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Terrorists’ Adaptive Behavior

While advances in technology are being used by intelligence and law enforcement agencies to monitor and track terrorists, al Qaeda and its sympathizers have adapted their behavior to foil these steps by using “low-tech” countermeasures. On the most basic level, al Qaeda operatives and their supporters are avoiding locations that they assume will be watched or bugged like mosques and bookshops. They have also adopted simple codes to avoid detection.

Often, suspects use simple, homemade codes in their exchanges - "Taxi drivers, referred to suicide bombers; explosives were "dough." Anybody who had to go to "the hospital, had been taken to jail, while those visiting "China" were really attending training camps in Sudan.”

Experts said the codes may not appear sophisticated at first glance but can be time-consuming to crack, especially if the targets are conversing in Arabic…

…"They are incredibly aware when they use any electronic means to communicate that they can be monitored by the intelligence services all over the world, not just Europe."

A Jamaican convert to Islam, Andrew Rowe was found guilty in September 2005 on terrorism charges after British authorities found a code book in which double meanings were assigned to model numbers for Nokia cell phones:

● "Nokia 3310" to refer to money
● "Nokia 3410" to signal potential trouble from the police
● "Nokia 3610" as code for weapons

Jose Padilla and his co-defendants used a code based on vegetables - "eggplant" and "zucchini" were really references to weaponry and ammunition. When the F.B.I. broke this code, it led to his arrest and conviction.

At the same time, the advent and expanded worldwide use of Internet telephone services like Skype and other Internet telephone services are hard, if not impossible to trace or bug. I know that I often use my Skype to make long distance calls, and I know that a caller-ID sees that call as a numeric string like ‘000123456′ or its shows up as “unknown caller.”

One senior Italian counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed strong frustration that Skype had been invented. - - - "Unfortunately, the technology changes so quickly that we're always playing a catch-up game," the senior Italian official said. "The bottom line is that we'll have to work more and more with human sources."

We already know, and have discussed here at ThreatsWatch, that terrorists are suspected of using “virtual worlds” for training venues. See Second Life: Elevating Terrorism Training and When Virtual Reality Becomes Too Real

But according to this article, in last Saturday’s Washington Post article, Terror Suspects Hone Anti-Detection Skills, some European terrorists are leaving cities to go camping or go on wildlife trips to avoid monitoring. Some (including four of the men involved in the London Metro bombing in July 2005) have even used “paint balling” as a ruse to cover-up terrorist training. Others have used rented vacation homes to store explosive components.

It is this type of behavior that makes it harder to authorities to protect and defend citizens from another attack, and makes it more likely that a terrorist cell can go undetected.

So ask yourself. Just because this story refers to Europe, how likely is it that the same tactics aren’t also being used in the United States? Of course, the answer has to be, “why not?”

Notes

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The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 01/08/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.