Title: Providing Actionable Intelligence in Mosul
Release Date: 2018-03-01
Document Date: 2005-07-13
Description: Back from deployment to Iraq, an NSA staffer recalls the feeling of accomplishment from the successful exploitation of phones seized as evidence in an overnight raid. The phones were used to identify detainees, including two “high-value targets” and “several lower-level facilitators.”
Document: DYNAMIC PAGE -- HIGHEST POSSIBLE CLASSIFICATION IS
TOP SECRET // SI / TK // REL TO USA AUS CAN GBR NZL
(U//FOUO) Providing Actionable Intelligence in Mosul
currently at NCR CIA/Counterterrorism Support Group (F55)
Run Date: 07/13/2005
Here's another report from an NSA'er who served on a Cryptologic Support Team in Iraq (S)
(S//REL) Two memories stand out when I think of my experience with CST STRYKER in Mosul,
Iraq. I remember sleeping for several nights on the dirty marble floor of our SCIF* because
there was a viable threat that the compound would be attacked with "overwhelming force." I
don't remember the fear, though like everyone there, I was afraid. I remember being exhausted
and cranky, wanting nothing more than coffee and a shower. Coffee we had in abundance, but I
didn't want to risk a shower, which would draw me to the most frequently mortared part of
camp. And no one wants to die in the shower.
(S//SI) Another memory that made a lasting impression was while walking home one night
around 0300, after supporting a mission using techniques our team had developed. The mission
had apparently been a dry hole, so I left heavy with disappointment. I stopped by the
Operations Center to drop off a SIM card** reader (which were scarce, so we loaned ours out to
several units), when I walked into what seemed like the eye of a storm.
(S//SI) One of the military analysts alerted me that the mission had, in fact, been successful.
(See Congressional notification on the subject.) The finishing force was on their way in the door
with several bags of evidence to be exploited -- documents, a laptop, and cell phones. I handed
over the SIM card reader, knowing it would be put to good use that night, and was immediately
asked to stay and help exploit the phones to confirm the identities of the detainees.
(S//SI) As GSM phones spilled out of a canvas bag onto the desktop, I formed an assembly line
with an intelligence analyst and an assaulter, just off the objective, to remove the SIM cards,
exploit them using the reader, label the handset and the card, and make a list of the numbers
found. We worked swiftly in the swirl of yelling voices, men running back and forth, bags being
dumped on the floor, and computer screens flashing incessantly. During this process, we found
out that we had not one, but two high-value targets in addition to several lower-level
(S//REL) After packing up the phones, which had to accompany the detainees to their
interrogation site, I remember walking home just before the sun came up. I had never felt so
satisfied as when I crashed on my bed in my trailer and closed my eyes, knowing that seven
terrorists were off the street due solely to the support provided by the STYKER SIGINT cell and
the competence of the operators we supported. It was the first of many such nights.
(S//SI) Much of the analysis that we do in A&P is not that hard to learn. Within a few months, I
saw 98Cs (tactical SIGINTers) who were as proficient with databases, NSA lingo, tasking, and
analysis as most NSA analysts. The things they learned from me -- geospatial analysis, call
chaining, Arcview, Cultweave, Association, GSM tracking -- were easy lessons compared to what
they taught me.
(U//FOUO) I saw soldiers work through the night, every night for months, knowing only that
they were supporting important operations, but without knowing exactly what their analysis was
being used for. People volunteered to work beyond their responsibility, to support the soldiers
who have the capability to take action against the terrorists, but would not otherwise get the
SIGINT support they needed.
(S//REL)The best and most successful SIGINT team I have had the honor of working with in my
four years at NSA has been the soldiers of the 1-25 STRYKER Brigade Combat Team. Nowhere
else have I met analysts so eager to learn, mission-focused, or creative. They were
inexperienced and young, but they were able to produce more actionable intelligence than any
other team I've encountered. Their success was due to their flexibility, gumption, and ability to
push the envelope of normal procedures -- qualities I have found more valuable than having a
room full of subject-matter experts.
*SCIF = Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility
**SIM card = Subscriber Identification Module card that carries GSM subscriber data and
activates the phone when inserted.
(U//FOUO) See another recent article from a CST'er: (U//FOUO) How NSA Teams Support
Tactical Forces in Iraq .
"(U//FOUO) SIDtoday articles may not be republished or reposted outside NSANet
without the consent of S0121 (DL sid_comms)."
DYNAMIC PAGE -- HIGHEST POSSIBLE CLASSIFICATION IS
TOP SECRET // SI / TK // REL TO USA AUS CAN GBR NZL
DERIVED FROM: NSA/CSSM 1-52, DATED 08 JAN 2007 DECLASSIFY ON: 20320108