In a response to Tuesday's terrorist attacks, the Senate votes to unleash Carnivore on the Internet. FBI and other police will be able to do electronic wiretaps without court orders. Declan McCullagh reports from Washington.
The CIA, faced with a daily avalanche of information, is using new "data mining" technology to find useful nuggets within thousands of documents and broadcasts in different languages.
The spy agency must sift through a barrage of information from both classified and unclassified sources in varied formats such as hard text, digital text, imagery, and audio in more than 35 languages.
The Office of Advanced Information Technology (AIT), part of the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology, is focused on finding solutions to the "volume challenge."
"We're not growing at a fast rate, but the amount of information that comes into this place is growing by leaps and bounds," Larry Fairchild, AIT director, said in an interview this week in a basement demonstration room at Central Intelligence Agency headquarters.
"How do we give folks technologies so that they are able to handle the big increase in information they're going to have to deal with on a day-to-day basis?" he said.
One computer tool called "Oasis" can convert audio signals from television and radio broadcasts into text.
It can distinguish accented English for greater accuracy in the transcription, whether the speaker is male or female, and whether one male or female voice is different from another of the same gender.
At the left of the screen of a transcribed broadcast are labels "Male 1," "Female 1," "Male 2," next to sentences.
If one voice is labeled with a name, the computer from then on will put that name on anything else with that same voice.
So for example if a broadcast by Saudi-exile Osama bin Laden, whom the CIA considers a major threat to Americans, was transcribed and labeled, every time his voice was detected the computer would automatically label it.
If the machine translation appears off, the user can with a mouse click hear the actual broadcast. For example, the demonstration showed a transcription that read "latest danger from hell" but the audio said "latest danger from el nino."
The computer cuts down on the time it would take a person to transcribe a half-hour broadcast to 10 minutes from up to 90 minutes, a CIA employee conducting the demonstration said.
The CIA is planning to have Oasis developed for different languages such as Arabic and Chinese.
It also finds similar meanings of words being searched, for example a broadcast might not mention "terrorism" but might say "car bombing," which the computer would tag as "terrorism" so that anyone searching for that category would find it.
Currently the CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service is using it in one Asian city and intends to have it in other regions such as the Middle East this year.
Another computer tool, "FLUENT," enables a user to conduct computer searches of documents that are in a language the user does not understand.
The user can put English words into the search field, such as "nuclear weapons," and documents in languages such as Russian, Chinese and Arabic pop up.
The system will then translate the document and if it is seen as useful, the analyst can send it to a human translator for more precision.
Languages that FLUENT can translate into English include Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Serbo-Croatian and Ukrainian.
"Data mining" tools are used to extract key pieces of information from a variety of intelligence traffic such as on the flow of illegal drugs and also to keep track of illicit financial transactions.
Tools were developed to help CIA analysts on Iraq, who were asked to analyze the agency's holdings on Iraqi war crime violations, about 1.2 million documents going back to 1979.
The Text Data Mining tool extracted and indexed all words in the data so for example if an analyst was asked whether Iraq ever used anthrax as a weapon, the analyst could open the tool and find anthrax in the automatically generated index.
That tool also counts the frequency of word use and can handle various spellings of the same Iraqi names or locations.
There is also "gifting technology" which gives the flavor of the key information of a document in a short paragraph, Fairchild said.
With the latest spy furor in the nation's capital, would any of the tools help catch a spy?
"Yes, some of the things we're doing can," Fairchild said without details. "We're looking at better technologies to put in that area," he added.
Another intelligence official, on condition of anonymity, said: "If they have this kind of technology to plumb the depths of open sources, you can imagine what kind of technologies they have to track down spies."
U.S. Officials Play Down Value of Manual Linked to bin Laden By REUTERS WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 - American intelligence agencies have obtained a manual supposedly used by the Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden to train recruits at terrorist camps in Afghanistan, but officials said today that it would not be especially helpful in disrupting any future terrorist activities.
"We have multiple copies of this manual - it is essentially a training manual," an official said.
"It's the same kind of training manual that armies around the world would have, this one is specifically aimed at people who are not particularly skilled or literate. Its line drawings are aimed at people who are not rocket scientists."
Jordanian intelligence officials gave their American counterparts computer disk copies of the six volumes, the official said, but the American intelligence agencies had obtained the manual even earlier.
The manual was "widely circulated" in the Middle East, the official added.
A Jordanian court today sentenced to death six Islamic militants it linked to Mr. bin Laden for plotting attacks against Israeli and American targets in Jordan during millennium celebrations.
They were among 28 people accused of being followers of Mr.bin Laden and plotting attacks in December 1999. Two other defendants were sentenced to life in prison, six were acquitted and the rest received shorter jail terms. Sixteen of the suspects were arrested in Jordan in December 1999; 12 remain at large.
A United States federal court has indicted Mr. bin Laden, who lives in Afghanistan, in the 1998 bombings of two American Embassies in East Africa that killed more than 225 people.
The 1,000-page manual, called the "Encyclopedia" and written in Arabic, contains information on how to recruit followers, conduct terrorist operations, and assemble bombs, USA Today said today.
The White House spokesman, Joe Lockhart, would not comment specifically on the manual, but said, Osama bin Laden's organization and others are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the training techniques they use, which requires the kind of response that I think you've seen from this government over the past few years."
Some intelligence officials described the manual as a gold mine of information on Mr. bin Laden's tactics.
But another official played down the manual's importance as a tool for disrupting any future terrorist activities. "The manual is interesting but to describe it as a gold mine would be greatly overstating the case," the official said.
TASHKENT - Russia sees the war in Chechnya, terrorist acts in Russia and in Uzbekistan, and hostage taking in Kyrgyzstan as all links in a chain of Islamic extremism that leads back to training camps in Afghanistan. That explains its wish to tighten external CIS borders and take preventive measures to ensure Central Asia's stability. Shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent visit to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, his spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky made an official statement announcing Moscow's intention to launch preventive air strikes on sites in Afghanistan, where notorious terrorist Osama bin Laden is presumed to be.
Uzbekistan, it seemed, supported the idea. Uzbek President Islam Karimov said during Putin's visit that both Russia and Uzbekistan agreed that international extremist groups were behind attempts to destabilize the situation in the North Caucasus and Central Asia.
"Our assessment of the nature of these threats coincides with that of Russia. . In this respect, Uzbekistan has found a defender in Russia," Karimov said.
But here in Uzbekistan, it is obvious that in many respects, Tashkent's and Moscow's ideas on fighting extremism in Afghanistan do not exactly coincide.
"We expect much from Moscow when it comes to strengthening security in Central Asia," said Uzbek Deputy Defense Minister Kadyr Gulyamov, "but not airstrikes against the Taliban.
"Russia is certainly a powerful country, but statements like these, while it is still waging a war in Chechnya, are untimely," he said. Gulyamov said that this was his own view, but that it was one most likely shared by his country's leadership.
A prominent Uzbek military journalist, Col. Vladimir Kaloshin, said it was essential to draw a distinction between the Taliban movement, which now controls 80 percent of Afghan territory, and other extremist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). The IMU, and not the Taliban, wants to move into CIS territory and create an Islamic state on the territory of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, Kaloshin said.
"Uzbekistan is hostile to the IMU, but it doesn't want to make an enemy of the Taliban," Kaloshin said. He also noted a conversation between President Karimov and Pakistan's military leader Pervez Musharraf during the Economic Cooperation Organization summit in Iran. Karimov used the opportunity to call on Pakistan to help end the war between the Taliban and the opposing Northern Alliance.
Karimov's press secretary Azamat Ziye said it is in Uzbekistan's interests to see economic stability and recovery in Afghanistan. A stable Afghanistan could give Uzbekistan access to the Pakistani port of Karachi. The feeling in Tashkent is that Islamabad is equally interested in stabilizing Afghanistan. As for Afghanistan itself, it could benefit enormously from its strategic position as an ideal transport route.
Pakistan has long been seen as supporting the Taliban regime, so Tashkent's appeal to Pakistan could look like playing the same game. Uzbek officials can't talk openly about such things. But Pakistan is certainly an ideal partner. If the Afghan problem is resolved, then the dream of building pipelines from Central Asia to the Indian ocean ports would become reality.
"The Uzbek leadership, it seems, would like to reach an agreement with the Taliban that would commit them to not supporting the IMU," Col. Kaloshin said, "but Russia, with its statements about bombing the extremists, has thrown everything askew and given the Taliban a fright."
Kaloshin said the Taliban are now building up their forces on the border with Uzbekistan under the pretext of responding to the threat of Russian airstrikes. Several thousand Taliban are now said to be concentrated round the Afghan town of Heiraton, just a few kilometers from the Uzbek town of Termez. The Taliban have deployed artillery on the summits around the border region. Kaloshin said the extremists had planned to move into Uzbek territory on June 20, but they had not expected Uzbek troops to be so well prepared and decided to postpone their plans.
All Uzbek troops along the Afghan border are now on full military alert. Some of them have taken military positions so as to fight back any potential attempt by IMU terrorists to enter Uzbek territory. The 202nd Russian division, which guards the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, is also on full alert.
So the threat from the extremists and general military instability on the CIS borders with Afghanistan oblige Uzbekistan to work with Russia on ensuring security in the region. But the two countries don't share the same strategic aims.
"Moscow wants to have oil and gas cross Russian territory and so long as there is instability in Afghanistan, it won't be realistic to build pipelines from Central Asia to Pakistan," said Georgy Trapeznikov, president of the Academy of Spiritual Unity of the Peoples of the World. "This explains why Tashkent doesn't support Moscow's idea of bombing the Taliban. This could lead to new contradictions between countries, new allies and alliances in the region, including with the West and the U.S., which is interested in getting cheaper energy resources and increasing its presence in Central Asia," Trapeznikov said.
Refueling U.S. warships in the Arabian port of Aden is part of a broader U.S. government effort to develop closer ties with Yemen and to place an electronic eavesdropping post on a nearby island, U.S. intelligence officials said yesterday.
Military intelligence specialists hope improving relations with the Yemeni government will lead to intelligence cooperation and the building of a signals intelligence site on the island of Socotra, some 220 miles off Yemen's eastern coast.
The island is ideally suited for monitoring electronic signals throughout the region, especially the hundreds of ships that pass daily through the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. "It's a key strategic collection point," said one official.
Closer ties with Yemen also might lead to the use of the island as a place to store supplies and equipment that could be used in the event of a regional conflict, the officials said.
The military and U.S. National Security Agency conduct worldwide electronic spying from scores of listening posts around the world and from satellites in space.
During the 1980s, the Soviet Union operated two electronic eavesdropping posts in Yemen, including a large facility in Aden and a smaller eavesdropping post on Socotra. It could not be learned if the stations are still operated by the Russians.
From those facilities, Moscow monitored communications and military activities throughout the Arabian peninsula, the Red Sea and the India Ocean. The desire for a secret intelligence base on Socotra is one reason the Pentagon chose to risk U.S. ship visits to a potential terrorist hot spot, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The guided missile destroyer USS Cole was damaged by a suicide terrorist attack from an explosives-laden small boat on Thursday in Aden harbor, killing 17 sailors and injuring 38 others.
Some in the Pentagon have questioned the decision to allow a ship to refuel in Yemen because it is a known safe-haven for several international terrorist groups.
A U.S. Navy ship first visited unified Yemen in May 1998 and since then there have been 12 refueling visits.
Sending U.S. ships to the country was viewed as one way to help build ties with Yemen since the visits are considered a benefit to Yemen and a way to show U.S. support, the officials said.
"It was a step by step approach to to signing up another friendly nation in the region," the official said.
The military has no plans for basing ships in Yemen and considered the military cooperation as limited to ship visits and refueling, the officials said.
Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon rejected the idea that engagement diplomacy took precedence over security concerns in ties with Yemen.
The Navy has a variety of refueling points and the Pentagon "worked hard to develop a way to use a number of ports throughout the Middle East that best supports our operations and that best supports our diplomacy in the area," Mr. Bacon said.
"In terms of the policy of engagement with Yemen or any other country in the Middle East, I think it's very important to realize that these decisions are not made by just the Defense Department. They are government-wide policies," Mr. Bacon said.
Asked about the decision to refuel in Yemen, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said "there's always judgments to be made." "We know ships have to refuel, and everywhere in the Middle East, there is a potential threat of terrorism... But ultimately, these decisions and judgments have to be made based on the need to refuel, the opportunity is available, and where we think the best place is to do it."
U.S. military engagement with Yemen, which is strategically located on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula was promoted by Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, the recently-retired commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command.
"We have been working to improve our relations with Yemen for some time," said Adm. Vern Clark, the chief of naval operations. The admiral said the refueling visit "at the heart of the motivation of the unified commander as they are improving our relations in that part of the world." The country was divided into North and South Yemen until unification in 1990.
The U.S. Central Command, which is in charge of U.S. military activities in the region, since then has tried to bring Yemen "into the group of responsible nations," one military officer said yesterday.
A Central Command spokesman had no immediate comment on the command's policies toward Yemen. Larry Johnson, a former U.S. government counterterrorism specialist, said Yemen has been improving its cooperation with the United States in combating terrorism, including providing anti-terrorism training to Yemenis.
"The U.S. has been trying to work with Yemen and making them a friend and not a foe in the terrorism battle," Mr. Johnson said.
Terrorist activities until the bombing of the Cole had been limited to less lethal actions, such as kidnapping foreigners that have to do more with tribal warfare than with anti-U.S. operations, Mr. Johnson said.
Terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah operate offices in Yemen but the country has "not been an operational center for those groups," he said. Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism official, said Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden has maintained ties to Islamic groups in Yemen and recently married a Yemeni national.
"Bin Laden has a great infrastructure in the country," Mr. Cannistraro said. Mr. Cannistraro said it is unlikely that whoever carried out the attack will claim responsibility since doing so would invite U.S. retaliation.
Special to WORLD TRIBUNE.COM - Monday, August 9, 1999
BIN LADEN HAS 20 NUCLEAR
ACCORDING TO BODANSKY
WASHINGTON -- Saudi fugitive Osama Bin Laden is believed to have up to 20 nuclear bombs and is seeking to launch a massive terrorist strike against the United States, a congressional investigator and author says.
Yosef Bodansky, a researcher of the House Task Force for Counterterrorism and author of a new book on Bin Laden, told a news conference on Friday that Bin Laden has been seeking to follow up on his bombings of two U.S. embassies in east Africa one year ago. Echoing U.S. officials, Bodansky said Bin Laden was thwarted in plans to blow up the U.S. embassy and two consulates in India in last December and January.
Bin Laden has biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, Bodansky said. The nuclear weapons include suitcase bombs acquired through Chechniyan rebels and received technical help from Iraq.
"The Russians believe that he has a handful [of nuclear weapons], the Saudi intelligence services are very conservative, perhaps they are friendly to the United States, believe that he has in the neighborhood of 20," Bodansky said. "As far as the acquisition and obtaining, there's the multiple sources of that, dealing with the actual purchase of suitcase bombs. His collection of individuals knowledgeable in activating the bombs and he is looking for and recruiting former Soviet special forces in learning how to operate the bombs behind enemy lines."
"As far as decision-making in Washington is concerned, we should assume that he has them," he added. "Most of them have been transferred through Pakistan."
"Let me stress here: We don't have any indication that they are going to use it tomorrow or any other day," added Bodansky, whose analyses are considered controversial in Washington. "But they have the capability, they have the legitimate authorization, they have the logic for using it. So, one does not go into the tremendous amount of expenditures, effort, investment in human beings, in human resources, to have something that will be just kept somewhere in storage for a rainy day."
Bodansky said Bin Laden has strong ties with Islamic fundamentalists throughout the Middle East, the Balkans, Britain in the Untied States. He refused to name any specific organization in the United States.
"There's a distinct minority within the Moslem community in the United States that is very sympathetic to his cause, to his analysis and interpretation of the relationship between the hub of Islam and the penetration of Westernization, Western culture and the like," he said. "And a minority among this minority are known to have crossed the threshold of willingness to commit terrorist acts or commit violence. Many have been trained in Afghanistan, Bosnia and elsewhere throughout the Moslem world, so that they are capable. They have the skills and capabilities to carry out an operation as required."
Bodansky said Bin Laden remains in Afghanistan. He said the Saudi is located in Islam Darva, about 80 kilometers northwest of Kandahar. When he wants to communicate with the outside world, he travels to Jalalabad.
FBI agent says defendant took terrorist oath
An FBI agent testified Tuesday that a defendant charged in the bombing of American embassies in West Africa admitted to authorities he was a sworn follower of Osama bin Laden, the Saudi millionaire accused of waging a holy war on Americans.
Egyptian refugee denies links to bin Laden at Toronto hearing
An Egyptian refugee has denied allegations by Canadian intelligence officials that he is an international terrorist with links to Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden.
Former Bin Laden Secretary Charged
An American citizen who allegedly once served as personal secretary to Osama bin Laden was ordered held without bail Monday on charges that he was part of the conspiracy behind the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa.
WASHINGTON--The organization headed by terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden and groups allied with it are maintaining links with Islamic rebels in Chechnya, the State Department said Friday. It warned that the conflict in the embattled Russian region could spread southward to Georgia and oil-rich Azerbaijan.
Spokesman James P. Rubin said support of the extremist groups extends to rebels throughout the former Soviet Union.
"We do believe there are funds and equipment and support that exist [among] a number of these organizations," he added.
Their only cause "appears to be to oppose the whole civilized world," he said.
Rubin said the United States shares Russia's worry about the need to contain terrorist groups, but he reaffirmed U.S. opposition to tactics Russia is using in Chechnya.
A profound U.S. concern with the conflict in the North Caucasus is the "potential of its spilling over into Azerbaijan" and the instability such an expansion could create in the region, Rubin added.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin said in September that Bin Laden had been in Chechnya several times and was backing Islamic militants in their quest to carve a separate state out of southern Russia.
Also Friday, Russian troops killed about 40 Chechen refugees when they fired without warning on a convoy fleeing the ravaged capital, Grozny, survivors said.
Russian troops raked a bus and several cars with bullets early Friday near the village of Goity, just outside Grozny, the witnesses said.
Two Israeli researchers say they have discovered a way to break
the encryption method that allows for secure calling and data
transmissions over GSM-based cellular phones. While GSM is not
the preferred standard in the U.S., it is the most commonly used
wireless technology in the world. Over 215 million digital
handsets are based on the technology, but only 5 million of those
are used in the U.S. However, several U.S. operators, including
Pacific Bell and Omnipoint, offer GSM-based service. The
researchers say they have broken the code called the A5/1
algorithm, which is meant to prevent electronic eavesdropping.
Although this is not the first time an encryption code has been
cracked, the new procedure is notable because it does not require
a substantial amount of computer power. Adi Shamir and Alex
Biryukov, two researchers of the Weizmann Institute in Rohovot,
Israel, say the computer they used to crack the code had 128 MB
of RAM and two 73 GB hard disks.
(New York Times 12/07/99)
The federal government may be monitoring the private e-mail of its
citizens, as well as those of other countries, according to the
Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), which has filed a
lawsuit to force the National Security Agency (NSA) to hand over
documents it says will prove the accusation. The NSA engages in
international surveillance for the U.S. government, and a growing
body of evidence suggests that the agency's efforts include the
harvesting of e-mail, says EPIC director Marc Rotenberg. EPIC
filed the suit because the NSA failed to respond to a Freedom of
Information Act request for the documents. Earlier this year the
House Intelligence Committee requested access to the documents,
but was snubbed by the NSA, which said it could not release the
documents for reasons of national security. EPIC, the ACLU, and
other privacy groups claim that an NSA program called Echelon is
responsible for the e-mail surveillance. An NSA spokeswoman
refused to confirm or deny the existence of Echelon, but said
that the agency is in strict compliance with U.S. laws and
regulations regarding the privacy of U.S. citizens.
(Interactive Week Online 12/06/99)
In a response to Tuesday's terrorist attacks, the Senate votes to unleash Carnivore on the Internet. FBI and other police will be able to do electronic wiretaps without court orders. Declan McCullagh reports from Washington.