Al Qaeda Helps Pakistani Terrorists Evade U.S. Snoops

U.S. special units tap into cellphone networks to track terrorists.

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By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

Al Qaeda learned a lot in Iraq about how the United States intercepts telephone calls and has shared the information with its allies in Pakistan, according to a knowledgeable intelligence source. The United States has hunted down Al Qaeda in Iraq kingpins, including leader Abu Musab Zarqawi, using superelite units made up of Delta Force, the National Security Agency, the CIA, and a military intelligence group, Task Force Orange. Iraq rebuilding has included an extensive cellphone network. The special units tap into that network to track the whereabouts of hundreds of the most wanted. If a terrorist is on the phone long enough, the unit can pinpoint his whereabouts to within 10 yards and go get him.

Al Qaeda has seen a sufficient number of kills and captures to realize this and has changed tactics, the source says. Cellphone users now move away from their base of operations or hide-outs to make calls, so if they are pinpointed, they don't give away the entire operation. They also make quick calls and immediately turn off the phones or discard phones after a few calls, so the phone number becomes useless. "They've adopted brevity codes instead of plain speech," the source said. "They have relied more and more on couriers and uploading documents to the Internet at an Internet cafe in an urban area. We saw that big-time in Iraq, and now it is common in Pakistan."

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