National Security Watch: Eurolefties fund Iraq insurgencyPart II
National Security Watch's June 23 story, Eurolefties Fund Iraq Insurgency, generated a fair bit of controversy. The article described a "Ten Euros for the Resistance" fundraising campaign by European radicals, who claim to have sent thousands of dollars to militants in Iraq. Within a week of our story's running, Italian police had raided the campaign's key sponsor, the group's Internet-hosting service had booted it off the Web, and US News was being denounced as an imperialist tool. A key backer, Campo Antiimperialistaan alliance of far-left European activistssaid the story was proof of "continued control of the chauvinist pro-war and pro-occupation forces over the U.S. public opinion."
Here's what happened: Our story received wide exposure on the Web and was picked up by conservative media outlets such as Fox News and the Washington Times. Five days after it appeared, 44 members of Congress sent a letter to Italy's ambassador to the United States, expressing "concern" about the Ten Euros campaign and an upcoming October meeting in Rome by Campo Antiimperialista (in English, the Anti-Imperialist Camp). Two days later, Antiimperialista's U.S. web hosting companyafter being deluged with complaintsshut down the group's website.
It turns out the Web company, Providence, Utah-based WestHost, was in a bit of a bind. For over a year, WestHost had been under a secret court order to turn over all its logs and files on Antiimperialista.org to the Department of Homeland Security. Every time a visitor clicked on the group's website, DHS received a record showing his or her Internet protocol addressa unique number that can potentially be traced to a specific computer. "Working with Homeland Security definitely put us in an awkward situation," says Brian Chambers, WestHost's vice president for operations. "Our forums were just going crazy" with people denouncing the firm for hosting alleged supporters of terrorism.
WestHost was finally able to shut down the site with DHS's blessing. The reason: The agency had struck a dead end with its investigation. "The case is on a downward spiral because of lack of cooperation by some foreign authorities," Corey Holsinger, an agent with DHS's Cyber Crimes Center, wrote WestHost. "Therefore, we no longer need these logs." Indeed, U.S. officials were frustrated by a lack of action by Italian counterterrorism officials, who had done little with the intelligence gathered by the Americans, officials tell U.S. News.
That finally changed on June 30, a week after the U.S. News.com story ran. Italian police raided the home of Emanuele Fanesi, the bearer of the bank account for the 10 Euros campaign, and seized a computer and files on the effort. The Antiimperialistas were not amused. " 'Homeland security' will not stop liberation struggle from U.S. Empire," the group announced. It further claimed that the money collectedfrom "thousands and thousands" of peoplehas gone only for medical supplies for "the resistance" in Iraq's restive Anbar Province. But in a November 2003 BBC interview, the group's spokesman Moreno Pasquinelli told of how it had raised over $14,000 and that the money may well go for weapons. "It's not our affair how they use this money," Pasquinelli explained. "If they want to use it to print papers, for example, or to buy weapons in order to fight for the Iraqi independence . . . We support the armed struggle in Iraq."
Campo Antiimperialista is back on the Web, this time on what appears to be a server based in Austria. "If you really want to crack down, you have to arrest the people behind it," says Lorenzo Vidino, an Italian terrorism analyst with the Washington, D.C.-based Investigative Project. "Now they're on another website and they're still advertising the Ten Euros campaign. It looks like nothing has changed." But the militants seem less sure. A statement on Antiimperialista's website said that it is "clear that indictments against several persons are being prepared." Stay tuned.
For more on who's funding the Iraq insurgency, check out "Who Pays the Iraqi Insurgents?," a joint Congressional hearing July 28. The focus, say staffers, will be on ex-Baathists in Syria and Iraq and jihadists in Syria and Saudi Arabia. A big new worry is what terrorism analyst Doug Farah calls "microsponsors," small-time backers who provide funding to move two or three insurgents into the countrya kind of terrorist equivalent to adopt-a-hungry-child.