Posted by: Steve Coplan | January 29, 2006

Wiretap transcript

Ahmed 1: God is great!
Ahmed 2: God is great!
Ahmed1: So is this going down, or what?
Ahmed2: You know’s it! (check it out)
Ahmed1: We got the instructions from the Great Leader and the plan is place.
Ahmed2: Are we still meeting in front of the UN building once you’ve got the rental car from Avis? Has Waleed ibn Yahya – you know the guy in Bayridge – got all the weapons we need?
Ahmed1: Oh, foshizzle. Does Shawwal the 13th (or Jan 13th in the infidel’s calendar) still work for you?
Ahmed2: I can schedule it in. How many virgins is it again?

All satire and legality aside, the real question that has gone unasked in the wiretap controversy is how effective is it as a tool in understanding how terrorists operate? What happens if investigators actually do happen on a conversation between two members of a cell? The transcript would amount to raw data that would need to be translated (Unlucky), and then analyzed to understand what is sure to be a far more cryptic exchange than the one above. In fact, US investigators are so concerned about coded messages (‘Hunt goes online’) they have asked news organizations in the past not to broadcast bin Laden’s videos. Wiretapping may indeed prevent an attack even if it’s performed extrajudically, but the question the Bush administration should be answering is whether they have a realistic and intelligent counterterrorism strategy in place. Or, perhaps even, why is Osama bin Laden still at large?

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