Digital Conflict

By Kevin Coleman

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Digital Conflict: Bin Laden raid nets largest intell cache ever

Dribs and drabs of information continue to come out about the information assets collected by Navy SEAL Team 6 during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. The compound was the command, control and coordination center of the al-Qaida leader. The sum of the intelligence gathered during the highly classified operation Geronimo prompted one insider to say, “This is the largest seizure of intelligence in history.”

Much of the intelligence was in digital format and previously inaccessible because the compound was isolated from the Internet (no online or telephone access), but it appears to have had a satellite TV dish. Reports of the use of satellite phones are not confirmed. Although digital communications clearly was not used inside the compound, computers and peripherals were used and stored a treasure trove of information.

Media outlets reported that during the mission, SEAL Team 6 seized more than 100 thumb drives, six computers along with external hard drives, and an undisclosed number of CDs that contained audio, video and data files together with multiple cell phones. Officials say they have already learned a great deal from bin Laden's digital cache.

Insiders have stated that most of the data was not encrypted. This is believed to be due to the false sense of security bin Laden must have felt given his extended stay at this location. He apparently lacked any indication that the United States knew about the al-Qaida command-and-control center in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The U.S. intelligence community has committed what has been referred to as “substantial resources” to translating and analyzing the massive amount of digital information. “The implications of data seized is huge already and more value is yet to come," one source said. "It will not take days or weeks, but months to process all of it.”

Posted by Kevin Coleman on May 12, 2011 at 12:12 PM


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