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

Herald photos of the week

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

This week’s Herald Super Kid is Nathan Nicholson of Snohomish High School. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
‘The future is biotech,’ but for now he’s busy with everything

Snohomish senior Nathan Nicholson is a student leader and media master.

Longboarders from near and far hit the trail in Arlington

The Centennial Sk8 Festival was serious competition for some and just for fun for others.

Council passes six-month moratorium on safe injection sites

Proposal by County Councilman Nate Nehring passed unanimously.

Crews recover body of man who fell over Wallace Falls

The area where the man fell is called Sky Valley Lookout, 2.4 miles from the parking lot.

Big fire destroys building on Broadway in Everett

A person was rescued, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.

Luring attempt reported in Mountlake Terrace

The driver allegedly instructed a boy to get in the truck and help grab a scooter he was giving away.

A place to live: Clearing a barrier for former sex workers

A nonprofit’s house “will be a safe place” for former prostitutes and sex-trafficking victims.

A customer walks away after buying a hot dog from a vendor on 33rd St and Smith Street near the Everett Station on Friday. The Everett Station District Alliance pictures the area east of Broadway and south of Hewitt Avenue as a future neighborhood and transit hub that could absorb expected population growth. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
How can Everett Station become a vibrant part of city?

A neighborhood alliance focused on long-term revitalization will update the public Tuesday.

Most Read