Phone Number Tracking Terrorists (telecom)

Some time back (dates have faded in memory) the "media" reported it as great news that the US and its allies could track the location of Osama bin Laden's cell phone, whereupon he stopped using one. IIRC he gave his to one of his "associates" who subsequently got nailed by a drone-launched weapon.

Was the "media" culpable in this case? Speaking as a veteran of 20 years in the US Army Signal Corps I definitely think this information should have been supressed. I was involved in the capture of some enemy radio equipment in Vietnam and learned some information that was helpful to US Army intelligence, but we sure didn't go around telling everybody what we were learning from it.

I still believe that in war, there are just some things that "the public" doesn't need to know. There is still wisdom in the WW II security poster that said "Loose lips sink ships".

Charles G. Gray Senior Lecturer - Telecommunications Oklahoma State University

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Gray, Charles
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Certainly not. First of all, it's not just the date that you are misremembering. There is no cell phone coverage in remote places such as Tora Bora. You were no doubt thinking of satellite phones.

Even reporting that satellite phones can be tracked is hardly giving the game away. The Russians tracked and killed Chechen president Jokhar Dudayev

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way back in 1996 using exactly this method, so bin Laden was already certainly aware that using satellite phones carried risks as well as advantages. More generally, wireless phones of all types are necessarily radios, and it has been well known for many decades that radio transmitters are vulnerable to detection in military operations. Pointing out a well-known fact in the press is not a crime.

Bob Goudreau

Cary, NC

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