The Islamic State is adept, and is distributing radical propaganda on the Internet with a professionalism that one has never seen before. This has inspired the individuals to join terrorism and they are hard to detect. This is the latest trend in terrorism. Andrew McCabe, Deputy Director of the FBI, in an exclusive interview to The Indian Express said that this was not the future of terrorism but the now of it. McCabe has further said “this has brought legions of new supporters and adherents to their cause, some of whom are able to travel to Syria and Iraq, but others who are consuming that propaganda and individually affiliate themselves with the ideology, the practice, the violence — whatever draws them in. These folk act where they are”.
McCabe, the senior-most civil servant in the FBI and former head of its counter-terrorism division, called for greater cooperation from information technology firms, and more international cooperation, to address the growing threat. He said, “It’s kind of the crowd-sourcing of terrorism. It happened in the United Kingdom last week, I guess you have experiences along those lines in India as well, it’s happening in the United States, too”. This is the new face of terrorism. Even though older, more structured organisations like al-Qaeda continue to pose a potent threat, McCabe argued that law-enforcement agencies had succeeded in making large-scale plots harder to execute.
“This is because as they have evolved, so have we. In the intelligence and law-enforcement fields, we are cooperating with each other better across national boundaries. We exchange information more rapidly and effectively, and all these things help us get ahead of these so-called spectacular attacks,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that our adversaries have given up on spectacular attacks. We know that al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the other major groups have an enduring interest in attacking democracies across the world,” he said.
Further FBI top boss said that one of the key concerns was that terrorists were “going dark” — or using encrypted communications and other online secrecy tools to mask their communications and activities. In spite of the FBI’s ability to secure access to an iPhone 5c used by Syed Rizwan Farook, a terrorist who killed 14 and injured 22 in California’s San Bernardino on December 2, 2015, McCabe said access to encrypted data remained “very much a live issue for the FBI”. “The fact is that every day, that shadow of darkness over communications, over data — and by shadow I mean that portion of communication which is beyond legal process — grows larger and larger. The simple fact is this is making the job of law enforcement and intelligence agencies that much more difficult every day,” he said.
FBI officials, McCabe said, “advocate a very open dialogue with information technology companies to try and find common ground” on the issue. “I think we’ve seen some incremental cooperation from the information technology industry over the last few years. Some service providers have, in particular, been more forward-leaning in removing content that they believe violates their terms of service; content which may be in line with terrorist propaganda,” said McCabe.
“I think it is also incredibly important that we maintain a free and open line of communication with our foreign partners on this. There are no national boundaries when it comes to technology and data. We need to make sure we’re all on the same page,” he said. The cooperation, McCabe said, had led to “several notable successes over the last few years and the FBI very much wants to keep these lines of communication open”.
The highest-level FBI official to visit India since former director Robert Mueller in 2011, McCabe will be meeting senior officials to discuss means to deepen cooperation with the Intelligence Bureau and NIA, Indian government sources said.Indian intelligence and police agencies have long complained that US-based information technology firms are slow to respond to terrorism-related data requests, and officials are expected to flag the issue during the Deputy Director’s visit.