Category: Spooks

San Diego FBI, Nidal Hasan, and the Webster Report

An independent commission headed by Judge William Webster, the former director of both the CIA and the FBI, has released its long-awaited report into the November 9, 2009 Fort Hood shootings. A copy of the report can be viewed here.

The report’s most damning is the refusal in May 2009, FBI officials in the Washington Field Office’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF)  to interview the Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Hasan, who was communicating with terrorist Anwar al-Awlaqi. The DC JTTF officials also decided not to interview Maj. Hasan’s Army superiors because that “might harm Hasan’s military career.”

This infuriated the FBI agents in San Diego who were handling the Awlaqi-Hasan investigation. Even after San Diego complained, Washington still refused to get off its ass.

According to the report, the a Defense Criminal Investigative Service agent in San Diego  handling the investigation told his Washington Field Office (WFO) counterpart that “upon receiving a lead like this one, San Diego would have conducted, at the least, an interview of the subject.” (See p. 60)

According to the San Diego DCIS agent, the JTTF agent in Washington replied something along the lines of:  “This is not SD [San Diego], it’s DC and WFO doesn’t go out and interview every Muslim guy who visits extremist websites.”

The San Diego FBI agent also recalled that the Washington agent indicated that this subject is “politically sensitive for WFO.”

Not surprisingly, the JTTF agent in DC doesn’t recall this conversation. The report doesn’t reveal whether the FBI agent(s) in the Washington Field Office (WFO) who refused to interview Major Hasan ecause it would have been “politically sensitive” received any disciplinary actions.

There is nothing about this in today’s print edition of The San Diego Union-Tribune, although Fred Willard’s porn theatre bust is there on p. 2. Remind me again why I subscribe to this newspaper?

San Diego Island to Become ‘Battle Lab’

Via Defense News:

The HALO Corp., San Diego-based  organization founded by former Special Operations, National Security, and Intelligence personnel, which is hosting its sixth annual Counter-Terrorism Summit at the end of October at the Paradise Point Resort & Spa in San Diego.

Strategic Operations of San Diego, will help conduct tactical training exercises on the island. This should include a recreated Middle Eastern village, battlefield effects, combat wounds and medical simulations. Participants can also expect a simulated Somali pirate invasion to grace the resort’s shores. Unmanned aerial vehicles are likely to be floating overhead as well.

Keynote speakers include former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden; Alejandro Romero, Mexico’s interior secretary and Michael Downing, the director of LAPD’s counter-terrorism and special ops bureau. Cool classes will be offered like Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking by Chris Hadnagy. (Highly recommend his book).

I’d love to go, but it’s $1000 a person.

Mexican SIGINT

Mexico has been having a lot of success capturing the leaders of drug cartels.

U.S. agents cannot operate in Mexico. Nevertheless, many successful captures of important cartel figures are often backed by gringo assistance,  according a secret State Department cable released by Wikileaks,

What sort of assistance? This interesting study “Sever: SIGINT and Criminal Netwar Networks”  (.pdf) details the critical but unheralded role played by signals intelligence (SIGINT), commonly known as wiretapping and eavesdropping, in targeting Mexico’s drug cartels.

Buried  the $1.4 billion Merida anti-drug initiative is a little-known,  $3-million SIGINT system that is paid for by the U.S. taxpayer.

The Communications Intercept System in Mexico’s Federal government was installed by Verint Systems Inc., a politically well-connected firm based in Melville, N.Y. and paid for by the U.S. State Department. 

The system “can monitor almost any form of electronic communication in Mexico.”

The Communications Intercept System’s central monitoring station has real time and off- line playback, fax and packet data decoding, stores all calls for at least 25,000 hours, and has cellular location and tracking. The database in the monitoring station can accommodate 8,000,000 sessions, and monitor and record 60 calls simultaneously. Four facsimiles can also be decoded simultaneously. The monitoring station is a joint Mexico-U.S. network.

Specific tools of analysis are also included in the system. Voice data banks are used for analysis, comparison, recognition and identification. The system has the ability to analyze calls and automatically generate links between them. Additionally, the system has the tools necessary to track cellular targets on a map.

Surveillance by the Drug Enforcement Administration led to the capture in 2010 of Teodoro “El Teo” Garcia Simental, a lieutenant in the Tijuana cartel, in La Paz. El Teo was responsible for hundreds of killings and kidnappings over a two year reign of terror.

Before his death in 2009, cartel leader Arturo Beltran Leyva was overheard talking to  prostitutes on his cell phone before a raid. The capture of members of his network had also created the paranoia which led to his split from the Sinaloa Cartel, and its boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera.

Another sign that SIGINT has been effective was found in a raid last year of a compound used by the Zetas, one of the better organized drug operations, where officials found encryption equipment and mobile radio transmitters the cartel was using to communicate and coordinate its operations.

Awlaki FBI FOIA Request

October 4, 2011

David M. Hardy
Section Chief, Record/Information Dissemination Section
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Attn: FOI/PA Request
170 Marcel Drive
Winchester, VA 22602-4843

Dear Mr. Hardy:

This letter constitutes a request (“Request”) pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. subsection 552.

I am requesting a copy of all records or information concerning ANWAR AL-AWLAKI (aka Anwar al-Aulaqi).

Mr. Awlaki was born in 1971 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was killed in Yemen on Sept. 30, 2011, according to a statement President Barack Obama made the same day. I trust the attached statement of the president will serve as the proof of death you require for this request.

Awlaki was a leader in al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and was one of the most wanted terrorists in the world. He was the subject of numerous investigations by the FBI for more than a decade.

If you deny all or any part of this request, please cite each specific exemption you think justifies your refusal to release the information and notify me of appeal procedures available under the law. I expect you to release all segregable portions of otherwise exempt material.

I look forward to your reply to this Request within twenty (20) business days as required by 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(6)(A)(i).

Thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely,

Seth Hettena

Anwar al-Awlaki's Death

The US is announcing the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who moved to Yemen where he waged jihad against his former homeland. Assuming this is true — and not a repeat of what happened in 2009 when Awlaki was falsely reported as dead — it’s a major blow against one of al Qaida’s superstars.

What made Awlaki so dangerous wasn’t his so-called operational abilities, as the U.S. is now claiming, although no one is actually bothering to ask what that means. Awlaki was an intellectual, not a fighter. What made Awlaki so dangerous was his somewhat unique ability to inspire disaffected Muslims in the West to take up arms in the cause of jihad.

Awlaki may have rejected the West, but he knew how it worked. He spent many years here in San Diego and spoke both Arabic and English beautifully. Recordings of his sermons are very popular. He also knew how to use the Internet to reach people. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that U.S. counterterrorism officials started linking him to terrorism in the very same month that Awlaki started his now-defunct jihadist website.

What I always found fascinating about this so-called holy man got busted for prostitution twice in San Diego and was picked up by San Diego police for “hanging around a school.”  Maybe that’s why he needed his martyrdom, so he could wash his sins away. (I’ve written about him before here.  I also put together a comprehensive timeline.)

I won’t be shedding any tears for a man who plotted to kill Americans and praised the Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan as a “hero.” But Awlaki wasn’t Osama bin Laden. He wasn’t an Iraqi insurgent or a Taliban trying to kill U.S. troops. Awlaki a U.S. citizen.

He knew his death would point out the hypocrisy of a country with a constitution that guarantees its citizens due process of law and then goes out and assassinates them in Yemen with a drone strike. He knew we would succumb to our fears.

Like it or not, he was one of our own.