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August 4, 2004
Not Just A Computer Nerd

Senior security officials told AFP that the al-Qaeda computer expert captured three weeks ago played a much more important role for AQ than simply technical support, and that the data captured along with him revealed much of AQ's communications infrastructure:

Naeem Noor Khan, 25, alias Abu Talha, arrested in the eastern city of Lahore on July 12, "is in the top hierarchy of Al-Qaeda's external operations wing," a security official closely associated with the latest Al-Qaeda swoop told AFP Wednesday.

Khan had not only been creating websites and secret email codes for Al-Qaeda operatives to communicate with each other, he had also actively plotted terror attacks, the official said on condition of anonymity.

"He was involved in planning for attacks at Heathrow airport London some time ago and was wanted by the US government," the official said, but was unable to say exactly when the Heathrow attack was planned.

Capturing Khan may well turn out to be the biggest turn in the war since the fall of the Taliban, as the hard data seized along with Khan has already begun unraveling large parts of the AQ network and shown their strategies for future attacks. The orange alerts announced earlier this week in New York and DC originated in the information Khan carried with him, surveillance data from three years ago which showed that AQ intended on hitting America in its pocketbook again. The data went back three years, but some files had been modified just a few months ago.

Khan's extensive communications data also led to the outing of a "senior" AQ agent in Britain, who has since been arrested. His computers contained detailed information about e-mail addresses and codes which will allow counterterrorism experts to tap into AQ communications, which may force the Islamofascists to abandon Khan's carefully constructed network. Obviously the former case is preferable to the latter, but either way their command and control functions have been seriously damaged, and possibly with it their ability to efficiently finance their cells in the field.

The capture of Khan is not merely just a case of arresting a teen hacker, but perhaps more along the lines of the British capturing the Enigma machine from a Nazi submarine in World War II. It's interesting -- and revealing -- that the press has mostly missed what potentially may be the most significant recent victory in the war.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 4, 2004 7:35 AM

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