Have Terrorists Co-Opted Twitter?

I always knew those Twitterati were up to no good. And now it seems the US Army has cottoned on to this as well.

A draft US Army intelligence report has identified Twitter as a potential tool for terrorism. (You can find a copy on the Federation of American Scientists web site [PDF].)

Apparently the military spooks are afraid Twitter could be used by terrorist cells to coordinate movements and select potential targets.

And how did they come to this conclusion? By seeing how Twitter was used by protestors at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis last September.

While Sarah Palin was up on stage putting lipstick on a pit bull, police were rounding up and detaining hundreds of protestors outside the convention hall. Protest organizers used Twitter and cell phones to route people around the cops and send medics to those overcome with tear gas.

(A quick shout out to Computerworld's Heather Havenstein, whose article on Twitter's use during the RNC protests is one of the sources cited in the report. Heather, it's now official: You're being watched.)

Saying Twitter can be used by terrorists is a bit like saying oxygen can be used by terrorists. These are the guys that hijacked four planes using box cutters, remember? The next big terrorist threat: Water balloons filled with Cheez Whiz.

But is it such a great leap to suggest that when the US Army means "terrorists," they're not just thinking of fanatics with bombs who blow up innocent people, but ordinary folks who might occasionally be moved to exercise their Constitutional rights?

Check out the rogues gallery of evil doers cited by the report:

Twitter has also become a social activism tool for socialists, human rights groups, communists, vegetarians, anarchists, religious communities, atheists, political enthusiasts, hacktivists and others to communicate with each other and to send messages to broader audiences.

Terrorist cell, or your average PTA meeting in San Francisco? You make the call.

With all the blather this political season of "domestic terrorists" and "real Americans," I'm getting a strong McCarthyesque deja vu. We have seen this ugliness before.

Can your tweets land you on an anti-terror watch list -- or in Gitmo? Stranger things have happened. If you get a message saying somebody named NSAspook is following you, don't say I didn't warn you.

Are you a Twitter terrorist? Fess up below or email me direct: dan (at) dantynan (com). You can also follow my terrorist tweets @tynan_on_tech.

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