Intelligence: June 7, 2002

Archives

Looking at all the "what ifs?" of September 11, 2001, the one that looms largest was tapping of Osama bin Laden's Inmarsat Compact M satellite phone (costing $15,000, with an all weather external antenna and battery and a block of 3,000 pre-paid minutes). Inmarsat's main market is ships at sea. The NSA was monitoring this phone and it provided a bonanza of information on al Qaeda. Even though used the phone primarily for social calls, enough useful items were extracted from his conversations to help in the conviction of the men responsible for 1998 terror bombings in Africa. Al Qaeda have not made much use of modern cryptography, preferring simpler codes. These codes can be deciphered, as they are the same type of simple codes used by criminals for years. Apparently, tour guides in NSA, during the late 1990s, took to playing takes of bin Laden making his social calls. This eventually got into a news item and soon thereafter bin Laden stopped using his satellite phone. This casual attitude towards valuable intelligence sources is common in Washington, DC. While Congress gets most of the blame, it's the Executive Branch that is the source of most leaks. There are so many appointed officials working for the president, who have access to classified data, and don't have to worry about getting re-elected, that there's always a few of them willing to leak something for one reason or another. The bin Laden phone leak story was not seen as exceptional at the time, but then came September 11, 2001. And the leaks go on.

 


Article Archive

Intelligence: Current 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 


X

ad
0
20

Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close