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Is the American government requiring American companies to host terrorist web sites?

By Jeremy Reynalds
web posted May 13, 2002

With the situation in the Middle East close to boiling, two American Internet Service Providers are claiming that the government is requiring them to continue hosting web sites promoting terrorist groups and activities.

Let me explain. Last week I reported a story concerning the possible hosting by a Houston-based Internet Service Provider of a Hamas terrorist web site that's asking for donations to buy guns and ammunition. After calling the company for comment, I also e-mailed CEO Robert Marsh and asked him why his company was hosting such a site.

Marsh responded by e-mail, "We host a large number of web sites, directly and indirectly. We had no knowledge that we were hosting these sites. We don't want to host these types of sites and as we are made aware of them, we remove these offensive sites immediately. We here at Ev1 and Rackshack were deeply affected by the events on September 11th, and would never do anything to aid those people. Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention."

Being aware that the Hamas has been designated an illegal terrorist group by the United States government, I also alerted the Houston FBI. An agent took down all the information I gave him and told me to expect a call the next day. I never received any call back from the FBI and when the offending web sites weren't removed I initially figured that maybe the folks at Everyone's Internet weren't as "deeply affected " as they had made out.

However, a few days later I was e-mailed a story from the Houston Chronicle, which let me know why the web sites were still up and why the FBI hadn't called me back. However, these "answers" triggered even more questions. Marsh told the Chronicle he was unaware of the sites until recently (I suspect when I called his office and e-mailed him informing him of their existence), and that while Everyman's does not do business directly with the site operators in question, he was willing to block them anyway.

Now this is where the story gets really interesting and we need to start making calls and demanding answers. According to the Chronicle, after blocking the sites the company was contacted by the U.S. Customs Service which asked that the sites be put back on line again. Since when has the U.S. Customs Service had any form of legal authority over the web?

This time, Marsh did not return e-mails from me asking for comment. He had nothing to say to the Houston Chronicle either, on why the Customs Service wanted the sites running again. According to the Chronicle, "Marsh referred questions to a telephone number left by a customs agent. The number rang at the Customs Communications Center in Orlando, Fla., where an officer said he had no information on the case. FBI and customs spokesmen in Houston said they too had no information."

Azzam.com/There's also apparent government involvement for another terrorist web site out there too, azzam.com. This site is filled with a lot of pro-Islamic, anti-American propaganda. Among other information, you can see quotes from Taliban officials and spokesmen such as "If a country or group violates our country, we will not forget our revenge." Another quote read, "Any enemy of the Muslims will be punished by God. The United States and Israel are enemies of Islam, and then there was "If anyone assists America and allows them to use their airspace or land routes against us then we will be forced to retaliate against them."

And rhetoric such as this is apparently being supported by an arm of the federal government, because the ISP hosts are not happy about their involvement. The hosting trail for this site eventually leads to burst.net

When I e-mailed burst.net asking why the company hosted such a site, here is the response I got from a Sean Rosler, who identified himself as being with System Administration.

"BurstNET DOES NOT voluntarily host the azzam.com web site. It has either been removed from our equipment (It hasn't) or has been left untouched by gov't official request. (My emphasis). It was formerly hosted here, was under government investigation, and was/will be removed as soon as the govt allowed us to do such. It would have been removed the instant we found out about it, had we not been instructed by the ‘powers that be' to leave it untouched ... We are a Jewish owned corporation, do you really think we want to host such crap?"

Folks, concerned Americans deserve explanations on this one. Why is the government apparently requiring these companies to continue hosting these sites? Let's contact the media, our elected officials and demand that we get some answers.

Jeremy Reynalds is a freelance writer and the founder and director of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter. He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico and is pursuing his PhD in intercultural education at Biola University in Los Angeles. He is married with five children and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work can be viewed here and weekly at www.americasvoices.org. He may be contacted by e-mail at reynalds@joyjunction.org.

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