Counter-Terrorism: Osama's Internet Connection


January 15, 2008: While Osama bin Laden, and other al Qaeda and Taliban leaders may be hiding out in the mountains along the Afghan-Pakistan border, they are not cut off from the outside world. For a few thousand dollars, you can put together a a portable, solar powered, Internet connection. Weighing less than twenty pounds, it can be stuffed into a backpack and carried anywhere. Using solar panels, a satellite phone and a laptop, and you are connected. Satellite phone companies now provide higher data speeds. Not quite DSL, but you can move all the data a terrorist mastermind requires for communication and propaganda.

The terrorists know that Western intelligence agencies are all over the satellite phone systems. But by using code words, and encrypting the messages, much information can be exchanged without unacceptable risk. Moreover, the phones themselves can be used at a distance from the hideouts, lest the Americans are plotting the location of the phone, and have a missile armed Predator UAV nearby.

The intel people won't comment on this, especially any success they may have breaking the multiple layers of encryption, or doing an analysis of transmission locations. At the same time, such portable Internet set-ups are also useful for Western counter-terrorism forces operating in the back-country. U.S. Army Special Forces often have small teams doing stake outs in the outback, and Internet access is essential for getting and sending information.


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