A for-sale-by-owner Web site that is registered to a loan officer in Ohio also contained a cache of information about a suspected al-Qaeda operative captured in Pakistan last year and an Islamic militant movement.
Pages embedded within The For Sale By Owner Association Inc. Web site, at www.fsboa.com, contained Arabic writings attributed to Abu Musab al-Suri (al-Suri translates as “The Syrian”), who is also known as Mustafa Setmarian Nasar. Nasar was reportedly arrested in Quetta, Pakistan, in November 2005 and is rumored to be in U.S. custody, though his location remains a secret.
Alan Isham, the creator of the Web site who is a loan officer for 1st Metropolitan Mortgage in Pepper Pike, Ohio, said he hadn’t added anything to the Web site for two years and had nothing to do with the Arabic-language materials at the site. “Somebody hacked into the site,” he said. The www.fsboa.com Web site was registered in Isham’s name in 1998.
“I just had no idea it was even there. I haven’t uploaded anything into the site for over 24 months. It’s kind of a dead site.”
The entry page to the For Sale By Owner Association Inc. site included links to property search, mortgage information, membership information and chat pages, and invited sellers to “post ads instantly” and to “advertise your property for free,” though many of the links at the site were not functioning. There were no links from the site’s home page that connected directly to the Arabic content at the site.
Isham said he was told by government officials earlier this year not to take down the Web site.
“I was actually contacted by government officials and asked about (the site). I was asked to leave it be because they were monitoring it,” Isham said Thursday. But the attention about the site is endangering his reputation, Isham said, adding that he has asked to shut the site down. As of this morning, the www.fsboa.com site was not active.
The site had contained links to dozens of pages of text and images of a sword and a quill pen. The Islamic militant materials within the Ohio-based FSBO Web site were publicized earlier this year in a March 28 article by the Jamestown Foundation, a public policy group that researches events and trends in societies considered “strategically or tactically important to the United States.”
The foundation cited a statement by Nasar at the www.fsboa.com/vw Web site and reported that Nasar is “one of al-Qaeda’s top ideologues” and “has proved to be the movement’s most significant strategic brain.”
In late August, conservative FrontPage Magazine and author and counter-terrorism consultant Laura Mansfield published information about the possible terrorist connections to the Ohio FSBO site on their Web sites.
U.S. officials have said that Nasar was a trainer at Osama bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan. A Spanish citizen, Nasar was named in a Spanish indictment in 2003 for alleged terrorist activities connected to al-Qaeda. He also had spent time in London in the mid-1990s before traveling to Afghanistan, according to reports. A message last month attributed to Nasar called upon militant groups across Europe to “awaken” and “move fast” to carry out more terror attacks against Britain, according to news reports.
A Google Language Tools Arabic-to-English translation of materials that were posted at the www.fsboa.com/vw site appears to be a statement by Nasar refuting media reports and allegations by the U.S. government about the extent of his involvement in terrorist activities.
Charges that Nasar had held a training camp and trained fighters were “not worthy of reply,” according to text at the site, and “What they consider terrorism, we worship and jihad. And what they consider charges, we consider a source of pride and honor. We defend ourselves and protect our people, and above all do our religion.” According to the translation site, the text also states, “I met Sheikh Osama — may God protect him — for the last time in November 2001. Sheikh Osama (is a) symbol of jihad today, the symbol of the entire nation.”
The SITE (Search for International Terrorist Entities) Institute is among the organizations that research suspected terrorist activity on the Internet. The institute’s Web site includes a list of suspected terrorist Web sites and provides information about newly discovered terrorism-related Internet content.
According to an article at the San Francisco Chronicle’s Web site, Web-savvy supporters of terrorist activities “sometimes use the servers of American organizations to put out their Internet publications,” and the Internet servers at George Washington University and the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department have served as hosts for the terrorist-related Internet content, unbeknownst to officials at those organizations.
“Once they’re found out, Web masters often move their sites, uninvited, onto other computer servers, spreading the sites’ existence by e-mail and word of mouth,” Douglas Hagmann, founder and director of the Northeast Intelligence Network, said in the report.
Isham said of the incident, “I guess it happens more often than I knew about.”