Following massive NSA leaks several weeks ago, revealed by the now infamous NSA contractor Edward Snowden, US intelligence officials have been working overtime to assess the damage. They say Snowden's leaks have lead to massive disruptions in their terrorist monitoring activities.
Now intelligence officials have said the leaks are encouraging groups like Al Qaeda to change the way they communicate to better avoid surveillance.
Two members of the US intelligence community have spoken to press, reports AP. They say virtually all terrorist groups are going to great lengths to reorganize their networks.
Reading the news, they say, terrorists are now taking extra care to avoid detection. This includes using multiple cellphones, changing anonymous email accounts, and sometimes avoid high tech communication all together.
Some of the systems terrorists were using, believing they were safe, were being monitored by US intelligence, like Skype video teleconferencing.
After the revelation that Skype was among the companies participating in the NSA's surveillance programs, however, there has been a major drop off in terrorist use of that and other exposed internet communications partners.
AP also reports on a lawmaker who, on the condition of anonymity, explained that he or she had been briefed on such trends.
The lawmaker stated that he or she had seen intelligence showing Al Qaeda's offshoot in Yemen, known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, was among the first to visibly be changing their operations.
Details on exactly how AQAP's operations were being changed or how this was discovered were not disclosed.
While it may seem standard practice for terrorist communications would involve encryption, this actually puts up red flags that would draw the NSA's attention. Instead, terrorists try a “hiding in plain sight” tactic where they may converse in anonymous chat rooms.
This is why, despite the recent NSA leaks, US intelligence experts have said that, given time, terrorist communications will be back under surveillance.
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