Friday, July 01, 2005

This is what it looks like

Coast Guard Boarding Officer
Originally uploaded by chaimzvi.
So, this is what it looks like from the other side. I wonder how many violations the boater had. I also wonder how this petty officer keeps his hair so neat. ;-)

In all seriousness, I'm surfing Flickr and finding all sorts of stuff. And I'm wondering a couple of things... Just how private are our photos on the web? Does posting photos facilitate stalking, or is the world just too damn big? And, could terrorists use websites like Flickr, and perhaps blog tools like Blogspot, to pass information back and forth. I'm reminded of some novel, or perhaps it was non-fiction, about the Cold War. The Soviet mole, buried for years in the United States, received his instructions through a game show that was sent out over shortwave radio... a very long-running game show. But isn't that the best way to send information: hide it in plain sight. Could operatives be doing that using these now common web tools?

Hell, it would be at least as secure as the CIA's Special Removal Units as they go about kidnapping... er, I mean, conducting extraordinary rendition... people in foreign countries. Read this account how the CIA operatives send voice messages in the clear using standard cell phones... enabling the Italian authorities to reconstruct the methods used for snatching Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, otherwise known as Abu Omar, a radical Muslim cleric who was living in Milan.
By ploughing through hundreds of thousands of mobile phone records, tracing hotel registrations and bugging phone conversations, the Italian police have built up a picture of the CIA's operation that offers several surprises.

According to the police version of events, the CIA's special removal unit (SRU) can whistle up private jets to fly its captives unseen across international frontiers.

A Learjet allegedly took Abu Omar from the joint US base at Aviano in Italy to another US base at Ramstein, Germany, then a chartered Gulfstream V whisked him to Cairo. Yet barely a dollar was spent on making the team's communications secure.

The secret agents used ordinary mobile phones. Italian investigators put names to the abductors by matching their calls to the phone contracts they had signed. And they could be sure of the team's movements because they could see when the calls had been made and from which mobile phone.

Investigators suspected Abu Omar was taken to Aviano, on discovering three calls made after the abduction by the apparent leader of the SRU to the mobile of the base's then security chief.

A second surprise is the numbers involved. The Italian investigators say they have identified 23 members of the operation, and have been able to put names to 20 of them. At least six were women and - a third surprise - there seem to have been intimate links between male and female colleagues.

SRU members made several, apparently recreational, trips within Italy as they waited to seize Abu Omar and, on at least two occasions, couples booked into double rooms.
Ouch... this sounds like a "What happens in Italy, stays in Italy" trip... Well, not anymore... ;-)

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