Whitehall sources have revealed that British intelligence officers successfully sabotaged the launch of the first English language website set up by an al-Qaida affiliate.
The officers, understood to be based at Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham, attacked an online jihadist magazine in English called Inspire, devised by supporters of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
A pdf file containing fairy cake recipes was inserted into Inspire to garble most of the 67 pages of the online magazine, including instructions on how to “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom”.
Though the authenticity of claims made about Inspire have been questioned, British security and intelligence sources say they believe the magazine, and the bomb-making instructions, were genuine.
The sabotage took place a year ago, following a dispute between agencies in the US about who should take on the role of attacking the Inspire website.
Publicising the achievement amounted to little more than a propaganda exercise – “just to let them know”, as one British official put it on Thursday.
The head of the US Cyber Command, General Keith Alexander, said blocking the magazine was a legitimate counter-terrorism target and would help protect American troops overseas, according to the Washington Post.
The CIA argued that such an attack would expose sources and intelligence methods and that it amounted to covert action rather than a traditional military one and was therefore its responsibility.