[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>
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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

.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
- his
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
unassuming-looking villager.

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
bin Laden,
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
has led
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,
and at
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
institutions in
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
of St.
Andrews in Scotland.

He said  al-Qaida operatives have used encrypted e-mails and other
techniques, like  hiding messages inside photographs, to conceal
communications. But
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
be very
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>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
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[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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