The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Washington (AFP) – The National Security Agency is deeply involved in U.S. drone strikes against Al-Qaeda militants, using electronic surveillance tools to track down terror suspects, The Washington Post reported.

The report was based on documents provided by Edward Snowden, the U.S. intelligence contractor turned leaker who has exposed the massive scale of the NSA’s eavesdropping efforts.

NSA cyber spying helped pinpoint a senior Al-Qaeda figure, Hassan Ghul, who was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal belt in 2012, the Post wrote.

The operation was made possible in part by an email from Ghul’s wife that was scooped up by the National Security Agency’s vast surveillance dragnet, it said.

The United States has never publicly confirmed that it took out Ghul. But documents passed to the Post by Snowden made clear he was killed by the US government last year.

Ghul was captured in 2004 and under questioning helped reveal Osama bin Laden’s courier network — information that eventually led to the U.S. commando raid that killed the Al-Qaeda mastermind.

Ghul spent two years at a secret CIA prison and in 2006, the United States transferred him back to his native Pakistan, where he was released and returned to Al-Qaeda.

To help the CIA locate Ghul and other terror suspects, the NSA placed “a surveillance blanket over dozens of square miles of northwest Pakistan” to uncover communications and the whereabouts of Al-Qaeda militants, the newspaper said.

The email from Ghul’s wife “about her current living conditions” included enough details to confirm the coordinates of their home, according to a document leaked by Snowden.

“This information enabled a capture/kill operation against an individual believed to be Hassan Ghul on October 1,” said the document quoted by the Post.

The newspaper said it was withholding numerous details about the “targeted killing” missions at the request of intelligence officials who were concerned about possible damage to operations and national security.

As with previous leaks from Snowden, the NSA did not deny the report but issued a statement saying its spying was focused on suspected terrorists and other threats to the United States.

“We’re focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets, such as terrorists, human traffickers and drug smugglers,” NSA spokesperson Vanee Vines said.

“Our activities are directed against valid foreign intelligence targets in response to requirements from U.S. leaders in order to protect the nation and its interests from threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

The drone bombing campaign, President Barack Obama’s primary tactic against Al-Qaeda, has been portrayed as a purely CIA undertaking.

But the Post report showed the country’s eavesdropping agency has played a crucial role in providing “signals intelligence” to the CIA for the controversial drone strikes.

The NSA also created a clandestine unit known as the Counter-Terrorism Mission Aligned Cell, or CT MAC, to focus spying resources on elusive terror suspects.

Snowden, who has portrayed himself as a whistleblower, is wanted by U.S. authorities on espionage charges but he has secured asylum in Russia.

AFP Photo/Jim Watson

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Peggy Nienaber

YouTube Screenshot

Peggy Nienaber may provide her own downfall thanks to hubris. Rolling Stone revealed on Wednesday that the Christian fascist, who serves as vice president of the nonprofit anti-abortion group Faith & Liberty and serves as hate group Liberty Counsel’s executive director of D.C. Ministry, was caught bragging about praying with Supreme Court justices. While appearing on a livestream she didn’t realize was being recorded, Nienaber confirmed that she prays with some of the justices inside the Supreme Court itself.

“They will pray with us, those that like us to pray with them,” Nienaber said, adding with a laugh, “Some of them don’t!” This claim was backed up by the founder of the ministry that ultimately got absorbed into Liberty Counsel. Rob Schenck, who used to work alongside Nienaber, but has since renounced his actions. Yet from the late 1990s onward, he prayed with Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Antonin Scalia in the Supreme Court itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Gov. Ron DeSantis

YouTube Screenshot

'We're not seeing a whole lot of common sense in his policies. He tends to toss aside serious ideas about climate change as just left-wing politics,' said Sierra Club Florida political director Luigi Guadarrama.

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has been energetically whittling away at civil rights in his state, pursuing anti-LGBTQ policies, pushing intolerance and censorship in schools, and restricting voting rights.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}