November 18, 2019

How Baghdadi Was Found

“For all the attention, invention and investment that the U.S. intelligence community devotes to spy satellites, communications intercepts, and new technologies such as artificial intelligence, the raid that killed ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was launched by the same old-fashioned tool that led to Osama bin Laden: human intelligence.

After years of trying in vain to get a real-time lock on al-Baghdadi’s location, the big break came not from space or from a strategically located eavesdropping post, but from the wife of an al-Baghdadi aide and one of the couriers he employed to avoid using mobile phones and computers that could have made him easier to track. U.S. officials said the two were captured in western Iraq.

Using names and locations that the wife and courier gave up, two U.S. officials said on Sunday, the CIA and Iraqi and Kurdish intelligence officers began recruiting agents along the routes that al-Baghdadi traveled in the desert astride the Syrian-Iraqi border. Officials began surveilling routes he used, places he stopped, and looking for patterns to his travel, including his brief stays in small villages such as the one where he died.”

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