Secret Report: Al-Qaida Working to Develop Defense Against Drones

Wednesday, 04 Sep 2013 12:31 PM

By Courtney Coren

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Al-Qaida is trying to develop technology that can shoot down, jam, or remotely hijack drones in a feverish effort to put an end to the unmanned airstrikes that have devastated the terrorist organization's ranks, a secret U.S. document reveals.

According to a top secret intelligence report obtained by The Washington Post, al-Qaida commanders have commissioned a group of engineers within the terrorist network to exploit the vulnerabilities of the drones that have killed approximately 3,000 people over the last decade.

The report was obtained from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, the newspaper reported.

The report, called "Threats to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles," notes that the terrorist group has yet to force a drone down or disrupt its flight operations. But the newspaper said it was withholding many details in the report about "classified material that could shed light on specific weaknesses of certain aircraft," which has long been a concern of U.S. officials because the drones are operated remotely from thousands of miles away.

According to the Post, the Defense Intelligence Agency intercepted communications between al-Qaida operatives in July 2010 about how "to anticipate and defeat" drones. At that time, the terrorist group was researching how to jam GPS signals and infrared tags used by drone operators to locate missile targets.

At the same time, they were also trying to develop balloons and small radio-controlled aircraft that could monitor the flight patterns of drones, the report stated.

The U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board warned in an unclassified statement released in 2011 that inexpensive drone countermeasures could be developed by "increasingly capable adversaries" in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

According to the Post, al-Qaida has over the years attracted trained engineers, beginning with one of its top leaders and a mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was a mechanical engineer. It was also reported by the CIA in 2010 that the terrorist group was making a great effort to recruit new engineers and technicians with knowledge in drone and missile technology.

Sometimes, the appeals by al-Qaida for technically trained and skilled engineers have been quite public. For example, the Post noted that in March a plea for help was sent out online via the jihadist magazine Azan.

"Any opinions, thoughts, ideas and practical implementations to defeat this drone technology must be communicated to us as early as possible," the article stated.

Even though the most commonly used military drones, such as the Predators and Reapers, are difficult to detect even when flying at 20,000 feet, the report revealed there is still a growing unease among the U.S. spy agencies about al-Qaida's determination to find a way to defend against them.

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