Electronic Weapons: October 5, 2003


The hunt for terrorists in Pakistan and other south and southeast Asian nations has turned into a game of electronic warfare. The terrorists have long since learned to be careful using cell phones, but they have come to believe that email and instant messaging is a lot safer. Not really. By getting access to ISP (Internet Service Provider) servers in these countries (via the assistance of local police), CIA and FBI technicians can tap into the flow of messages and use software that can analyze and suspicious activity in real time. In Pakistan, this technology has led to the arrest of dozens of al Qaeda members who thought they were undetected while sending and receiving messages at Internet Cafes or from PCs at private homes.. You'd think that al Qaeda would be wary of these kinds of electronic traps by now, and many are. But even more al Qaeda members, especially those with a college education and years of Internet use behind them, feel that they can outwit any police attempts to track, and trap them via the Internet. The U.S. isn't talking about technical details, for obvious reasons. For the same reasons, you probably won't see any of this technology used in the United States. Wire tapping the Internet is still seen as a contentious issue in America, but the FBI encounters far fewer obstacles overseas. Details on this secretive electronic war will eventually bubble to the surface, but hopefully not until a lot more al Qaeda terrorists are found and captured.


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