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Monday, August 09, 2004

Nostalgia Trip 

From the New York Times, a wistful look back at the sort of intel we'll no longer have access to, now that Al Qaeda has stopped trading e-mails with former mole Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan:
A new portrait of Al Qaeda's inner workings is emerging from the cache of information seized last month in Pakistan, as investigators begin to identify a new generation of operatives who appear to be filling the vacuum created when leaders were killed or captured, senior intelligence officials said Monday.

Using computer records, e-mail addresses and documents seized after the arrest of Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan last month in Pakistan, intelligence analysts say they are finding that Al Qaeda's upper ranks are being filled by lower-ranking members and more recent recruits . . . .

While the findings may result in a significant intelligence coup for the Bush administration and its allies in Britain, they also create a far more complex picture of Al Qaeda's status than Mr. Bush presents on the campaign trail. For the past several months, the president has claimed that much of Al Qaeda's leadership has been killed or captured; the new evidence suggests that the organization is regenerating and bringing in new blood.

Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahiri are believed to be in hiding in the region along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. In July, when American officials announced that Al Qaeda intended to strike inside the United States this year, they said that they believed Mr. bin Laden was directing the threats.

The names of senior members of the terror network were not discussed by the intelligence officials, in part, they said, to avoid compromising efforts to kill or capture them. "They are in Pakistan or the region,'' said one official, who also said that the Pakistani government was being "quite helpful" in helping identify them. That is a significant change from last year, but the attitude of Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, appeared to change after he survived two assassination attempts that are now believed to have been aided by Qaeda sympathizers. "That focused his mind on the issue," one American said.
And while we're on the subject of focus problems, the unfortunate Khan disclosure is really nothing new; many of our Republican friends just can't resist the urge to brag in public about all the inside information they're privy to. Did you ever wonder, for example, how Osama bin Laden slipped out of Tora Bora right under the noses of the American forces? On Sept. 13, 2001, the Post ran an article explaining that:
There was a time when U.S. agencies monitored bin Laden and his associates by following the signal of his satellite telephone. As with other Middle Eastern terrorist groups, they often boasted about their intentions or their successes. About two years ago, word leaked about the bin Laden intercepts, and his phone went silent.

Not all sources have been shut down, however. After the attacks on Tuesday, intelligence officers listened to a conversation between bin Laden associates who said they had hit two targets in the United States, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) told reporters.
Hatch's loose lips drew the immediate ire of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Here's one possible reason why:
Osama bin Laden escaped capture in Afghanistan, fooling sophisticated American satellites, by simply having an aide carry his satellite phone in a different direction, a newspaper reports.

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