Analysis: Al-Qaeda dumps phones, making interception impossible

Secret Sentry

Secret Sentry

In his brief but perceptive review of Matthew M. Aid’s new book, The Secret Sentry: The Untold Story of the National Security Agency, Craig Seligman, critic for Bloomberg News, refers to an argument made in the book, which in my opinion deserves attention. Namely, in discussing the NSA’s activities in the so-called “war on terrorism”, Aid points out that, not only are Iran and North Korea increasingly converting their analog communications networks into fiber-optic cables, thus making their internal communications virtually impossible to intercept, but al-Qaeda and other militant groups are now “practically cut[ing] out the use of telephones and radios”. All of this is gradually turning the NSA, an agency that receives over $9 billion a year in US taxpayers’ money, into a gargantuan organization whose daily tasks are becoming “maddeningly difficult” –indeed, almost irrelevant. What is more, the NSA’s notorious deficiency in analytical capabilities prompt Seligman to justifiably compare the Agency to the gilded Hollywood film industry, “which constantly proves itself equal to the wildest technical challenges yet rarely turns out a good movie”. Ultimately, Seligman agrees with Aid’s conclusion that the intelligence outlook for today’s NSA is, to say the least, bleak. Not only is the agency’s intelligence output suffering as a result of recent technical advances, but the NSA’s involvement in legally questionable domestic surveillance of Americans (operation STELLAR WIND) during the Bush administration’s tenure has “demoralized the agency [and apparently] produced little in the way of tangible results”.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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