Lt. Col. Reid Sawyer, a career intelligence officer, runs the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. This week, at a New York Fire Department training center, Sawyer stood before a classroom of 40 fire marshals, chiefs and firefighters who are taking an 11-week course in terrorism. The evening's topic: the evolution of al-Qaida.
"So, the question is when you are sitting in the firehouses how do you make sense of the threat that is before you?" Sawyer asked the class. "How do you understand when you are reading the newspapers what it means?"
Westboro Baptist Church first gained notoriety in 1998, when members picketed at the funeral of Matthew Shepherd, who was murdered because he was gay.
Since then, the members have protested at the funerals of public figures such as Elizabeth Edwards, children killed in bus accidents and soldiers killed in war. Shirley Phelps-Roper, the church spokeswoman, says the members want God to punish Americans for tolerating homosexuality. They picket funerals to make people angry, she says: They want people to reject God and be condemned to hell.
The First Amendment protects the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to hold anti-gay protests outside military funerals, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. The 8-1 ruling backs an appeals court decision to throw out a $5 million victory for Albert Snyder, who sued the fundamentalist church after its members picketed his son's funeral.
Late last year, activists attacked websites belonging to companies that refused to do business with WikiLeaks, an online group that has disclosed classified U.S. government documents.
When the activists, who called themselves Anonymous, found out it was being investigated by the Internet security company HBGary Federal, it hacked the company's servers and stole thousands of private e-mails. And then it dumped them onto the Internet.
It was an embarrassment for the security company to get hacked — but the content of some of those e-mails is raising concerns.