Thursday, June 27, 2013

NSA Leaks Are Said to Have Changed the Ways Al Qaeda Talks, but How Much?


Following the Edward Snowden leaks that detailed a large part of the process by which the U.S. government's largest intelligence agency spies on terrorists — and American citizens — Al Qaeda has reportedly (and predictably) started tweaking the way it communicates, but in a way the doesn't necessarily make it harder for the National Security Agency to track them. "[A] lawmaker briefed on the matter said al-Qaida's Yemeni offshoot, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, has been among the first to alter how it reaches out to its operatives," reports the Associated Press's Kimberly Dozier, referring to what is thought of as the most active group of the network. The AP sources, of course, cited secrecy in declining to elaborate on how Al Qaeda has shifted its digital tactics: "The officials wouldn't go into details on how they know this, whether it's terrorists switching email accounts or cellphone providers or adopting new encryption techniques." CNN has more.

Making it harder for the NSA or CIA to spy on Al Qaeda would seem to help justify programs like PRISM, but it remains unclear whether the terrorists group's ever-evolving communications make it that much harder for the NSA to track anyone. After the leaks, "jihadists posted Arabic news articles about it ... and recommended fellow jihadists to be very cautious, not to give their real phone number and other such information when registering for a website," Adam Raisman of the SITE Intelligence Group, a private analysis firm, told Dozier. Were the most dangerous terrorists on earth really posting their home phone numbers online? Or, for that matter, even using Skype anymore?

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