from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2009, Issue No. 60
July 13, 2009

Secrecy News Blog:


From the point of view of an al Qaida military leader, Western intelligence agents are now ubiquitous in the lands of Islam, and their operations have been extraordinarily effective. The Western spies are unfailingly lethal, leaving a trail of dead Islamist fighters behind them. Worst of all, they have managed to recruit innumerable Muslims to assist their war efforts.

"The spies... were sent to penetrate the ranks of the Muslims generally, and the mujahidin specifically, and [they] spread all over the lands like locusts," wrote Abu Yahya al-Libi, an al Qaida field commander in Afghanistan, in a new book called "Guidance on the Ruling of the Muslim Spy."

"The spies are busy day and night carrying out their duties in an organized and secret manner... How many heroic leaders have been kidnapped at their hands? How many major mujahidin were surprised to be imprisoned or traced? Even the military and financial supply roads of the mujahidin, which are far from the enemy's surveillance, were found by the spies."

Al Qaida operations have been severely impeded by the intelligence war against them, al-Libi said. "As soon as the mujahidin get secretly into an area on a dark night, they are confronted by the Cross forces and their helpers. Many are killed or captured."

Western spies are found under every conceivable cover, al-Libi wrote. "They have among them old hunchbacked men who cannot even walk, strong young men, weak women inside their house, young girls, and even children who did not reach puberty yet. The spy might be a doctor, nurse, engineer, student, preacher, scholar, runner, or a taxi driver. The spy can be anyone...."

"The occupation armies completely rely on recruiting spies and informants from the Muslim lands they usurped and conquered... The spy lives among Muslims, being one of them: living their life, wearing their dress, eating what they eat... Therefore, he can access what the armed soldiers of the occupation cannot put hands on."

In the new book, published on jihadist websites on June 30, al-Libi ruminated at length on the religious and legal problem of the Muslim spy. Can there be a Muslim who spies against other Muslims or, since such a person would by definition be an apostate, is a Muslim spy a contradiction in terms? May such a person be killed? (It depends.) To convict a spy nowadays is it necessary to rely on the traditional two witnesses? (Again, it depends.) What about a person who is mistakenly executed as a spy? (God will reward him.)

Pervading the book is a sense of the overwhelming impact of U.S. and Allied intelligence operations on jihadist forces, and the willingness of indigenous Muslims to act with Western intelligence against those forces.

"Everyone who lives in the jihad battlegrounds... knows well that the occupation forces could not do one-tenth of what they do now if they did not recruit spies and informants.... Most of the mujahidin and their soldiers were killed or captured because of the intelligence information that the infidel forces have obtained from the secret soldiers whom they recruit, like swarms of locusts, from the native citizens who talk our language and pretend they are Muslims."

"Guidance on the Ruling of the Muslim Spy" by Abu Yahya al-Libi was translated, rather clumsily, by the DNI Open Source Center. A copy was obtained by Secrecy News and is posted here:

The book cited the use of electronic homing devices to guide air-launched missiles to their targets and images of several such devices were included in the original Arabic version of the book (at page 146). The purported use of the devices was discussed in "CIA Drone Targeting Tech Revealed, Qaeda Claims" by Adam Rawnsley, Wired Danger Room, July 8, 2009: also prepared a proprietary translation of the new Al-Libi book, which was reported by Fox News last week.


The National Reconnaissance Office, which develops, launches and operates U.S. intelligence satellites, last week released most of the unclassified portions of its Congressional Budget Justification Book for FY2009. While those unclassified portions are only a small fraction of the full budget document, they still provide a fresh glimpse or two of the agency and its four directorates (IMINT, SIGINT, Advanced Systems and Technology, and Communications).

"The U.S. is arguably more reliant on overhead collection that ever before," the NRO says, while "intelligence problems are becoming more complex and increasingly require synergistic, multi-INT, multi-source solutions." See "National Reconnaissance Program," FY2009 Congressional Budget Justification, February 2008, released under the Freedom of Information Act July 2009:

The NRO has suffered serious acquisition failures in recent years and it has been rumored, unconfirmably, that the agency may be broken up or reorganized. ("Spy Agency May Face Ax" by Colin Clark, DoD Buzz, July 1, 2009). Meanwhile, President Obama reportedly issued a directive last spring -- Presidential Study Directive 2 -- ordering a review of classified space activities. ("President Orders Sweeping U.S. Space Policy Review" by Amy Klamper, Space News, July 6, 2009).


A newly disclosed report from the JASON defense advisory panel may not excite the interest of anyone who is not a student of electrical engineering. It examines the distribution of electrical current flowing through a long, narrow conductive object. See "Current Spreading in Long Objects," October 2008:

Somewhat more interesting is the fact that the JASON study was sponsored by the Center for Security Evaluation. The Center is a component of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that supports the Department of State in protecting intelligence and other classified information in U.S. diplomatic facilities abroad. Its charter was set forth in "Center for Security Evaluation," Intelligence Community Directive 707, October 17, 2008:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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