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Then-President George W. Bush, in a secret authorization, in effect “declared Iraq an official battle space for America’s cyberwarriors,” as it became “a real-world laboratory for computer network warfare,” they write.

To sow distrust and confusion among jihadists, the United States also uses a technique of “webspoofing” called “false band replacement,” where U.S. intelligence officers infiltrate networks to post their own materials.

The agencies have forged an al-Qaida “web watermark” that in effect “makes messages posted on these sites official,” Schmitt and Shanker wrote.

One official told them, “We have learned to mimic their watermarks.”

The U.S. military also “had the ability to hack into their phones and we would text message guys” telling them “another guy is cheating you out of money,” one “senior official” told the reporters.