Taliban shrug off NSA surveillance attempts

KABUL, Afghanistan — Like the rest of the world, Taliban officials learned last week of the U.S. government’s large-scale surveillance program on citizens and foreigners, which included access to a massive amount of information gathered from online communications.

Unlike many Americans, the Taliban was not surprised by the news.

“We knew about their past efforts to trace our system,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Washington Post. “We have used our technical resources to foil their efforts and have been able to stop them from succeeding so far.”

The U.S. military and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force haven’t tried to hide their efforts to keep track of Taliban activity. Floating, blimp-like aerostats use cameras to keep an eye on all activity below. For years, U.S. soldiers and their Afghan counterparts have listened in to Taliban radio communications. The Taliban, knowing their conversations were tapped, would often attempt to mislead snooping Americans, discussing ambushes that never materialized.

Even the Taliban spokesman who spoke with The Post this week routinely changes his phone number to deter prying intelligence agents. “This news will have no impact on our activities,” he said.

The Taliban, which maintains a website and an active presence on Twitter, is a frequent victim of hackers — which insurgent officials have long assumed are working for the U.S. government. For them, the surveillance revelation only justified their anger at American meddling online.

“They have hacked our site and used a forged site as if it was ours,” Mujahid said.

If the National Security Agency is trying to keep tabs on foreign individuals involved in terrorist activities, the Taliban leaders — some of the world’s most prominent al-Qaida sympathizers — are obvious targets.

Some Afghan analysts also said they weren’t surprised by the Taliban response. “I don’t think it will disturb them,” said Daud Sultanzoi, a political activist and former Afghan parliamentarian. “They’re like the energizer bunny — they keep going and going,”

More in Local News

District takes steps to secure school campuses

Safety measures have been enhanced at Hawthorne and Silver Firs elementary schools in Everett.

Local police join thousands honoring slain Canadian officer

Abbotsford Const. John Davidson was killed Nov. 6 in a shootout with a suspected car thief.

Hard work is paying off for Mariner High senior

Mey Ly has excelled in school since moving here from Cambodia; she also serves as an intrepreter.

1 arrested after SWAT team moves in on Marysville house

The incident was connected to an earlier robbery.

Darrington School Board race might come down to a coin flip

With a one-vote difference, a single ballot in Skagit County remains to be counted.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

No easy exit from Smokey Point shopping complex

There’s just no easy exit on this one. A reader called in… Continue reading

County Council upholds ban on safe heroin injection sites

At Monday’s public hearing, more than 15 people spoke in support of the ban. No one spoke against it.

Lynnwood, Marysville, Sultan consider ban on safe injection sites

If approved, they would join Lake Stevens and Snohomish County, which have temporary bans.

Most Read