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Data Leaks Persist From Afghan Base
Data Leaks Persist From Afghan Base
Data Leaks Persist From Afghan Base
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Forwarded from: William Knowles
By Paul Watson
Times Staff Writer
April 13, 2006
BAGRAM, Afghanistan - A computer drive sold openly Wednesday at a
bazaar outside the U.S. air base here holds what appears to be a trove
of potentially sensitive American intelligence data, including the
names, photographs and telephone numbers of Afghan spies informing on
the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The flash memory drive, which a teenager sold for $40, holds scores of
military documents marked "secret," describing intelligence-gathering
methods and information - including escape routes into Pakistan and
the location of a suspected safe house there, and the payment of $50
bounties for each Taliban or Al Qaeda fighter apprehended based on the
The documents appear to be authentic, but the accuracy of the
information they contain could not be independently verified.
On its face, the information seems to jeopardize the safety of
intelligence sources working secretly for U.S. Special Forces in
Afghanistan, which would constitute a serious breach of security. For
that reason, The Times has withheld personal information and details
that could compromise military operations.
U.S. commanders in Afghanistan said an investigation was underway into
what shopkeepers at the bazaar describe as ongoing theft and resale of
U.S. computer equipment from the Bagram air base. The facility is the
center of intelligence-gathering activities and includes a detention
center for suspected members of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups
flown in from around the world.
"Members of the Army's Criminal Investigation Command are conducting
an investigation into potential criminal activity," a statement said.
The top U.S. commander here, Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, has
ordered a review of policies and procedures for keeping track of
computer hardware and software.
"Coalition officials regularly survey bazaars across Afghanistan for
the presence of contraband materials, but thus far have not uncovered
sensitive or classified items," the statement added.
The credibility and reliability of some intelligence sources
identified in the documents is marked as unknown.
Other operatives, however, appear to be of high importance, including
one whose information, the document says, led to the apprehension of
seven Al Qaeda suspects in the United States.
One document describes a source as having "people working for him" in
11 Afghan cities. "The potential for success with this contact is
unlimited," the report says.
Even the names of people identified as the sources' wives and children
are listed - details that could put them at risk of retaliation by
insurgents who have boasted about executing dozens of people suspected
of spying for U.S. forces.
The drive includes descriptions of Taliban commanders' meetings in
neighboring Pakistan and maps of militants' infiltration and escape
routes along its border with Afghanistan.
In another folder, there is a diagram of a mosque and madrasa, or
Islamic school, where an informant said fugitive Taliban leader Mullah
Mohammed Omar had stayed in Pakistan.
Another document describes in detail how a member of Pakistan's
Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, the Taliban's former
mentors, tried to recruit an Afghan spying for the U.S. by promising
him $500 a month.
Some of the documents can't be opened without a password, but most are
neither locked nor encrypted.
Numerous files indicate the flash drive may have belonged to a member
of the Army's 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), based at Ft. Bragg,
N.C. The unit is operating in southern Afghanistan, where a U.S.-led
coalition is battling a growing insurgency.
Some of the computer files are dated as recently as this month, while
others date to 2004. The clerk who sold the computer drive said an
Afghan worker smuggled it out of the Bagram base Tuesday, a day after
The Times first reported that military secrets were available at
several stalls at the bazaar.
The 1-gigabyte flash drive sold at the bazaar Wednesday is almost full
and contains personal snapshots, Special Forces training manuals,
records of "direct action" training missions in South America, along
with numerous computer slide presentations and documents marked
There is also a detailed "Site Security Survey" describing the layout
of the Special Forces unit's "Low Visibility Operating Base" in
southwestern Afghanistan. Another document outlines procedures for
defending the base if it comes under attack, and there are several
photographs of the walls and areas inside the perimeter.
The drive holds detailed information on a handful of Afghan informants
identified by name and the number of contacts with U.S. handlers. In
some cases, photographs of the sources are attached.
A report on a spy involved with a code-named operation says the Afghan
has been used in "cross border operations." But it cautions that an
American officer "has come to the conclusion that Contact may or may
not be as security conscious as thought to be or expected."
The report describes a potential "low-level source" who reportedly has
"brought in active and inactive Taliban and Al Qaeda
associates/operators who have expressed a desire to repatriate/end
The man is identified as a former ISI agent in the 1980s, during the
U.S.-backed mujahedin war against Soviet troops in Afghanistan. He
also provided a document on Al Qaeda's cell structure to the CIA, the
The document also names the man's wife and children and lists his
It describes the informant as very punctual, with a good sense of
humor. Politically, it adds, he is "much like a Republican in the
The computer files also provide a rare look at how the U.S. military
contracts and pays its Afghan spies, and the commitments they make in
signed contracts, written in English.
In a two-page "Record of Oral Commitment," marked "secret" and dated
Jan. 28, 2005, a source agreed to work for the U.S. Army by providing
information on Al Qaeda, the Taliban and an allied militia, the
Hizb-i-Islami, led by fugitive warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
"The source will be paid $15 USD for each mission he completes that
has verified information," the agreement stipulates. "This sum will
not exceed a total of $300 USD in a 1-month period," the report says.
The sum rises to $500 a month for information "deemed of very high
And there are serious consequences for any breaches of the commitment,
such as failing to disclose information on the terrorist organizations
or missing either of two meetings scheduled for each month.
The penalty for "using his new skills to participate in activities
that are deemed" anti-U.S. or against the Afghan government is
"termination with prejudice," according to the document.
Another document describes how an Afghan informant for the U.S.
military said he was contacted by an official from Pakistan's Embassy,
who asked the Afghan to spy for the ISI.
A high-level ISI official then offered the Afghan $500 a month and
other incentives, the document says.
The report adds that the ISI official "said that he's looking for an
U.S. Embassy employee to aid in the bombing of the embassy that [he]
is planning." The ISI official promised he would pay the Afghan
$100,000 after the destruction of the embassy in Kabul.
The report concludes: "Everything that [Pakistani] told the Source
could be made up or inflated as to look good and exciting to the
Source; a possible ploy to get the Source to 'sign up' for the ISI=85.
However, my 'gut' tells me otherwise, and this guy really is trying to
recruit my source for the other side."
Special correspondent Wesal Zaman in Kabul contributed to this report.
"Communications without intelligence is noise; Intelligence
without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
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