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

Spring start set for big Everett apartment complex

The building will be eight stories tall, with seven of those visible from Broadway.

Herald photos of the week

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

Amtrak service from Seattle north unaffected by DuPont wreck

Sound Transit reported no disruptions for its Sounder commuter trains serving Edmonds and Seattle.

Two from Oak Harbor killed in head-on, 2-car crash

One car crossed the center line, hitting the other car. Both drivers died.

Clues in recovered backpack help identify robbery suspect

Police find a ticket with the man’s name on it after an attempted shoplifting at a Safeway.

Police presence returns to Edmonds School District

Jacob Hubby is set to walk the halls of Meadowdale High School as a school resource officer.

County budget takes effect without Somers’ signature

The council passed its version with unanimous support and could have overridden an executive veto.

Separate Everett fires send man to hospital, damage boat

The man was hospitalized for smoke inhalation from the early morning fire.

Suspected escort charged with felony assault, robbery

She allegedly told police she shot the man in the head “because he was performing (a sex act) wrong.”

Most Read