[osint] al-Qaida Stays Connected in Number of Ways
R. A. Hettinga
rah at shipwright.com
Wed Aug 11 05:46:14 PDT 2004
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To: "Bruce Tefft" <btefft at community-research.com>
From: "Bruce Tefft" <btefft at community-research.com>
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Date: Wed, 11 Aug 2004 06:40:59 -0400
Subject: [osint] al-Qaida Stays Connected in Number of Ways
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al-Qaida Stays Connected in Number of Ways
By PAUL HAVEN
.c The Associated Press
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) - If Osama bin Laden is directing plans for an
attack on the United States - as Washington intelligence officials suspect
instructions are likely coming out of the craggy mountains between
Afghanistan and Pakistan on the back of a donkey or under the shawl of an
After the arrests of several top lieutenants, bin Laden and his right hand
man, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri, have learned their lessons well, Pakistani
intelligence officials and international terrorism experts say. They don't
satellite or cellular phones, don't trust anyone outside their innermost
circle and never come up for air.
Messages from the men likely pass through the hands of many couriers, most
of whom have no idea where they originated, before they are turned into
e-mails or conveyed by phone calls to other militants.
``If bin Laden wants to convey something, he gives a letter to someone in
his circle, who takes it a certain distance and then hands it to someone
and then someone else until it reaches its final destination. Nobody knows
who the letter is from except the first person who is one of bin Laden's
trusted men,'' said a senior Pakistani intelligence official who has been
on his nation's most sensitive counterterror operations.
The Bush administration believes plans for a terror attack are being
directed at the most senior levels of the al-Qaida leadership, including
a U.S. intelligence official told The Associated Press in July.
How much input the top men have is open to question, but a Pakistani
government official told the AP that several captured al-Qaida men have
authorities they received instructions from bin Laden.
``Probably he is alive, and some al-Qaida suspects captured in Pakistan
talked about receiving verbal messages from him through different
channels,'' he said of bin Laden.
The American and Pakistani officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
There has been no firm intelligence on bin Laden and al-Zawahri's
whereabouts since they slipped away during a U.S.-Afghan assault on their
hideouts in Tora Bora in late 2001, but they are believed to be hiding in
mountainous no man's land between Pakistan and Afghanistan, protected by
conservative tribesmen who share their beliefs.
With the exception of about a half-dozen audio taped messages that the CIA
has authenticated as being his voice, there has been virtually no sign of
Laden since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. That silence has lent
him almost a mythic quality, especially among his followers, but officials
he is still very real, and very dangerous.
The Pakistani intelligence official said one of the best leads came with
arrest of al-Qaida's No. 3 man, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who had a letter on
him that he told interrogators he got directly from bin Laden, and which
experts authenticated as being in bin Laden's handwriting.
The letter was apparently personal and destined for several of bin Laden's
relatives in Iran, the official said. He would give no further details.
``Khalid Shaikh Mohammed said he got the letter directly from bin Laden and
was supposed to give it to someone else and it would eventually go to
the official said. He said the letter proves bin Laden was alive as
as early 2003. Mohammed was arrested in Pakistan on March 1, 2003 and is
in U.S. custody.
Several top al-Qaida fugitives arrested in Pakistan have allegedly been
tracked using satellite intercepts, including Abu Zubaydah and Ramzi
A tribal elder accused of sheltering foreign militants was killed in a
bombing in Waziristan on June 18, hours after he used a satellite phone to
media to denounce the government.
The importance of discretion has become even more apparent in recent weeks
following the July 13 arrest of an alleged al-Qaida computer whiz named
Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan. Intelligence gleaned from Khan and his computer
to counterterrorism operations in Pakistan, Britain and the United Arab
Emirates, and dozens of suspects have been arrested.
Khan's computer contained a trove of information, including coded e-mails
other operatives. He is said to have cooperated with authorities and sent
e-mails while in custody to militants so that authorities could arrest
Armed with electronic intelligence, raids in Pakistan have netted Ahmed
Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian with a $25 million U.S. bounty on his head,
least 19 other suspects.
Authorities in Dubai detained Qari Saifullah Akhtar, a Pakistani with close
links to bin Laden who ran an Afghan training camp through which some 3,500
militants passed. In Britain, a dozen suspects have been picked up,
a senior al-Qaida operative identified as Abu Eisa al-Hindi or Abu Musa
al-Hindi who was reportedly involved in surveillance on financial
Washington and New York.
``Terrorists, like the rest of us, are finding out that they cannot live
without the Internet. It is very difficult to keep in touch with a lot of
over large distances without it,'' said Paul Wilkinson, chairman of the
Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University
Andrews in Scotland.
He said al-Qaida operatives have used encrypted e-mails and other
techniques, like hiding messages inside photographs, to conceal
they can't always hide, and when authorities get diskettes or hard drives,
can deal terror groups a major blow. ``The technology that al-Qaida has
so effectively can also be its Achilles heel,'' he said.
Pakistani authorities say bin Laden and al-Zawahri have shielded
staying clear of the chatter between lower ranking operatives. Bin Laden is
seen mostly as a financial backer and religious inspiration to his
making regular communication unnecessary.
``Whenever we get hold of high profile al-Qaida activists there is a great
deal of euphoria and excitement, and it leads to a lot of optimism ... that
will lead us to the eventual prize - the apprehension of Osama and
al-Zawahri,'' said Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayyat. ``But we have to
cautious. This network ... remains a potent threat to Pakistan, and to
The Pakistani intelligence official acknowledged that the lack of solid
intelligence has been frustrating.
``You keep waving your sword in the air and you hope a bird will come along
and you will hit it,'' he said. ``It's a matter of luck.''
Associated Press Writer Munir Ahmad in Islamabad contributed to this
Source: AOL News, AP
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R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
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