A new revelation of the Edward Snowden leaks indicate that the National Security Agency worked deeply with the Central Intelligence Agency in the government’s targeted killing programs, reported The Washington Post.
In October of 2012, senior al-Qaeda operative Hassan Ghul was killed by an American drone strike after the CIA obtained an email correspondence from Ghul’s wife to him, which helped the government determine where to launch the strike. However, the United States government has not publicly acknowledged or taken credit for the strike.
By request of intelligence officials, the detail of government drone strikes have remained until tight lock and key in order to preserve “ongoing operations and national security,” they said. The documents provided by Snowden show a heavy dependency “on highly targeted network penetrations to gather information that wouldn’t otherwise be trapped in surveillance nets that it has set at key Internet gateways.”
Meaning, that the CIA needed the NSA’s intelligence gathering capabilities to collect information that would otherwise inaccessible. Signals intelligence, or SIGNIT, is the compilation of phone calls, emails, and other digital communications and activities collected by the NSA.
Because resources were so expansive, the NSA created the Counter-Terrorism Mission Aligned Cell (CT MAC) to concentrate them to locate “hard-to-find terrorism targets.” However, it is still unknown whether the spying program that was outed by Snowden back in June was related to intelligence gathering used in drone strikes.
In order to track Guhl, the NSA secretly seized control of laptops, syphoned audio files, and tracked radio transmissions to find his location. What led government operatives to Ghul’s location was an email from Guhl’s wife intercepted the by agency. They were able to pinpoint the location of the sender and receiver. A mission summary noted that “This information enabled a capture/kill operation against an individual believed to be Hassan Ghul on October 1.”
Ghul used to be an informant for the US government and was critical in exposing bin Laden’s courier network, which led to finding his location. He spent two years in a CIA prison after his capture in 2004, and then was sent back to Pakistan in 2006.
Sometime after his release, Ghul helped al-Qaeda redevelop its logistics networks to help move people and money to and from Pakistan. He became the Treasury Department’s target of US counterterrorism sanctions in 2011.