How bin Laden was hunted across the matrix

Tom Talleur, a former head of NASA\'s cyber crimes unit, tells us intergancy cooperation made the difference in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

By Andrew Mitchell
Federal News Radio

There may be an “i” in “intelligence,” but there’s no “i” in “teamwork.”

So, when it comes to succeeding in a large, complex and vitally important task, such as hunting down Osama bin Laden, it “takes a lot of people, a lot of tools, a lot of effort to do it all.”

So says private sector futurologist and former U.S. federal criminal investigator Tom Talleur, who appeared on the Federal Drive Monday morning.

“It takes a lot of people and a lot of effort, and it all gets synthesized by the intelligence agencies here in Washington,” he said.

Talleur, who once headed NASA’s computer crimes division, told Tom and Amy that it would “take a long time to explain all the tools that went into it.”

He said the government has “a lot of interagency working groups and a lot of interagency coordination committees.”

Talleur himself sat on a number of these during his years in the federal service and “these folks share information in real time and in weekly and monthly meetings,” he said, adding: “And that’s how a lot of this work gets done.”

Talleur stressed that “it isn’t all done by one agency and it doesn’t come from the top down.

“It goes across and throughout the government,” he said.

Talleur, who in the past has also worked for the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Naval Investigative Service, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, said that “a lot of the public doesn’t realize that we’ve been hunting for people like this in these terrorist groups since the 1980s.

“This is not a new thing, it just got a new profile with 9/11 and bin Laden being the prime target.

“In the case of bin Laden himself, it’s just been a full-court press since 9/11,” Talleur said. “So, many sources of intelligence went into this effort.”

Talleur said that interagency communication is the key to success in an endeavor of this magnitude:

I know when I was in this position I would call around to the different agencies involved and check on who’s doing what and make sure that we were all plugged in. We all kind of know who each other is in this business in key pockets of the government, in key agencies, and we coordinate with each other to make sure that we don’t go tripping over each other, that we don’t have any what we call “equity disruptions.” We don’t want to disrupt something another agency is doing in another country by just running off and doing something in our own. So, in that sense, this personal hands-on interagency coordination is what really makes this all work: knowing who your counterparts are, knowing what they’re doing, knowing your own mission and what you shouldn’t do and shouldn’t be doing, and coordinating it all, and agreeing to not do certain things, so that others can take the lead on it.

This sort of teamwork is important after the fact as well, Talleur said:

So, for example, with all the materials that were seized from the bin Laden compound, that’s going to be reviewed by lots of different people across the government. And it’s that kind of perspective that’s going to help figure out what all that material is and what they ought to do with it.

Talleur noted that the capture of material from bin Laden’s home has put the U.S. at a “strategic advantage.”

For example, the seizure of material from the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan gives the U.S. insight into the terrorist leader’s “tradecraft of communicating with al Qaeda.” And with that, Talleur added, “the U.S. will be able to do all kinds of things: they can plant false and deceptive last bin Laden messages where they want to; they can mislead people; those bin Laden operatives who think they can hide are now going to have to go on the run – if they go on the run, they’re subject to being caught, and if they stay where they are, they’re subject to being caught.

“It puts the United States in a tremendous position publicly to do what they want to do with this information,” Talleur said. “And each agency is going to have its own interests in this information because of its own equities in what it’s trying to do with the public monies being spent to protect the government and the country.”

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