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U.S. Military Secrets for Sale at Afghan Bazaar




U.S. Military Secrets for Sale at Afghan Bazaar
U.S. Military Secrets for Sale at Afghan Bazaar



Forwarded from: William Knowles  

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-disks10apr10,0,7789909.story?coll=la-home-headlines 

By Paul Watson
Times Staff Writer
April 10, 2006 

BAGRAM, Afghanistan - No more than 200 yards from the main gate of the
sprawling U.S. base here, stolen computer drives containing classified
military assessments of enemy targets, names of corrupt Afghan
officials and descriptions of American defenses are on sale in the
local bazaar.

Shop owners at the bazaar say Afghan cleaners, garbage collectors and
other workers from the base arrive each day offering purloined goods,
including knives, watches, refrigerators, packets of Viagra and flash
memory drives taken from military laptops. The drives, smaller than a
pack of chewing gum, are sold as used equipment.

The thefts of computer drives have the potential to expose military
secrets as well as Social Security numbers and other identifying
information of military personnel.

A reporter recently obtained several drives at the bazaar that
contained documents marked "Secret." The contents included documents
that were potentially embarrassing to Pakistan, a U.S. ally,
presentations that named suspected militants targeted for "kill or
capture" and discussions of U.S. efforts to "remove" or "marginalize"  
Afghan government officials whom the military considered "problem
makers."

The drives also included deployment rosters and other documents that
identified nearly 700 U.S. service members and their Social Security
numbers, information that identity thieves could use to open credit
card accounts in soldiers' names.

After choosing the name of an army captain at random, a reporter using
the Internet was able to obtain detailed information on the woman,
including her home address in Maryland and the license plate numbers
of her 2003 Jeep Liberty sport utility vehicle and 1998 Harley
Davidson XL883 Hugger motorcycle.

Troops serving overseas would be particularly vulnerable to attempts
at identity theft because keeping track of their bank and credit
records is difficult, said Jay Foley, co-executive director of the
Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego.

"It's absolutely absurd that this is happening in any way, shape or
form," Foley said. "There's absolutely no reason for anyone in the
military to have that kind of information on a flash drive and then
have it out of their possession."

A flash drive also contained a classified briefing about the
capabilities and limitations of a "man portable counter-mortar radar"  
used to find the source of guerrilla mortar rounds. A map pinpoints
the U.S. camps and bases in Iraq where the sophisticated radar was
deployed in March 2004.

Lt. Mike Cody, a spokesman for the U.S. forces here, declined to
comment on the computer drives or their content.

"We do not discuss issues that involve or could affect operational
security," he said.

Workers are supposed to be frisked as they leave the base, but they
have various ways of deceiving guards, such as hiding computer drives
behind photo IDs that they wear in holders around their necks, shop
owners said. Others claim that U.S. soldiers illegally sell military
property and help move it off the base, saying they need the money to
pay bills back home.

Bagram base, the U.S. military's largest in Afghanistan and a hub for
classified military activity, has suffered security lapses before,
including an escape from a detention center where hundreds of Al Qaeda
and Taliban suspects have been held and interrogated.

Last July, four Al Qaeda members, including the group's commander in
Southeast Asia, Omar Faruq, escaped from Bagram by picking the lock on
their cell. They then walked off the base, ditched their prison
uniforms and fled through a muddy vineyard.

The men later boasted of their escape on a video and have not been
captured. The military said it had tightened security at Bagram after
the breakout.

One of the computer drives stolen from Bagram contained a series of
slides prepared for a January 2005 briefing of American military
officials that identified several Afghan governors and police chiefs
as "problem makers" involved in kidnappings, the opium trade and
attacks on allied troops with improvised bombs.

The chart showed the U.S. military's preferred methods of dealing with
the men: "remove from office; if unable marginalize."

A chart dated Jan. 2, 2005, listed five Afghans as "Tier One
Warlords." It identified Afghanistan's former defense minister
Mohammed Qassim Fahim, current military chief of staff Abdul Rashid
Dostum and counter-narcotics chief Gen. Mohammed Daoud as being
involved in the narcotics trade. All three have denied committing
crimes.

Another slide presentation identified 12 governors, police chiefs and
lower-ranking officials that the U.S. military wanted removed from
office. The men were involved in activities including drug
trafficking, recruiting of Taliban fighters and active support for
Taliban commanders, according to the presentation, which also named
the military's preferred replacements.

The briefing said that efforts against Afghan officials were
coordinated with U.S. special operations teams and must be approved by
top commanders as well as military lawyers who apply unspecified
criteria set by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The military also weighs any ties that any official has to President
Hamid Karzai and members of his Cabinet or warlords, as well as the
risk of destabilization when deciding which officials should be
removed, the presentation said.

One of the men on the military's removal list, Sher Mohammed
Akhundzada, was replaced in December as governor of Helmand province
in southern Afghanistan. After removing him from the governor's
office, Karzai appointed Akhundzada to Afghanistan's Senate. The U.S.  
military believed the governor, who was caught with almost 20,000
pounds of opium in his office last summer, to be a heroin trafficker.

The provincial police chief in Helmand, Abdul Rahman Jan, whom U.S.  
forces suspect of providing security for narcotics shipments, kept his
job.

Though U.S. officials continue to praise Pakistan as a loyal ally in
the war on terrorism, several documents on the flash drives show the
military has struggled to break militant command and supply lines
traced to Pakistan. Some of the documents also accused Pakistan's
security forces of helping militants launch cross-border attacks on
U.S. and allied forces.

Militant attacks on U.S. and allied forces have escalated sharply over
the last half year, and once-rare suicide bombings are now frequent,
especially in southern Afghan provinces close to infiltration routes
from Pakistan.

A document dated Oct. 11, 2004, said at least two of the Taliban's top
five leaders were believed to be in Pakistan. That country's
government and military repeatedly have denied that leaders of
militants fighting U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan operate from bases
in Pakistan.

The Taliban leaders in Pakistan were identified as Mullah Akhtar
Osmani, described as a "major Taliban facilitator for southern
Afghanistan" and a "rear commander from Quetta" in southwest Pakistan,
and Mullah Obaidullah, said to be "responsible for planning operations
in Kandahar."

At the time, fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, his
second-in-command Mullah Berader, and three other top Taliban
commanders were all suspected of being in southern or central
Afghanistan, according to the military briefing.

Another document said the Taliban and an allied militant group were
working with Arab Al Qaeda members in Pakistan to plan and launch
attacks in Afghanistan. A map presented at a "targeting meeting" for
U.S. military commanders here on Jan. 27, 2005, identified the
Pakistani cities of Peshawar and Quetta as planning and staging areas
for terrorists heading to Afghanistan.

One of the terrorism groups is identified by the single name
"Zawahiri," apparently a reference to Ayman Zawahiri, Osama bin
Laden's deputy and chief strategist in Al Qaeda. The document said his
attacks had been launched from a region south of Miram Shah,
administrative capital of Pakistan's unruly North Waziristan tribal
region.

In January, a CIA missile strike targeted Zawahiri in a village more
than 100 miles to the northeast, but he was not among the 18 killed,
who included women and children.

Other documents on the computer drives listed senior Taliban
commanders and "facilitators" living in Pakistan. The Pakistani
government strenuously denies allegations by the Afghan government
that it is harboring Taliban and other guerrilla fighters.

An August 2004 computer slide presentation marked "Secret" outlined
"obstacles to success" along the border and accused Pakistan of making
"false and inaccurate reports of border incidents." It also complained
of political and military inertia in Pakistan.

Half a year later, other documents indicated that little progress had
been made. A classified document from early 2005 listing "Target
Objectives" said U.S. forces must "interdict the supply of IEDs
(improvised explosive devices) from Pakistan" and "interdict
infiltration routes from Pakistan."

A special operations task force map highlighting militants'
infiltration routes from Pakistan in early 2005 included this comment
from a U.S. military commander: "Pakistani border forces [should]
cease assisting cross border insurgent activities."

Special correspondent Wesal Zaman in Kabul contributed to this report.



*==============================================================*
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