U.S. Jams Taliban, Yemen Frequencies

Friday, May 11, 2012 @ 04:05 PM gHale

By Richard Sale
An information warfare program intended to disrupt Taliban command and control and counter Taliban propaganda broadcasts has expanded on orders from the Obama administration, U.S. officials said.

The same warfare program is currently being deployed in Yemen.

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A former senior U.S. intelligence official close to the situation told ISSSource the program is effective in disrupting the Taliban’s command and control and sabotages its communication networks. “The Taliban cells take their networks down and put them up someplace else, but we disrupt them again. It’s quite effective,” he said.

Using special signals intelligence aircraft, called EC-130 Compass Call electronic warfare planes, advanced U.S. technology will be used to jam the frequencies Taliban and Yemeni commanders use to talk to each other, impeding the jihadis’ ability to plan attacks, mass and deploy forces for staging ambushes, sabotage roads or attack allied convoys, these sources said.

Much of the effort will act to aid Special Forces and NATO troops, they said.

In addition, the jamming operation will aim at suppressing Taliban or Yemen chat rooms or other Web sites that broadcast propaganda that incessantly boasts to the Afghan and Yemen public that the jihadis control the population and can strike with impunity at any time, these sources said.

The Web sites have been used in the past to show videos of attacks on U.S. and other allied forces in an effort to gain recruits and show the vulnerability of the allied forces, they said.

The U.S. jamming effort also suppresses an even more sinister Taliban operation that involves a whole network of FM radio frequencies in the tribal areas of Pakistan that have been used to broadcast the names of Afghani or Pakistani members of government and security officials who are named as targets for assassination, U.S. officials said. Former U.S. intelligence officials said hundreds of these people have later been killed as a result of the broadcasts.

U.S. officials said that this jamming effort marks a new era in waging a more aggressive information war against the Taliban. “They have been whipping our ass in this area so far,” one U.S. intelligence official said.

Said a serving U.S. military official, “You name the type of communications, and we can jam it.”

Traditional jamming has usually been directed at surface-to-air missile sites. During the Kosovo war, for example, U.S. electronic warfare experts at U/S. European headquarters worked in San Antonio with the Joint Command and Control Warfare Center known as “jakewick,” to insert false messages and targets into Serbia’s centralized air defense command networks that prevented surface anti-aircraft missiles from either activating or working accurately if activated, former U.S. intelligence officials said. Many of these weapons were confused or disabled.

Viruses were also inserted into Serb computer networks, and there could be an effort to do the same with the Taliban or Yemeni jihadits, one former U.S. intelligence official said.

This new program will be a joint effort by CIA, NASA, and military electronic warfare experts, U.S. officials said.

The chief U.S. airborne jammer in the past has been the Grumman U.S. Navy EA-6B Prowler which was enormously potent. Robbie Robinson, at the time a writer on military technology for Aviation Week, said in the mid-1980s, he had been a passenger aboard a Prowler flying from the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. John Kennedy in the Mediterrean. When the pilot activated the plane’s system, “It blacked out the whole western coast of Italy,” Robinson said.

The severely annoyed officials aboard the aircraft carrier who sent an angry message to the pilot that he was interfering with fleet operations” and recalled it, Robinson said.

John Pike of Globalsecurity.org felt Robinson’s claim stretched the truth, but verified the Prowler was “extremely formidable.”

The aircraft to be deployed in the new Afghan program is EC-130 H aircraft, a redesigned Hercules with external antennas crammed with very sort of sophisticated ground communications disruption and frequency suppression devices, say sources.

Some U.S. sources intimated that a top secret Air Force element, the Electronic Security Command, which reports directly to the NSA, would be involved in the new program. It will work with the over 30 NSA ground stations around the world.

The NSA analysts aboard the EC-130s are trained to determine the means of transmission, who is talking to whom, and most importantly, what is going on in the area. The emphasis is on updating and locating signals intelligence, the type of signal or frequency being used, then forwarding the information to commanders via burst transmissions, sometimes shrouding the transmissions in extraneous noise.

“The purpose is to shape the information battlefield,” said a U.S. official.

“Jamming is a force denier, it adds an unpredictable element that denies the enemy the ability to coordinate, to mount unified movements, to frame surprise attacks,” said another official.

Strict guidelines must be observed. Only certain frequencies are targeted and others being used in U.S. or NATO operations must be avoided at all hazards. For example, the frequencies used by unmanned aerial vehicles like the Predator or Joint Direct Attack Munitions or Joint Stand-Off weapons channels must not be targeted, and any plane hitting these would be quickly benched.

EC-130 Compass Call aircraft played a key part early in the 2003 invasion of Iraq by jamming links between Iraqi ground forces and knocking Iraqi TV transmissions off the air to clear the way for U.S. propaganda messages to the Iraqi people. The four-engine Compass Call aircraft also allowed free passage for U.S. cargo plans equipped with TV and radio aimed at the Iraqi people.

Compass Call planes were also used in jamming operations to provide safe and secure conditions during the Sept. 18, 2005 historical elections for the Afghanistan National Assembly and the follow on peace program. They also worked in support of Afghan and coalition ground forces.

The United States continuing its own propaganda broadcasts against the Taliban in Dari and Pashtu, Afghanistan’s major languages. Such broadcasts were used during the 2001 war, U.S. officials said.
Richard Sale was United Press International’s Intelligence Correspondent for 10 years and the Middle East Times, a publication of UPI. He is the author of Clinton’s Secret Wars and Traitors.

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