I've linked several times to the outstanding work done by RFE/RL analyst Daniel Kimmage on al-Qaeda's internet operations, including his definitive study of Iraqi insurgent media (with Kathleen Ridolfo) and his more recent report on al-Qaeda's internet media production network. There are very few people inside or outside the government who have worked harder or thought more deeply about how jihadists use online media, drawing on the original Arabic sources rather than from second and third-hand conjecture. It is clear that everyone working on the issue has learned a tremendous amount from those reports, even when we don't agree on how to interpret his findings.
The relevance of his work has grown along with the general appreciation of the importance of information operations to al-Qaeda's strategy, and a sense (rightly or wrongly) that the internet is a central front in this battle. Just a few days ago, State Department Coordinator of the Office for Counter-terrorism Dell L. Dailey stated that "terrorists consider information operations a principle part of their effort, use the Internet for propaganda, recruiting, fundraising, and increasingly for training. It has made the Internet a virtual safe haven." So understanding how that works has got to be a top priority, right? Especially given the widely noted shortage of analysts with Arabic language skills?
So imagine my surprise to learn yesterday that '"the president of RFE/RL informed the analysts there that because of budgetary shortfalls, he had no choice but to fire them." I've heard that Kimmage and Ridolfo are two of the analysts who have been given notice.
That's right: the US government is cutting loose one of its best analysts of al-Qaeda's use of the internet in order to save money which doesn't even amount to a rounding error in the Pentagons budget. Whether it's because of the fall of the dollar or because of the costs of Iraq, or more narrowly because of the Broadcasting Board of Governors need to pay the bills of the al-Hurra TV white elephant, this speaks volumes about both our real resource constraints and our real priorities.
I don't know how Kimmage himself feels about the situation, but I'm pretty peeved. Anyone else working on these issues should be too.