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Posted at 12:45 PM ET, 04/26/2010

CIA whispering campaign reinforces drone attacks

By Jeff Stein
disinformation is king

Image by ramtops via Flickr

A CIA disinformation campaign has Pakistan-based Taliban leaders sleeping in foxholes in fear of Predator-style missile attacks, a former top CIA operations official says.

“We have them thinking that we can track them anywhere, that we’ve got devices in their cars, their houses, everywhere,” said the former official, who remains a consultant on intelligence issues.

“They’re so afraid to stay in their houses at night they’re digging foxholes to sleep in.”

The whispering campaign, carried out by local Pakistanis and Afghans on the CIA payroll, is made all the more potent by actual drone attacks, which now involve the use of smaller missiles and advanced surveillance technology to minimize civilian deaths, according to a report today by The Post's Joby Warrick and Peter Finn.

Contributing to the frequency of the attacks in Pakistan and Iraq is the ever-increasing ability of the CIA and its Pentagon partners to quickly react to the intercepted cell-phone calls of insurgency leaders.

“As soon as they go up on a phone, if we’ve got one of those numbers, we can almost instantly trace it and locate it,” a U.S. counterinsurgency operative working on the Af-Pak border told me recently. “And they relay that information to us, so we can catch them crossing the border” into Afghanistan.

“It’s like mowing a lawn,” he said. “The problem is, like a lawn, they keep coming.”

Al Qaeda's top inner circle, on the other hand, long ago discarded cell phones in favor of "6th century technology," the former official said -- messages delivered by hand -- to foil the drones.

In 2008 the Post’s Bob Woodward wrote of new, top secret techniques that were proving to be a game-changer for U.S. forces battling al Qaeda in Iraq.

"This is very sensitive and very top secret, but there are secret operational capabilities that have been developed by the military to locate, target, and kill leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq, insurgent leaders, renegade militia leaders. That is one of the true breakthroughs," Woodward told "60 Minutes" while promoting his new book, "The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008."

Woodward compared the new techniques to the Manhattan Project, the top-secret, $20 billion project during World War II to build an atomic bomb.

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By Jeff Stein  | April 26, 2010; 12:45 PM ET
Categories:  Intelligence  
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