pakistani border, held at the time by Hizb-i Islami commanders. The capture of the arms dump provided them with an enormous quantity of military materiel, including rockets, ammunition, artillery, and small arms. Green, 2002) These attacks were the beginning of Osamaâ€™s reign. Later he would lead al-Qaeda to what they would deem to be the greatest statement of their western disapproval. Osama grew notorious through Al Jazeera, which gained its fame following the September 11th attacks, when the network broadcasted video statements by Osama bin Laden and other members of al-Qaeda. Al Jazeera, which in Arabic means The Island is a television network headquarters located in Doha, Qatar. The networks satellite capabilities enabled it to change the social landscape of the Middle East. Prior to its emergence, Middle Eastern citizens were only able to watch TV channels of stat-censored national stations. Al Jazeera introduced an unprecedented level of freedom of speech for most countries. On September 11th, 2001 Al Jazeera gained worldwide recognition with its broadcasts of al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden gained an unprecedented level of global familiarity as well. The western fear of terrorism can entirely be credited as a product of his hate, which has complicated the western perception of rightful civil liberty. In her article Al Qaeda, Terrorism, and Military Comissions, Ruth Wedgwood proves that though most American citizens consider terrorism to be a federal and national problem, it is very much a local one. Al Qaedaâ€™s published doctrine maintains that there are no innocent civilians in Western society (Wedgwood, 2002)â€¦ She later goes on to analyze the psychological foundation they use to form their tenet and she says â€¦this tenet leads it to the gravest of international crime (Wedgwood, 2002). Despite the fear bin Laden has been able to instill in the American people, there are many rumors that his financial backing is not as strong as it was in 2001. This could be the mark of his downfall, or just a shift in the types of terrorist acts al-Qaeda performs. The attacks on 9/11 and the ideology of the Taliban adhere to the power inherent in fear, and exploiting fear is not always a costly venture. The twin towers, the White House and the Pentagon are all symbols of American security and their presence provides a certain level of comfort for our society. Though security officials are trained to counter attacks on our civilization, there was a false faith formed over time that attacks such as 9/11 were inconceivable, nor possible to carryout. Now our country has grown impervious to this type of thought. Western civilization has waged war on the Jihad; securities are enhanced, and we are less likely to be vulnerable to the same form of attacks. Even still, western as well as eastern societies still have a major vulnerability that can exploited through the internet. In his Washington Post article Consultant Hacks FBIâ€™s Computer System Martin H. Bosworth reports on an outside consultant hired by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) who breached the agencyâ€™s computer network and gained access to over 38,000 employeeâ€™s passwords. The hacker, known as Joseph Colon claimed he used run-of-the-mill hacker techniques that can be easily found on the internet. He gained access to such information as the Witness Protection Program, but can this be defined as terrorism? The United States Department of State defines terrorism as premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub national groups or clandestine agents (Gordon, 2003). This interpretation of terrorism becomes a very vague one when the internet is merged with this definition. The product of the two is cyberterrorism, but their have been a wide range of definitions posed since the terms advent in the 1980â€™s by Barry Collins (Gordon, 2003). Dorothy Denning is a computer science professor at Georgetown University, and one of the countryâ€™s foremost respected cyber-security experts. Her views are referred to numerous times in more than a few articles reviewed in this paper. In Denningâ€™s Testimony before the Special Oversight Panel on Terrorism, the most widely cited paper on Cyberterrorism, she defines the term as an act carried out on the internet with the intention to do major, or significant damage to society, the likes of which would impede the process of a communityâ€™s civil liberty (Denning, 2000). Denningâ€™s definition is very clarifying because it identifies the difference between a cyberterrorist and a hacker. Where a cyberterrorist acts with the intent of severely impacting the economy or civil morale of the country, a hacker merely causes nonessential or at the most costly damage. For every publication produced that argues cyber-terrorism is a major threat, there is another arguing that it is a hoax. Many of these authors who hold this position argue it is a form of presidential propaganda. In his article, Cyberterrorism: There are many ways terrorists can kill youâ€”computers arenâ€™t one of them, Joshua Green argues that the Bush administrationâ€™s infatuation with preaching the dangers of cyberterrorism is one that has become a pattern since September 11th. None are more exemplary of exploiting the publicâ€™s misunderstanding of the term, along with their fears, than Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, which Green proves with this quote by Ridge: Terrorists can sit at one computer connected to one network and can create worldwide havoc, warned Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge in a representative observation last April. [They] dont necessarily need a bomb or explosives to cripple a sector of the economy, or shut down a power grid. (Green, 2002) Green further points out that Ridgeâ€™s propaganda is not without merit considering that a survey of 725 cities conducted by the National League of Cities for the Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks showed that cyberterrorism ranked with biological and chemical weapons at the top of a list made by officials of the single most feared threats (2002). Despite this, it must be remembered that Greenâ€™s article was published in The Washington Monthly a little more than a year after the 9/11 attacks. At this particular point information was scarce and Bushâ€™s scare tactics were still at the height of their influence; and yet, Green has enough sense to question the motives behind those who use cyberterrorism as a way to instill fear in the fear in the American public. Green points out that the federal government requested $4. 5 billion in cyber investigative security; Bush appointed Richard Clarke to his created position of cybersecurity czar assigning him an office in the White House, and The Washington Post developed a habit of publishing first page headlines like: Cyber-Attacks by Al Qaeda Feared, Terrorists at Threshold of Using Internet as Tool of Bloodshed, Experts Say (Green, 2002). Green recognizes that all of these actions would be reasonable responses to an actual looming threat, but they fail to muster any sort of rationale considering that, as he states, there is no such thing as cyberterrorismno instance of anyone ever having been killed by a terrorist (or anyone else) using a computer (2002). In sum, despite the lack of proof of the potential threat which cyber terrorism poses. It is agreed by most political and military analysts that al-Qaedaâ€™s next step is in the cyber arena. Never the less, this could also be deemed as a sign of bin Ladenâ€™s downfall. There are many rumors that al-Qeada lacks the same sufficient funding they had in 2001, that Osama has grown broke, and that the Jihad will eventually be a distant memory. If this is true, the internet would make for a more affordable method of terrorist attacks. These arguments will potentially prove foolish if bin Laden finds a way to continue his terror through the web. The potential for more tragedy is at the finger tips of al-Qeada literally and figuratively.