November 21, 2009: Despite the general understanding that the Americans, or any Western nation (including Israel), can do what they want with phone networks, Islamic terrorists continue to rely on the phones, particularly cell phones, unto (their own) death. This phone hacking is often done without the cooperation of the phone companies. For example, several times in the last few years, Israeli Information War operatives have hacked into foreign phones systems openly, to carry out a mission. One of the more famous incidents occurred two years ago when Israel hacked into the Syrian phone system, and sent thousands of messages to Syrians offering a $10 million reward for information on the whereabouts of missing Israeli soldiers. Syrian intelligence officials believe the campaign was more interested in recruiting intelligence agents. Many Syrians thought it was all an attempt by their own government to find and identify disloyal citizens.
If you can get into the phone system, you can also play with radio and TV broadcasts. Pretty regularly, Israel has been hacking into Lebanon based Hezbollah radio and TV broadcasts, and inserting messages that point out mistakes Hezbollah has made, or lies Hezbollah has been pushing, or simply ridiculing the Islamic radicals. Israeli Information War teams have also spammed Lebanese cell phone users with anti-Hezbollah voice mail and text messages.
This sort of thing confirms to the Arabs that the Israelis, and Westerners in general, are evil, in league with the devil and thus in possession of some kind of magic. Other Arab pundits point out that Arab countries need to increase their spending on education, so that Arab geeks can hack Israeli communications, or at least protect their own. But the magic angle tends to be more popular with editors and government censors.
As a result, the U.S. was able to hack the Iraqi phone system several times, to track down and destroy major terrorist networks. This was one part of the "surge offensive" that didn't get much publicity. Another reason for keeping it quiet was the Israeli connection. The Israelis have taken the lead in this area, and the U.S. and Israel have long exchanged counter-terror and intelligence tips and techniques. Israel is very unpopular in the Arab world, mainly because the Israelis have defeated larger Arab military forces so many times. It seems that the more you expose the inadequacies of Arab soldiers, the more the Arabs hate you.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban leadership has recognized the phone network vulnerability, and the addictive nature of cell phones. So the Taliban have tried to stop cell phone companies from moving in with their cell towers, and attractive (to Taliban gunmen and middle management) cell phone service. In this, the Taliban have largely failed, and the cell phone addiction of their fighters has caused no end of problems when the U.S. hacks the cell networks.