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August 6, 2004
No Honor Amongst Terrorists

Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan's friends and colleagues at al-Qaeda headquarters will be irate when they read that Khan decided to assist infidels in a sting operation after he was captured, leading to the string of AQ arrests worldwide:

A high alert for U.S. financial institutions against a possible al Qaeda attack was also prompted by information gathered from the Pakistani computer engineer, according to intelligence and government sources.

"After his capture he admitted being an al Qaeda member and agreed to send e-mails to his contacts," the source said.

"He sent encoded e-mails and received encoded replies. He's a great hacker and even the U.S. agents said he was a computer whiz," he added.

So much for honor amongst thieves! Computer hackers may be a different breed anyway, and AQ leadership may well decide to avoid using them in the future after getting burned in such a trite fashion. It throws another dimension of anxiety into those terrorist cells that use the Internet to communicate, even in code.

As I stated earlier, it may be difficult, if not impossible, for AQ to estimate the damage done to their communication infrastructure and to determine which codes and methods remain secure. This means that cells in the field will lose regular contact with their handlers, including strategizing, operational commands, and especially money. Khan's capture and apparent turn could be the most significant victory in the larger war this year, and making Khan into a tool for the West will do tremendous damage to AQ's reputation in the Middle East.

A very satisfying report, without a doubt.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 6, 2004 10:52 AM

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