Hezbollah Captured American Spies by Tracking Cellphone Data With Commercially Available Software

The latest story seeping out of the Middle East claims Hezbollah has recently tracked down, arrested and outed a significant, but undisclosed, number of American spies working for the CIA. And their techniques for discovering the cloak and dagger operatives? Disconcertingly simple.

Citing anonymous sources, the AP says that the terrorist organization, whom the State Department calls “the most technically capable terrorist organization in the world,” has a dedicated spy combat unit. This time around, they merely looked for unusual cellphone activity using non-proprietary software.

Using the latest commercial software, Nasrallah’s spy-hunters unit began methodically searching for spies in Hezbollah’s midst. To find them, U.S. officials said, Hezbollah examined cellphone data looking for anomalies. The analysis identified cellphones that, for instance, were used rarely or always from specific locations and only for a short period of time. Then it came down to old-fashioned, shoe-leather detective work: Who in that area had information that might be worth selling to the enemy?

The effort took years but eventually Hezbollah, and later the Lebanese government, began making arrests. By one estimate, 100 Israeli assets were apprehended as the news made headlines across the region in 2009. Some of those suspected Israeli spies worked for telecommunications companies and served in the military.

And what’s disturbing is that prior to this debacle, there were memos circulating through the CIA pointing out that spies in Lebanon were particularly vulnerable. It’s just the latest feather in the CIA’s incompetency cap.


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