[ISN] Kabul computer reveals files of top Al Qaeda officials

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Fri Jan 04 2002 - 03:09:59 PST

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    Forwarded from: Nelson Murilo <nelsonat_private>
    Associated Press December 31, 2001 
    Kabul computer reveals files of top Al Qaeda officials 
    By D. Ian Hopper 
    WASHINGTON -- A computer used by Osama bin Laden's agents in
    Afghanistan could be an intelligence bonanza pointing to future
    methods of attack and inside information about how the al-Qaida
    terrorist network operates, former military officials and analysts
    said Monday.
    A U.S. intelligence official confirmed that a computer bought by The
    Wall Street Journal in Kabul apparently had been used by al-Qaida. It
    contained memos of the terrorist group's chemical and biological
    weapons program, justifications for killing civilians and a propaganda
    video made from footage of people fleeing from the World Trade Center,
    the Journal reported.
    Increasingly, officials told The Associated Press, computers are
    replacing confidential memos as a prime target when looking for
    intelligence left behind by a routed enemy. The faster the enemy is
    destroyed, the juicier the information.
    "It's like in the old days when you have safes, you'd have hand
    grenades laying around to take out the safe," said Marc Enger, former
    director of operations at the Air Intelligence Agency, the Air Force's
    intelligence arm. "These guys were more intent on getting out than
    worrying about information left behind."
    Enger said American forces retrieved valuable information from
    computers in Iraq and Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War as well as in
    the 1989 invasion of Panama.
    "We got good data there," Enger said, citing evidence of financial
    transactions and drug trafficking. "It was in (Panamanian Gen. Manuel)
    Noriega's personal underground command center. They found computers in
    there that had all kinds of stuff."
    A looter in Kabul said he got the desktop computer after a U.S.
    bombing raid in November that killed several senior officials of
    al-Qaida, the Journal said. The newspaper said it bought the machine
    from the looter for $1,100.
    The terrorist group functioned like a multinational corporation, with
    memos referring to al-Qaida as "the company" and its leadership as
    "the general management," the newspaper said.
    One memo referred to a "legal study" of the killing of civilians, in
    which the writer said he had found ways to keep "the enemy" from using
    the killing of "civilians, specifically women and children," to
    undermine the militants' cause, the Journal said.
    A letter addressed to top al-Qaida lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahri said
    "hitting the Americans and Jews is a target of great value and has its
    rewards in this life and, God willing, the afterlife," the Journal
    said. The author of the letter said he had written to bin Laden
    While the Journal said many of the files were protected by passwords,
    Enger said American technicians have had little problem overcoming
    those kinds of technological obstacles.
    The computer also contains a video file made after Sept. 11 that uses
    television footage of people fleeing the World Trade Center, combined
    with a sound track of mocking chants and prayers in Arabic, the
    newspaper said.
    The creation of the video "shows an intermediate level of technical
    sophistication," akin to a drug cartel, said analyst John Pike of
    Globalsecurity.org. But unlike a drug network that constantly pushes
    money and narcotics around, a terrorist group can be silent for
    "That's why this type of primary source material is so valuable
    because there aren't as many opportunities to get this sort of insight
    into their operation," Pike said.
    The U.S. intelligence official would not comment on whether the United
    States had access to or a copy of the computer's hard drive.
    Text files include an outline of an al-Qaida project to develop
    chemical and biological weapons, code-named al-Zabadi, Arabic for
    curdled milk, the newspaper said.
    One memo laments the slow progress of the weapons development and adds
    that "we only became aware of them when the enemy drew our attention
    to them by repeatedly expressing concern that they can be produced
    Al-Qaida's euphemisms for chemical weapons and other terms could be
    used to find more intelligence, analysts said.
    "Historically, that's been a real big problem you have with drug
    operations," Pike said. "The drug runners come up with new nicknames
    for drugs faster than the cops can learn them. So understanding their
    code names is extremely valuable."
    Unlike battlefield intelligence which usually focuses on troop
    movements and strengths in a particular area, the al-Qaida computer
    files pertain to strategy as well as tactics. This may help U.S.
    strategists to better protect the country against future attacks.
    "If we're going to be successful in securing the homeland we need to
    put ourselves in the bad guy's shoes," said Phil Anderson, a retired
    Marine and analyst at the Center for Strategic and International
    Studies in Washington.
    "There's so many vulnerabilities that we have to address," Anderson
    said. "Anything that's going to help us focus our attention is going
    to be useful."
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