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

Suspect sought in two Everett bank robberies

He’s described as 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-1, with dark hair and a goatee, and may have a neck tattoo.

Jogger unharmed after fending off attacker in Edmonds

Police released video of a man they believe to be the attacker.

Two missing men found, one alive and one dead

The man found alive was found in an apartment across the hallway and taken to a hospital.

Darrington School Board dealing with upheavals

The crux of the controversy seems to be the superintendent’s job.

Alaska Airlines has selected destinations for new service from Paine Field. (Alaska Airlines)
Alaska Airlines will fly from Everett to 8 West Coast cities

Two destinations that didn’t make the list were Spokane and Hawaii.

Three teens arrested for Marysville school vandalism

Windows were broken and a trash bin was on fire Sunday night at a Marysville middle school.

Langley mayor threatens newspaper with lawsuit

The mayor threatened to sue the paper over claims he withheld public records disclosure information.

Divers called to recover body after train hits pedestrian

The accident was reported by a BNSF crew near Woods Creek in Monroe.

Katharine Graham, then CEO and chairwoman of the board of The Washington Post Co., looks over a copy of The Daily Herald with Larry Hanson, then The Herald’s publisher, during her visit to Everett on Sept. 20, 1984. The Washington Post Co. owned The Herald from 1978 until 2013. (Herald archives)
A local connection to history

Retired Herald publisher Larry Hanson remembers The Post’s Katharine Graham, who visited several times.

Most Read