Title: The Only Game in Town (part 1)

Release Date: 2017-04-24

Document Date: 2004-12-15

Description: An intelligence analysis intern describes her tour as NSA counterterrorism representative at the CIA station in Islamabad, where she witnessed the arrests of several dozen terrorists.


(U) The Only Game in Town (part 1)
Intelligence Analysis (IA) Intern
Run Date: 12/15/2004

IA intern
describes her experience at the first
SIGINT Fusion Cell in Islamabad, March-August 2004... (S//SI)
(S//SI) As I was sitting in the Heathrow terminal on an eight-hour
layover, awaiting my flight to Islamabad, I thought about all the
advice I had been given the week before my departure. Several
experienced travelers had suggested I buy baggy clothes and a
headscarf to cover myself, while others claimed that Islamabad
was a fairly progressive city compared to the rest of Pakistan. I
was anxious to find out for myself and excited about the
opportunity to be part of the first NSA SIGINT Fusion Cell at
Station* Islamabad. Over the next four and a half months, I would
learn the importance of this team and why Station once described
SIGINT as "the only game in town" during a critical time in the
Pakistani Spring Offensive when there were no other intelligence
sources available.
(S) Just a few weeks before, I had been making preparations to
deploy to Baghdad as part of a NIST team , which was a logical
follow-on to the Iraq reporting I had been doing in the
Counterterrorism (CT) Sunni Extremism Branch. When the NIST
office asked if I would be interested in a brand-new position in
Pakistan instead, I eagerly jumped at the chance to experience a
country I had studied in graduate school, as well as spent a year
targeting in the Pakistan Branch. I quickly went through the
deployment processing checklist, put my belongings into storage,
and boarded the plane less than three weeks later.
(U//FOUO) When I touched down in Pakistan, it was obvious that I
would need to get accustomed to the constant stream of stares and
curious looks I would receive, since women with blonde hair are a
rarity. As I sat alone in the terminal waiting for my driver, with
literally hundreds of Pakistanis in traditional dress watching me
inquisitively, it truly hit me that I was embarking on one of the
most exciting times in my personal and professional career. I was
where I would be living out of my two
suitcases for the next four and a half months. I instantly thought of
how different my living arrangements would have been in
Baghdad, as I was now in a mini-bar stocked room and able to
enjoy all the amenities that a Western hotel has to offer.

(U) A colorful jinga bus filled with passengers in Taxila.
(TS//SI) The Embassy compound itself is one of the largest in the
world and sports a new gym, pool, restaurant/club, track, and
softball field. My desk would be in a very small room on the third
floor, which could have as many as 10 people working shoulder-toshoulder at any given time. Even though I had originally deployed

(U//FOUO) Intern TDYs
1. Doing SIGINT in
2. The Only Game in
Town (part 1)
3. The Only Game in
Town (part 2)
4. Eye-Opening
Experience in Haiti
(part 1)
5. Eye-Opening
Experience in Haiti
(part 2)
6. Assisting in the Hunt
for al-Qa'ida

as part of a NIST, it was quickly determined that interests would be
best served if I worked in another capacity. I became the NSA CT
representative to the Settled Areas Office (SAO) Liaison Branch,
which focuses exclusively on non-tribal areas such as Islamabad,
Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, and Quetta. My role would be to
provide NSA CT analytic support and keep SAO informed of any
relevant NSA reporting or SIGINT leads. SAO, in conjunction with
the Pakistani partner, has been responsible for over 600 arrests
since September 11. I would be able to witness first-hand the
arrest of several dozen terrorists during my tenure at Station.
(TS//SI) My typical workday began around 0830 when I started
preparations for my daily SIGINT briefing to the Tribal Areas Office
and also COS (Chief of Station) Islamabad, which involved
prioritizing various SIGINT reporting, gists, or tips that we had
received. Following the briefings, I dedicated the rest of the day to
supporting the SAO targeters and acting as the middleman
between Station and NSAW to facilitate a variety of issues. I
coordinated with the appropriate offices at NSA to ensure that
Station had the most up-to-date intelligence possible, as well as
keep NSA apprised of activity in the field. In addition to the steady
stream of support I received from HQs, I was able to utilize the
various NSA databases and analytic tools to provide services
ranging from a quick number look-up to comprehensive targeting
(TS//SI) As mentioned above, SAO works closely with its liaison
counterpart to track and arrest high-value targets throughout
Pakistan, which means that Station must supply daily releasable
tearlines with the relevant intelligence. I was able to author several
of these tearlines, as well as coordinate approvals with the
necessary offices at NSAW. There were several occasions when I
was literally on the phone with NSOC while a SAO targeter waited
in the doorway for approval to pass the time-sensitive message to
(TS//SI) Perhaps the best aspect about the position was that it
afforded me the opportunity to witness the start of one of the most
collaborative ventures NSA has undertaken. With the stand-up of
the Fusion Cell, NSA became truly integrated with Station
personnel for the first time and was able to contribute in ways that
were once impossible. As the SAO representative, I was able to
coordinate with NSAW, Bagram, GRSOC, and the Tribal Areas
Office at Station to ensure that actionable SIGINT was in the
operators' hands as close to real-time as possible.
(TS//SI) One success story was when a high-value target was
captured due to timely intelligence and a good working relationship
between NSA and CIA. Analysts at NSAW worked extra hours to
ensure that Station had the latest DNI and telephony intelligence,
which were often the first tippers or reporting that we received in
the field. A combination of NSAW tippers, CIA cable traffic, and
front-end analysis in the SAO all contributed to a successful
capture operation.

(S//SI) The original NSA SIGINT Fusion Cell at Station Islamabad.
The author is third from the right.
(S) The term "Station" refers to a CIA operations center located

within a US Embassy abroad.
(U) Watch for the conclusion of this article, coming soon...

"(U//FOUO) SIDtoday articles may not be republished or reposted outside NSANet
without the consent of S0121 (DL sid_comms)."



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