Speaking at the Special Operations Command Gala Dinner Wednesday night, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton detailed the efforts behind combining U.S. military and diplomatic defenses to fight American enemies abroad. Most startlingly, Clinton detailed a recent U.S. mission to hack into al-Qaida websites in Yemen.
"A couple of weeks ago, al-Qaida's affiliate in Yemen began an advertising campaign on key tribal web sites bragging about killing Americans and trying to recruit new supporters," Clinton told the assembled group of U.S. and international defense officials and industry leaders.
"Within 48 hours, our team plastered the same sites with altered versions of the ads that showed the toll al-Qaida attacks have taken on the Yemeni people," she added. "And we can tell that our efforts are starting to have an impact, because we monitor the extremists venting their frustration and asking their supporters not to believe everything they read on the Internet."
The announcement represented a rare look into American cyber security strategy. The secretary detailed the new interagency Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications housed at State that is "working to pre-empt, discredit, and outmaneuver extremist propagandists."
The center sounds like an ambitious computer hacker's dream, described as a "digital outreach team of tech savvy specialists" "patrolling the web and using social media and other tools to expose the inherent contradictions in al-Qaida's propaganda and also bring to light the abuses committed by al-Qaida."
In addition to this initiative, Clinton described a joint State Department-Special Ops effort to counter Lord's Resistance Army propaganda in Central Africa by broadcasting "come home" messages to fighters.
She also highlighted the new Counterterrorism Bureau, the first ever State Department initiative to help diplomatic officials worldwide to "deny terrorists the space and financing they need."
The speech is a prime example of the increasing cooperation between the United States' diplomatic and military strategies and corps at the center of Clinton's soft power approach. The approach integrates diplomacy, development, and defense and has top brass working together on issues such as Afghan outreach and international freedom of navigation.
Just yesterday, Clinton, along with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, testified to the American need to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention.
At a time when Congress and the executive branch seem to be growing further apart, a closer military-diplomatic relationship will provide a measure of stability in U.S. domestic and foreign policy.
by RTT Staff Writer
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