April 26, 2005
Further Thoughts on the Almost-Capture of Zarqawi
A source who had been inside the Zarqawi network alerted the task force to the meeting. Officials deem the source "extremely credible."Bill believes that this source is still active within the network:
The fact that there is someone inside the Zarqawi network is what is startling. Al Qaeda in Iraq appears to have been penetrated, no small feat as al Qaeda is traditionally a very closed and secretive organization, admitting only the most ideologically pure of the Islamists within their ranks.It is unlikely that our source is a) still active in the network, or b) a plant. One at a time:
The mole is likely of Arab descent, perhaps an Iraqi, as genuine cover would be needed to break into al Qaeda's inner circle. This mole may be responsible for several of the arrests of high-ranking Zarqawi lieutenants over the past several months.
a) Probably not still active: The article seems to state that the source is a former member of the network, perhaps one who has succumbed to interrogation. If the source is still active, it raises an interesting question: Would the US release the existence of such a source in order to incite paranoia within the network, or would the US keep it under wraps out of concern for the source's life? The latter is much more likely. The nature of the source's information would no longer be as credible if the source felt the US had put him in even more danger than his position would otherwise necessitate. Preservation of an agent's life is one of the first principles of human intelligence.
b) A mole or a plant? Rather than the idea that the US has successfully infiltrated an agent into the Zarqawi network, it is much more likely that we have co-opted an existing member. Probably with money, though safe passage back to a home country, or some other form of bribe are also possible. Consider each of the alternatives: To insert a plant, you must find someone who displays the necessary religious fervor to be accepted by the target group. Before you do that, you have to vet him against your own criteria to make sure he won't go native on you, or that he isn't already co-opted by the other side. Then you have to wait for a period of time, probably a long one, until your plant has reached a position of responsibility high enough such that he actually has information of value to you. All the while, you have to make sure he isn't discovered and killed. Now think of the alternative: you create goodwill with large numbers of locals; you being to get a feel for certain places, regions, and subcultures, perhaps even tribal ones. Through a series of goodwill-building gestures, you are able to learn more and more about the goings-on in a given place. When you use Iraqi nationals as go-betweens, your access can increase even more. After a bit, you have many options for gathering human intelligence, rather than putting all of your hopes in one or a few would-be plants.
It's sort of like the difference between networking your way toward getting a certain job at a certain company, or applying for the job on the company website. Which would work best? Warm calls always work better than cold calls, and espionage is no exception.
So if we do have a source on the inside, it is likely that he's been there awhile, is being paid or has received other guarantees of goodwill, and may even have an Iraqi national or two between us and him.
For further reading, consider this post from Strategypage: Getting Inside al Qaeda.
Also, in addition to the commenter from the last post, who noted the prevalence of Euros in the MidEast, another Alert Reader answers my earlier question about why Zarqawi would carry Euros:
Euros come in 1000E notes making them much more popular than dollars for use in nefarious purposes. Its the proverbial 'do you know how much $100,000 weighs? - No - A lot.' Now you cut that weight dramatically making it easier to transport large amounts of hard currency.Very interesting . . .
Posted by Chester at April 26, 2005 12:59 PM
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