Facebook broke Indonesia terror case

By Niniek Karmini

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, June 20 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Golose said the Internet was used to organize recent terrorist acts in the country, including a 2010 attack on police in Solo and a police mosque bombing in Cirebon a year later. He did not elaborate on how the Web was used.

Terrorists have used the Internet for many years, but usually anonymously. Groups such as al-Qaida have employed online discussion forums where people left comments but did not directly interact. Today's smartphone generation appears to be operating more openly: As of Thursday, Riano still had about 900 Facebook friends.

The police investigator said authorities were alerted about "Mambo Wahab's" Myanmar bombing status update by other Internet users. Police used information collected from arrested militants in Riano's online networks to track his Web footprint. After getting his Internet Protocol address and eventually linking that to a mobile phone, authorities say they were able to tap into conversations involving Riano and the plot's alleged mastermind, the investigator said.

The Mambo Wahab page has not been updated since Riano's arrest May 3. Some people in Indonesian jails — even on death row — manage to post status updates, though others may be acting on their behalf.

Some Indonesian police want the law to address online communications that advocate or abet terrorism. Indonesia's information technology laws ban only pornography and illegal online financial transactions.

Police Maj. Surya Putra, who is researching terrorists' use of the Internet at the Institute of Police Science, said intelligence collected online cannot currently be used as evidence in court.

"There are no laws that can effectively charge people who spread hatred," he said.

The government is drafting legislation that would criminalize hate speech and online terrorism activities.

Putra said that although police are starting to surf the Internet as part of their work, many of those arrested for terrorism-linked activities on Facebook were caught not because of cyber patrolling, but because police received tips about their accounts.

Those cases include nine militants, including one woman, who were sentenced to up to 10 years in jail for funding terrorism activities by hacking into a Malaysian website and defrauding the company out $800,000 in cash and assets.

Indonesia has fought terrorism aggressively since the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. There have been no large-scale attacks for several years, though there have been several smaller strikes targeting mainly the government, police and anti-terrorism forces.

Well-funded terror networks have been disrupted, but radical clerics continue to spread their ideology to militants who set up military-style training camps.

Sidney Jones, a Jakarta-based terrorism analyst from the International Crisis Group, said that although terrorists groups' Internet use is growing, they still do most of their recruiting face-to-face at traditional places such as prayer meetings. She said Riano's case is the first time she's seen a group brought together by Facebook.

She said the site is a "really stupid" way to recruit new members because it lacks privacy and no systematic way to vet credentials. But she added that even amateurish efforts to commit terrorism can cause mayhem and must be taken seriously.

Ansyaad Mbai, who heads Indonesia's anti-terrorism agency, said Facebook has become "an effective tool for mass radicalization," and that police need more authority to respond to online behavior.

"We can't do it alone," he said. "... Radical sermons and jihadist sites are just a mouse click away."

Associated Press writer Margie Mason contributed to this report from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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