Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Glenn Kessler on top of things

Nation: About that Osama and the satellite phone leak comes Kessler saying the President overstated the issue.

In his news conference yesterday, President Bush twice pointed to the same example to express his concern about the danger of newspaper leaks -- Osama bin Laden's phone. "The fact that we were following Osama bin Laden because he was using a certain type of telephone made it into the press as the result of a leak," the president said. "And guess what happened? Saddam -- Osama bin Laden changed his behavior. He began to change how he communicated." Later, the president repeated the example and decried what he called "revealing sources, methods and what we use the information for" as helping "the enemy" change its behavior. But the reality is more complicated. The White House says the president was referring to a profile of the al Qaeda leader that appeared in the Washington Times on Aug. 21, 1998. In the 21st paragraph, the article stated: "He keeps in touch with the world via computers and satellite phones and has given occasional interviews to international news organizations." The information in the article does not appear to be based on any government leak and made no reference to government surveillance of bin Laden's phone.
Kessler meet Google, Google meet Kessler.
CNN 2002: ""In 1998, according to Fleischer, an "unauthorized disclosure" of information about Osama bin Laden's use of a satellite phone undermined U.S. intelligence gathering efforts. "As soon as it was publicly revealed, we never heard from that source again," Fleischer said. "We never again heard from that satellite phone."
USA Today 21 August 1998: "....Information from intercepted phone calls. The supersecret National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Md., uses computers to automatically scan tapped international phone calls. A signals satellite hovering 22,500 miles above the earth picks out international phone calls carried by satellite. On the ground, worldwide electronic listening posts at places such as U.S. military installations also intercept calls, Pike says. Radio traffic between remote terrorist training camps are monitored. Intelligence agents can even monitor conversations in rooms where suspected terrorists might meet by picking up vibrations on window panes. The telephone numbers and locations of known terrorists and terrorist organizations are automatically targeted. Computers decide whether to alert analysts to other calls by using software that scans for key words. Any mention of words like "bomb" or "attack" would automatically raise alarm. So would names, such as bin Laden, as well as terrorist nicknames and code words. Although terrorists such as bin Laden are aware of these methods and insulate themselves from issuing direct orders, a former U.S. official says that bin Laden had a fondness for using his cell phone. That may have helped lead to him in the Africa bombing."

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