Man Is Accused of Hijacking Web Site

Times Staff Writer

A California man has been charged by federal authorities with hijacking Al Jazeera’s Internet Web site during the Iraqi war and diverting viewers to a bogus home page that displayed an American flag and the message, “Let freedom ring.”

John William Racine II, a 24-year-old Web site designer from Norco, has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud and unlawful interception of an electronic communication, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office said Wednesday .

Impersonating an employee of the Arab television network’s Web site, Racine allegedly tricked an Internet service provider into changing a password that enabled him to commandeer the Al Jazeera site, according to a criminal complaint.

Racine was accused of intercepting about 300 e-mail messages intended for Al Jazeera before the takeover was discovered during the height of the war in March.


Al Jazeera, the popular Arab satellite television channel based in Qatar, has been the target of some criticism in the United States because of its airing of videotaped pronouncements from fugitive Al Qaeda leaders

Al Jazeera is backed by the government of Qatar but is widely perceived as editorially independent, experts said.

Racine could not be reached for comment Wednesday.