Peregrine flight

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cat and Mouse

Interesting article in the New York Times this morning about Pakistan. Apparently there is a little technology war going on. Somebody is paying local spies to target Al Qaeda targets with little electronic devices that are called Patrai in the local parlance. Oftentimes these spies are captured and killed. The Taliban are also adopting high tech techniques of their own.
The Taliban and Al Qaeda have become obsessed with “patrai” — a local word for a small metallic device, now synonymous with the tiny electronic tagging devices that militants believe the C.I.A. uses to find them. In 2009 Mr. Libi, the Qaeda deputy, published an article illustrated with photographs of such devices, warning of their dangers. He was killed in a drone strike near Mir Ali in June.
This year, the Taliban released a video purporting to show one such device: an inchlong electronic circuit board, cased in transparent plastic, that, when connected to a nine-volt battery, pulsed with an infrared light. A spokesman for the C.I.A. declined to comment on details of the drone program. But a former American intelligence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the agency does use such GPS devices, which are commercially available in the United States through stores that supply the military.
As a result, the Taliban are adapting. Wali ur-Rehman, a senior Taliban commander, said in an interview last spring that his fighters had started to scan all visiting vehicles with camcorders set to infrared mode in order to detect potential tracking devices.
On the ground, though, the spy war has further destabilized a tribal society already dangerously weakened by years of violence. Paranoia about the profusion of tracking chips has fueled rivalries between different clans who accused one another of planting the devices.
“People start to think that other tribes are throwing the chips. There is so much confusion and mistrust created within the tribal communities. Drone attacks have intensified existing mistrust,” one tribesman told researchers from Columbia Law School, as part of a study into the effects of the drone campaign, last May.

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