A couple few weeks ago, I was talking to BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow at a USC/Annenberg event, and he was saying that Homeland Security is monitoring what people are saying in World of Warcraft chat rooms as part of the effort to track Al Quaeda and other assorted jihadis.

Reflexively, I mocked this as yet another example of gummint paranoia and overreaction.  Doctorow replied that this was not so far-fetched, that not all terrorists live in caves in Tora Bora, and that some of them might actually use the massive traffic that a place like WoW generates to conceal themselves.  The whole “hide in plain sight” meme.

Well, it appears that I am even more dimwitted that has previously been suspected. The jihadis are inded online, and they are paying attention – the new Army field manual outlining how we’re supposed to fight & win a counterinsurgency conflict was posted online.  Where it was discovered, reprinted, and jeered at by radical muslim bloggers:

Jihadists and their supporters are reading and mocking the Pentagon’s new
counterinsurgency field manual, which was released publicly and posted on several Department of
Defense Web sites Friday even though it addresses such sensitive topics as
intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting.

I’m not sure how much this really matters – the tactics essential to fighting a low-level insurgency are fairly well-established (although, perhaps, still a mystery to the current administration) – a quote from John Vann (“Bright Shining Lie”) best summed it up by saying that in fighting an insurgency the worst weapon was a bomb. The second worst an artillery shell.  The best was a knife.  Second best, a gun.

These conflicts are up-close and personal. Extraordinarily messy and calling for the kinds of things that the entrenched Pentagon bureaucracy doesn’t like to spend money on (soldiers, rather than high-tech toys – the soldiers just don’t generate the kind of high profit margins that keep the military profiteers contractors in Cohibas and rounds of golf at St. Andrews).

Which is a totally different discussion.  But the point that was driven home to me by this story is that this truly is a World Wide Web – and that no matter how obscure the information, someone somewhere will find it.  Murphy’s Law needs an online addendum – the worst possible fact will be found at the worst possible time by the worst possible people? 

Help me out here.

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