Electronic Weapons: July 16, 2002


Some of the most expert users of electronic warfare aren't in some nation's armed forces. Drug cartels in Colombia have been found using the latest commercial computer and electronic warfare technology to evade police attempts to shut them down and seize their drug shipments. With billions of dollars at their disposal, and plenty of incentive to keep in business (and out of prison), the cartels have been caught using elaborate computer systems to track police anti-drug efforts. For example, one police raid seized a database system that collected information on police operations and used pattern matching to identify police informers. While an examination of this system explained why so many police informers were identified and murdered by the cartels, continued murders indicated that the cartels maintained multiple computer systems. The cartels hired electronics experts to build monitoring systems to identify U.S. efforts to use surveillance and electronic warfare aircraft to find and track aircraft and ships carrying drugs. Knowing where US recon efforts are directed, the cartels are better able to avoid being spotted. The cartels also use the latest communications gear and encryption technology. Some of the data captured by police had to be handed over to the U.S. NSA for decryption, and apparently some of the codes could not be cracked. This technology war has not been discussed opening by the Colombian or American governments, most likely because the governments are losing, or because the U.S. has to use some of it's best (and most secret) electronic warfare to fight the cartels. 


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