US Funding 'Shadow' Networks To Aid Arab Revolutions
(NewsCore) - WASHINGTON -- The US is financing "shadow" internet systems to assist uprisings in countries, including Syria and Iran, where repressive regimes tightly control online communications in a bid to quell dissent, The New York Times reported Sunday.
The democratic uprisings in the Middle East, starting with Tunisia and Egypt and spreading to Libya and Syria, have been greatly helped by instant communications through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media.
Regimes have tried to fight back, cutting off the internet and blocking access to websites.
Syria, for example, banned foreign reporters, cut off internet access at times and attempted to control information through its state media -- but still a daily dose of YouTube videos, Facebook appeals and Twitter reports are posted.
The US State Department was financing the creation of stealth wireless networks that would enable dissidents to communicate outside the reach of governments, The New York Times reported.
In one example, wireless systems were packaged into suitcases that could be smuggled across borders.
Earlier this month, Gen. Martin Dempsey, President Barack Obama's pick for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a London defense forum that the US military needed to adapt better to "viral" events like the Arab uprisings.
"What brought down Mubarak was Facebook and social networking, a leaderless organization that rose up and we call the Arab Spring. So things can happen much more quickly than in the past. So in the context of a viral world, we are trying to build an army that meets requirements," he said.
Last week, a British military spokesman said NATO was scrambling jets based on information posted on Twitter about loyalist troop movements.
"We will take information from every source we can," according to British wing commander Mike Bracken, the Libya operation's military spokesman. "We get information from open sources on the internet. We get Twitter."
A NATO official said that Libyans have been tweeting from the rebel-held city of Misrata, Ajdabiya and Tripoli, providing information ranging from movements of troops and tank columns to shellings of towns and fleeing refugees, AFP reported.
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