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Secret Army Intelligence Planes Intercept Times Square Terrorist

USAF Electronic Warfare Specialists in training (photo: MATEUS 27:24&25 via Flickr)

I’m still trying to sort out what this means. According to WCBS-TV Channel 2 in New York:

Shahzad, 30, a Pakistan-born U.S. citizen, has been in custody since shortly after midnight. He was hauled off a plane in the nick of time as it was about to fly to the Middle East. CBS 2 obtained air traffic control recording intended to stop the pilots from taking off. The controller alerts pilots to “immediately” return to the gate.

In the end, it was secret Army intelligence planes that did him in. Armed with his cell phone number, they circled the skies over the New York area, intercepting a call to Emirates Airlines reservations, before scrambling to catch him at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

There’s been some talk about good old-fashioned police work nabbing this guy, but I don’t recall the FBI ever calling in an intelligence plane to sniff a cell phone in order to locate a suspect.

This begs a number of questions:

— Is this a special operation or part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force?
— How often has this “sniffing” function been used over American soil?
— Why was this information released so publicly, disclosing methods and means?
— And if this can be done with a plane today, will law enforcement do this soon using drones?

I’m sure you have a few more questions. What are you thinking about this scenario?

UPDATE — 7:55 PM EDT —
As you’ll see in comments, the original story posted at WCBS has been, um, edited. I have a screenshot for you, though, of the story as it appeared approximately 6:25 p.m. this evening (you may need to right click on the image after opening to expand).

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Secret Army Intelligence Planes Intercept Times Square Terrorist

I’m still trying to sort out what this means. According to WCBS-TV Channel 2 in New York:

Shahzad, 30, a Pakistan-born U.S. citizen, has been in custody since shortly after midnight. He was hauled off a plane in the nick of time as it was about to fly to the Middle East. CBS 2 obtained air traffic control recording intended to stop the pilots from taking off. The controller alerts pilots to "immediately" return to the gate.

In the end, it was secret Army intelligence planes that did him in. Armed with his cell phone number, they circled the skies over the New York area, intercepting a call to Emirates Airlines reservations, before scrambling to catch him at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

There’s been some talk about good old-fashioned police work nabbing this guy, but I don’t recall the FBI ever calling in an intelligence plane to sniff a cell phone in order to locate a suspect.

This begs a number of questions:

— Is this a special operation or part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force?
— How often has this "sniffing" function been used over American soil?
— Why was this information released so publicly, disclosing methods and means?
— And if this can be done with a plane today, will law enforcement do this soon using drones?

I’m sure you have a few more questions. What are you thinking about this scenario?

UPDATE — 7:55 PM EDT —
As you’ll see in comments, the original story posted at WCBS has been, um, edited. I have a screenshot for you, though, of the story as it appeared approximately 6:25 p.m. this evening (you may need to right click on the image after opening to expand).

[photo: USAF Electronic Warfare Specialists in training (photo: MATEUS 27:24&25 via Flickr)]

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Rayne

Rayne

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, FDL community member since 2005, geek since birth.

Fan of science and technology, wannabe artist, decent cook, successful troublemaker and purveyor of challenging memetics whose genetics may be only nominally better.

Assistant Editor at Firedoglake and Editor at The Seminal.