After September 11, 2001, the United States committed to stopping Al Qaeda, and within a year the terrorist organization was operationally frozen. But the fallout from smashing this bureaucratically structured group led to a new franchised version, with the organization now reaching out to other smaller groups and providing training and support.
John Miller, assistant director of the office of public affairs, Federal Bureau of Investigation, told attendees of the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference how the Al Qaeda philosophy changed from being "the base to the basis," and from that Al Qaeda concluded that the system was more important than the organization. The approach going forward would be that, by flattening the organization, Al Qaeda would gain advantages against an adversary that is a multilayered bureaucy
The Al Qaeda of today puts most of organizational focus on the war and spreads out the terrorism component through marketing and messaging to inspire new followers who would act independently, according to Miller. In the post-9-11 world, it doesn't take the murder of 3,000 people to achieve the same amount of fear and insecurity. The Madrid bombings were small in comparison to the damage and loss of life on 9-11, but the investment of a few thousand dollars by a small group of terrorists led to regime change in Spain.
The organizational planning has shifted from the group to individuals, and virtualization allows people who have never met to collaborate and support each other online. Any listless, bored, antisocial, or dissatisfied individual of any age and in any location can now be part of the network. The technologies our kids use to talk to each other and that we use for business are now integral to the command and control network for terrorists, Miller related.
As we go forward, we will have to continue to stay ahead with additional high technology tools combined with low technology information gathering, he concluded.