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Who are the SITE Intelligence Group?

SITE Intelligence has hit the headlines again. In the wake of yesterday’s shootings in Chattanooga Tennessee, we’ve found out that the shooter Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez had a blog which was being monitored by the US consultancy group. This isn’t the first time in recent years that SITE Intelligence has beaten the rest of the world to it; the group discovered the video of Steven Sotloff’s murder and alerted the press before even the jihadists.

 

SITE isn’t a government agency, nor a charity, think tank, or activist collective, but a for-profit consultancy group. Specialising in monitoring the online activities of potential terrorists of all political or religious persuasions and based in the US, the group run a constantly updated blog. They make their money through selling subscriptions to their monitoring and consulting service to governments, news organisations, businesses and private clients

                

Businesses are willing to spend big money on this kind of consulting, especially if they have a vested interest in potentially unstable regions. The security of their staff, assets, and commercial ventures is pivotal in businesses decisions on where to operate and how to operate across the world. What is surprising is that American government officials often use SITE’s consultancy to by-pass the FBI. The New Yorker’s 2006 profile of Rita Katz, the company’s director, described its government clients as people “frustrated by how long it takes to get information through official channels”.

 

Indeed, the FBI is well aware that SITE make a valuable contribution to the fight against terrorism. In 2007, the organisation was the first to discover new videos of Osama Bin Laden in three years and in 2004 Katz was commended by the FBI for her contributions to counterterrorism.

 

The rise of a commercial anti-terror organisation may worry you; the idea that even the FBI can’t provide adequate data and monitoring for government agencies begs many questions, and limiting such information to companies willing to pay seems reckless. However SITE must be applauded for creating a service of such a high quality that they can be trusted by governments to provide data faster than their own agencies. 

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