Friday, May 1, 2009

Wire: Al-Qaida Used Hotmail, Simple Codes in Planning

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2009 -- Newswires reported this evening that in the days following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, alleged al-Qaida operations mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed intended to use his free Hotmail account to direct a U.S.-based operative to carry out an attack, according to a guilty plea agreement filed by Al Saleh Kahlah al-Marri in federal court.

The document shows how al-Qaida, at least in 2001, embraced prosaic technologies like pre-paid calling cards, public phones, computer search engines and simplistic codes to communicate, plan and carry out its operations, according to an Associated Press report.

Al-Marri also surfed the Web to research cyanide gas, using anonymizer software to cover his tracks, according to the document filed Thursday in federal court in Peoria, Ill. He marked the locations of dams, waterways and tunnels in the U.S. in an almanac. The government claims this reflects intelligence that al-Qaida was planning to use cyanide gas to attack those sites.

AP noted that as a result of his guilty plea, al-Marri could be sentenced up to a maximum 15-year term in federal prison.

As part of a plea agreement, al-Marri admitted that he trained in al-Qaida camps and stayed in terrorist safe houses in Pakistan between 1998 and 2001. There, he learned how to handle weapons and how to communicate using clandestine methods.

AP also reported the following details:
After arriving in the U.S. on Sept. 10, 2001 — a day before al-Qaida's long-plotted terror strikes in New York and Washington — Al-Marri stored phone numbers of al-Qaida associates in a personal electronic device.

He used a "10-code" to protect the numbers — subtracting the actual digits in the phone numbers from 10 to arrive at a coded number, according to a person close to the investigation.

In a 10-code, eight becomes a two, for example. Other al-Qaida members used the same code, according to the plea agreement.

Al-Marri sent e-mails to Khalid Sheik Mohammed's hotmail account — — addressed to "Muk" and signed "Abdo." The details of that code were included in an address book found in an al-Qaida safehouse in Pakistan.
Attempts to reach the the Hotmail address went unanswered.

AP also reported that Al-Marri initially tried to use a Yahoo e-mail account to contact Mohammed, but it failed to go through. So he switched to Hotmail as well. When al-Marri arrived in the United States, he created five new e-mail accounts to communicate with Mohammed, using the 10-code to send him his cell phone number in Peoria.

Al-Marri has admitted that before entering the U.S., he met and had regular contact with Khalid Sheik Mohammed and with Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, who allegedly helped the Sept. 11 hijackers with money and Western-style clothing.

(Report from a commercial news source.)

Source: Al-Qaida used Hotmail, simple codes in planning

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Anonymous Randall Stross said...

Interesting post, thanks.

2:42 AM EDT  

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