SITE Institute

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The SITE Institute—"Search for International Terrorist Entities"—was co-founded in 2002 by Rita Katz and Josh Devon. "Studying the primary source propaganda, training manuals, and chatter of terrorists offers insight into terrorists and their activities that can not be obtained anywhere else. Failing to monitor terrorist propaganda is a failure in intelligence. To fulfill this need, the SITE Intelligence Group offers its Monitoring Service, which provides numerous daily translations of terrorist propaganda and multimedia from primary source terrorist websites," its website states.[1]


Government funding

SITE describes itself as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization "that provides information related to terrorist networks to the government, news media, and general public."[1]

However, SITE states on its Internal Revenue Service Forms 990 that it claims tax-exempt status because the "Organization receives compensation for services provided under contract to the Government of the United States on an Arms-Length basis at fair market value" and "the organization believes such work is consistent with its exempt purposes", in 2003[2] and 2004[3] the organization "earned more than $500,000 from the GOVERNMENT", with "over $273,000" coming directly from taxpayers in 2004, Berni McCoy reported September 10, 2007, in his Democratic Underground journal.[4]

Eamonn Fitzgerald wrote September 6, 2006, that his Rainy Day blog "does not subscribe to the 'Intelligence Service' offered by Rita Katz. Although convinced that evil has to be opposed, we don't have the pressing need to spend $2,500 a year on 'real-time information on terrorist activity to aid you in tracking the terrorist threat.' But others do and Katz's clients include the media and people on the frontline in the War on Terror."[5]

Controversy

  • SITE "has garnered wide attention by publicizing statements and videos from extremist chat rooms and Web sites, while attracting controversy over the secrecy of SITE's methodology."[6]
  • "Federal agencies, including the National Security Agency, the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security, monitor suspected terror sites on the Internet and sometimes track users. Private groups like Ms. Katz's Search for International Terrorist Entities Institute and The Middle East Media Research Institute are also keeping track of the ever-changing content of these sites. Ms. Katz's institute, which relies on government contracts and corporate clients, may be the most influential of those groups, and she is among the most controversial of the cyberspace monitors. While some experts praise her research as solid, some of her targets view her as a vigilante. Several Islamic groups and charities, for example, sued for defamation after she claimed they were terrorist fronts, even though they were not charged with a crime," the New York Times reported September 23, 2004.[7]

9/11 "bin Laden" video

In early September 2007, SITE announced that Osama bin Laden would release a video message on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Bloomberg News also reported that IntelCenter, another web monitoring service, noted that al Qaeda's media production group as-Sahab flagged the video in an online media statement.[8] While Bloomberg reported only that the video would be released, the Associated Press stated that "the 30-minute video was obtained by the SITE Institute" and had provided a copy to the AP. The report stated that "American officials said the U.S. government had obtained a copy even though the video had not been posted yet by al-Qaeda".[9] AP noted that "during the video, bin Laden's image moves for only a total of about 3 1/2 minutes in two segments, staying frozen the rest of the time while his remarks continue." An anonymous U.S. intelligence official told the AP it may have been a technical glitch that occurred during production. While the video was intercepted by US intelligence agencies, its provision to SITE Institute may have been a boon to the small group, which only made it available on its website to subscribers.[10] However, Fox News released a transcript of the tape.[11]

A little over a month later, the Washington Post reported that SITE had given the video to two senior officials "on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release." SITE's Rita Katz complained to reporter Joby Warrick that within 20 minutes of providing access to it on the group's website, several government agencies began downloading it. "By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide," Joby Warrick wrote. "Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," Katz said. [12]

Endorsed by Blackwater

Listed under "Security for the Professional", sponsored by Blackwater Security Consultants, Blackwater USA cites SITE Institute as "An Invaluable Resource" in its May 9, 2005, Blackwater Tactical Weekly newsletter.[13]

Website info

Accessed October 9, 2007, the SITE website seems to be an aggregator of publicly-available data on the internet, mostly consisting of current news items, including but not limited to:

  • A "Terrorism Libary",[14] which on cursory investigation, looks to be a straight data scrape from the U.S. Department of State's Patterns of Global Terrorism - 2003, Appendix B,[15] although there is a link entitled "December 14, 2005" that redirects to an empty page.
  • Not listed are any websites related to al Qaida.
  • The website also includes audio, video, publication and news[17] links, some of which include the statement "translation of the chapter is provided to our Intel Service members".[18]
  • SITE Publications include two "Intelligence Briefs" entitled "Background of Online Jihadists Arrested in Saudi Arabia," dated June 12, 2007,[19] and "The Rise of Fatah al-Islam," dated June 5, 2007.[20]

Staff

The listed staff consists of two individuals:

Contact information

4200 Wisconsin Aveue NW
Suite 228
Washington, DC 20016
Phone: 202 244-2900
Fax: 202 237-7700
Email: feedback AT siteinstitute.org
Website: http://www.siteinstitute.org/

Resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 SITEInstitute.org, accessed October 9, 2007.
  2. Form 990: SITE Institute, Inc., Federal Tax Return for January 10-December 31, 2003.
  3. Form 990: SITE Institute, Inc., Federal Tax Return for 2004 (no inclusive dates cited).
  4. Berni McCoy, "SO, A 'Charitable Organization' (The SITE Institute) Released the Bin Laden Video...," Berni McCoy's Journal/Democratic Underground, September 10, 2007.
  5. Eamonn Fitzgerald, "Counter jihad," Fitzgerald's Rainy Day Blog, September 6, 2006.M=
  6. Joby Warrick, "Leak Severed a Link to Al-Qaeda's Secrets. Firm Says Administration's Handling of Video Ruined Its Spying Efforts," Washington Post, October 9, 2007.
  7. Eric Lipton and Eric Lichtblau, "Even Near Home, a New Front Is Opening in the Terror Battle," New York Times, September 23, 2004; see page 2.
  8. Jeff Bliss, "Osama Bin Laden to Issue Video on 9/11 Anniversary (Update1)", Bloomberg News, September 6, 2007.
  9. "Bin Laden slams global capitalism in new video", Associated Press (USA TODAY), September 6, 2007.
  10. “The Solution” – A Video Speech from Usama bin Laden Addressing the American People on the Occasion of the Sixth Anniversary of 9/11 – 9/2007," SITE Intelligence Group, September 8, 2007.
  11. Transcript of bin Laden (pdf), Fox News, accessed October 2007.
  12. Joby Warrick, "Leak severs link to al-Qaeda’s secrets. Firm says Bush administration’s handling of video ruined its spying efforts," Washington Post, October 9, 2007.
  13. Blackwater Tactical Weekly for May 9, 2005, Blackwater USA, accessed October 9, 2007.
  14. Terrorism Library, SITEInstitute.org, accessed October 9, 2007.
  15. Appendix B, "Patterns of Global Terrorism - 2003."
  16. Terrorist Websites, SITEInstitute.org, accessed October 9, 2007.
  17. News, SITEInstitute.org.
  18. Article example, SITEInstitute.org, accessed October 9, 2007.
  19. "Background of Online Jihadists Arrested in Saudi Arabia," SITE Institute, June 12, 2007.
  20. "The Rise of Fatah al-Islam," SITE Institute, June 5, 2007.

Articles by Rita Katz and Josh Devon

External articles

Note that the SITE Institute, most frequently represented by Rita Katz, is either cited or mentioned in all of the following articles.

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

January

February

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

External resources