NSA uses phone signals for finding drone targets: Report

Published: July 22, 2013
By 2009, CIA drone strikes had resulted in 200 civilian deaths in Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP/ FILE

By 2009, CIA drone strikes had resulted in 200 civilian deaths in Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP/ FILE

WASHINGTON: The US National Security Agency (NSA) is using phone signals to track locations of militant targets in real time, a technology that has helped Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) locate targets for drone attacks,  Washington Post reported. 

“The foreign signals that NSA collects are invaluable to national security,” the agency said in a statement released Friday to The Post.

According to current and former counterterrorism officials and experts, NSA has become the single most important intelligence agency in finding al Qaeda and other enemy overseas after Septermber 2011 attacks in Washington.

“This information helps the agency determine where adversaries are located, what they’re planning, when they’re planning to carry it out, with whom they’re working, and the kinds of weapons they’re using.”

The Agency would initially track down drone targets by eavesdropping on telephonic conversations but was later asked to also track locations using phone signals.

By September 2004, it could find cellphones even when they were turned off, reported Washington Post.

Recent revelations about the mass of data collected, including phone and e-mail records by the spying technology resulted in an uproar at home and abroad.

“These disclosures threaten to cause long-lasting and irreversible harm to our ability to identify and respond to the many threats facing our nation,” said Robert S. Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The technology that was first made use of in 2001 to find drone targets had resulted in 200 civilian deaths by 2009 in Pakistan, Washington Post reported.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Saleem
    Jul 22, 2013 - 9:11PM

    Though this news was first Washington Post, as a responsible journalism Tribune should not have published it as it will alert terrorist.


  • Polpot
    Jul 22, 2013 - 9:38PM

    One needs to detach the battery of the Mobile to cloak ones location
    Scary if a switched off mobile can be traingulated.


  • concerned
    Jul 22, 2013 - 9:46PM

    The world isn’t safe anymore.


    Jul 22, 2013 - 10:04PM

    USA is terrorist.


  • Izhar Khan
    Jul 22, 2013 - 10:59PM

    If its true Ehsan ullah ehsan should have not been alive who daily communicates…


  • Lala Gee
    Jul 22, 2013 - 11:30PM

    I wonder how ignorant is the general public, and how the media is fooling them in order to make profit out of their ignorance. The reality is most of the knowledgeable, informed, or technical people already knew all this since years. I remember visiting one of the Pak Army’s Core Headquarters about 3 years ago, and they asked me to take out the battery of my mobile phone before going inside the main compound. I was told that switching off the phone was not enough, because much can still be done even in the off state. As for as US spying is concerned, this is what I wrote in my comment 10 days before Snowden’s revelations.

    “Is it US divine right to spy on every individual, business, and nation in the name of national security which she does without even hiding. However, when other nations dare do the same, she starts crying like babies instead of making the systems secure, as most computer systems are made/designed by US companies; but that would limit her own capability to spy on the others too.”


  • Lala Gee
    Jul 22, 2013 - 11:35PM

    @Izhar Khan:

    “If its true Ehsan ullah ehsan should have not been alive who daily communicates…”

    He uses satellite cell phone, and satellite mobile communications are controlled by USA. Pakistan can hardly do anything about that. However, it tells a lot about the role of US in the region.


  • 1984
    Jul 22, 2013 - 11:45PM

    This is it guys….We should start using 2 matchboxes and a string in the future to avoid being detected…


  • unbelievable
    Jul 23, 2013 - 1:19AM

    Old news – any terrorist with an IQ over 90 has figured out that carrying a cell phone or even AK when drones are around is hazardous to your health.


  • Jul 23, 2013 - 4:31AM

    @1984::::For”we should start using 2 matchboxes and a string”,no way,the vibration in the string will let you out !


  • Hasan
    Jul 23, 2013 - 12:48PM

    Pakistan needs a robust cyber security system. Our government must initiate efforts in field of cyber security. Government must understand that we are living in the era of fourth generation warfare. But given the immensity of the PRISM system in NSA and the huge number of people with contact to it, it’s rational to accept that much more than just fighting terrorism is going on.


  • babu
    Jul 23, 2013 - 4:32PM

    there is a need to prepare a Bill for ensuring Cyber Security of the country and its people


  • amarali
    Jul 23, 2013 - 5:11PM

    This has not been only used in drone attacks rather US have successfully used the technology in the pursuit of national interest. Though it’s against international law but in front of United States international law is just a weak normative law which can be breached easily. If its true then why the killings of non-combatants is high in tribal areas of Pakistan?


  • sultan
    Jul 23, 2013 - 6:37PM

    As its secure communications mission includes military, diplomatic, and all other sensitive, confidential or secret government communications.This must be taken as a serious concern as there is a need to formalise our foreign and cyber security policy up to the level. Nobody knows to what extent they are spying on us. Government must understand that we Pakistani has always been treated unfairly, stigmatised and victimised by the U.S in every aspect of so-called alliance.


  • Ali
    Jul 23, 2013 - 8:31PM

    States with absolute power will keep doing this as they have the technological edge. In order to curb this gross violation of international norms, firstly indigenously produced counter technology need to be produced, secondly these issues need to be brought properly on an international forum like the U.N. All these states have no legal authority to spy on others states, they have also now lost the moral authority to lecture others!!!


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