20 January 1999. Thanks to Anonymous.

Global Intelligence Update, Red Alert, 21 January 1999

Moves and Countermoves in the U.S. Struggle with Osama Bin Laden


* Allegations of U.S. Navy electronic intelligence (ELINT) aircraft
operating over Pakistan and the reported arrest in India of individuals
linked to Osama Bin Laden signal further developments in the ongoing
global chess match between the United States and the Saudi terrorist.


New Delhi police announced on January 20, 1999 that they had arrested
Sayed Abu Nasir, a Bangladeshi citizen reportedly linked to Osama Bin
Laden. According to a police spokesman, Nasir was part of a seven-man

team that planned to attack the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, as well as
consulates in Calcutta and Madras. The other members of Nasir's team,
believed to be from Myanmar, Egypt, and Sudan, have yet to be
apprehended. However, New Delhi police did reveal that three other
individuals linked to Nasir were arrested recently in the eastern Indian
town of Siliguri. Officials did not provide any other specifics on those
arrests, other than to link them to Nasir.  The presence of Bin Laden's
network in India is not a new development; we first reported the
possibility of an attack against U.S. facilities in India last October.

The report of Nasir's arrest comes on the heels of a reported violation
of Pakistani airspace by U.S. aircraft. On January 18 the Pakistani
newspaper "Jang" published an account of U.S. Navy P-3 Orion aircraft
flying over Pakistani territory. According to Jang, the aircraft were
detected over Pakistan on January 14 and 15 by Pakistani civil aviation
authorities.  The newspaper noted that the airspace violations, which
previously occurred in conjunction with the U.S. attack on sites in
Afghanistan, are now commonplace and pose a threat to the safety of
Pakistani civil aviation.  Jang went on to report that, when the
Pakistani air traffic controller (ATC) asked the U.S. pilot what he was
doing, the P-3 pilot told the ATC to "mind you own business."

We view Jang's clearly biased account of U.S. ELINT aircraft over
Pakistan with a high degree of skepticism.  To begin with, this article
seems to have been aimed at castigating the Pakistani government. The
article went on to question the government's involvement, or lack
thereof, in the incident, arguing, "The public has a right to ask why
the government and institutions responsible for our national defense
have not taken notice of these violations and if they have taken notice,
what reply did they get? The reply of the American pilot to out air
traffic controller is a severe mockery against our independence,
security, and defense." Jang also incorrectly identified the P-3's as
"jet" aircraft, which they are not. Furthermore, given the mission
capabilities of the P-3 and the fact that the nearest base of operations
for Orion aircraft would be Qatar or Diego Garcia, Pakistan is a long
way to fly. Even flying out of Qatar would most likely require at least
two in-flight refuelings off the coast of Pakistan.  Finally, sending an
unarmed, unescorted, turbo-prop, ELINT aircraft over a minimum of 900
miles (round trip to Kandahar) of questionably friendly to downright
hostile territory, would pose substantial diplomatic and military risks.

Despite all the reasons for not believing an obviously biased
publication, when the report is viewed in the context of the Bin Laden
network's recent operations in south and southeast Asia, there may be
something to Jang's report.  The arrests in India follow reports of
increased Bin Laden activity in the Philippines and Malaysia, including
the support of fundamentalist Moslem terrorist and separatist groups and
the possible attempt to dispatch terrorists to the United Kingdom.
Thus, allegations of P-3s over Pakistan, or more to the point, bound for
Afghanistan, may not be entirely fictional.

While the main function of the P-3 Orion is as a land-based maritime
patrol and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) aircraft, its EP-3 variant is an
Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) aircraft, and is used to collect various
electronic signals emitted by devices such as radar. However, the EP-3
can be configured to intercept voice communications, including perhaps
those originating from Bin Laden's network. This would allow the U.S. to
develop intelligence on Bin Laden's network in general and possibly his

If the report of Orions over Pakistan is minimally accurate, it would
indicate that the U.S. is still actively pursuing Bin Laden, who is
currently believed to be holed up in neighboring Afghanistan. Of course
this remains an open case, with or without the Orions, but committing
ELINT aircraft to the search raises it to another level.  The
decision-makers in Langley and Fort Meade must realize that intelligence
on Bin Laden's location or movements collected from an Orion mission
will be obsolete a few hours later. The first thing Bin Laden would do
after being overflown by an ELINT platform would be to move, thereby
rendering any intelligence collected useless in a tactical sense. What
then could be the U.S. reason for tipping its hand if it was indeed
looking for Bin Laden? It could be as simple as an effort to gather any
intelligence the U.S. can get on Bin Laden and his network and
operations. The U.S. could just be trying to flush Bin Laden out, hoping
he will get careless or just keeping him off balance. It is also
possible that the U.S. was attempting to get a fix on Bin Laden's
location with the intent to target him for extraction or eradication.

With the end of Ramadan, Bin Laden has renewed his call for a holy war
against Americans, giving U.S. officials ample reason to believe he may
be ready to strike again.  The arrest of Nasir in India only adds weight
to this belief.  With moves underway by both sides, the conflict between
Bin Laden and the U.S. may be nearing "end game."

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