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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

9/4/2013 (10 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Al Qaeda is seeking ways to stop Allied drones.

Drones are a pillar of the U.S. counter-terrorism network around the world. Tasked with hunting al Qaeda terrorists, the drones send death from above and beyond the horizon. There is nothing al Qaeda fears more than American drones. In response, the organization is working to undermine our technology and defeat the drones.

Civilians from Pakistan's tribal areas protest the use of drones over their homes.

Civilians from Pakistan's tribal areas protest the use of drones over their homes.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

9/4/2013 (10 months ago)

Published in Middle East

Keywords: drones, al Qaeda, arms race, terrorists, Snowden, leak, report, manual, lasers, encryption, arms race


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Today, the Washington Post detailed some of the efforts taken by al Qaeda to find a way to defeat drone technology. Drones are responsible for numerous kills of al Qaeda fighters and leaders, and are the bane of that organization.

Drones are in widespread use and are a mainstay of covert operations, so it's no surprise al Qaeda is working hard on countermeasures to defeat them.

Drones are designed to be stealthy, so they tend to be quiet, high-flying, and are painted to provide camouflage when flying at altitude. Despite the difficulty in detecting them, they can be spotted. According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, which detail al Qaeda efforts to defeat the drones, al Qaeda has tried several approaches including the deployment of rudimentary listening devices.

If al Qaeda operatives can tell the direction a drone is approaching, they may be able to evade detection or a subsequent attack.

In addition to listening for drones, al Qaeda operatives have tried to spot and even jam laser designators used by drones in the moments before they fire their Hellfire missiles. Guided by lasers emitted by the drone, the missiles are deadly accurate. However, if terrorists can detect they are being "lased" they can scatter before a missile hits.

Other methods include pointing lasers at the drones to blind them. So far, these tactics have yielded little result. However, like all super-weapons, the drones have one glaring weakness which is their reliance on communications.

Drones are remotely operated and are constantly receiving and transmitting signals. When these signals have been unencrypted, terrorist hackers have managed to intercept the communications. They have not yet managed to take control or destroy any drones, but they have managed to intercept video feeds. This is far from devastating. On the contrary, in Iraq it demonstrated our ability to monitor their movements in real-time, so hapless insurgents there were simply treated to the horrifying spectacle of American power.

Despite the potential to demoralize the enemy, those communications were subsequently encrypted.

Last year, Iran claimed to bring down a drone by means of an "electronic ambush" however officials dispute this and say it is more likely that an internal malfunction resulted in the autonomous crash-landing of the drone. As evidence, the Iranians have not been able to repeat their accomplishment.

Drone aircraft have the ability to fly autonomously and when they lose communications, reportedly a common and ordinary occurrence, they fly gentle loops until communications are restored. If communications remain offline, the drones can use GPS to fly themselves home and land.

Al Qaeda has been confounded by drone warfare, and their attempts to defend themselves are ongoing. Operations manuals dating back to 2006 and widely distributed reveal the terror organization has considered a variety of approaches. More novel approaches include the deployment of hobby-aircraft, cheap, radio controlled aircraft that can be equipped with cameras to search for drones. This tactic has not worked.

Other attempts include efforts to spoof the drones' GPS, and to shoot them down with surface-to-air missiles. Al Qaeda has even put out an open call for engineers and computer experts to find ways to stop the drone offensive.

Although the terrorist organization has failed to stop the drones, documents revealed by Snowden show that the CIA and other services are keenly aware that clever, low-tech tactics can interfere and even mitigate the effectiveness of drones.

Also of concern is growing anti-drone sentiment in the United States. As drones are authorized to fly over the U.S. and are being employed by law enforcement agencies, privacy concerns are developing. Intelligence officials are worried that public backlash against drones could crimp development and operations of the otherwise effective craft.

Of course, the greatest impact of drones is psychological. Terrorists and their sympathizers in restive regions say that drones are a constant worry and they take a mental toll. At any moment, death can come from above. It creates an atmosphere of terror where the terrorists and their families are themselves being terrorized with the possibility of instant, blazing death.

Tragically, drones also hit innocent people, including women and children, much like terrorism everywhere else. This raises an ontological question that we should consider. Have we become like that which we despise?

For now, this is a question for others to debate. While al Qaeda scrambles to find whatever solution they can to a high-tech threat, our operations continue as Predators and Reapers take their grim toll on those who would harm us.

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