On occasion, operatives would pick the locks of al Qaeda safe houses, filming and photographing what was inside, and presumably copying the contents of any digital devices they found.
Thanks to a spy in Abu Ghadiya’s camp and to signals intelligence facilitated by a JSOC operative’s repeated undercover missions to the area, the command had been carefully tracking him for months.
The task force knew that he occasionally visited Iraq to maintain his bona fides with the fighters, but his regular base in the area was a safe house in Sukkariyah, a village near the town of Abu Kamal, six miles across the border from Al Qaim.
Special mission unit operators rated Hezbollah, not al Qaeda, as the “A-team” when it came to Islamist terrorism. An Army of Northern Virginia JSOC operative almost learned this lesson the hard way in October 2002 out walking near the Lebanese capital’s famous corniche.
Returning from a mission in a nearby country, he was passing through Lebanon in order to conduct activities to maintain his nonofficial cover when three men tried to force him into a car as he took a shortcut back to his hotel.
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20, Joint Special Operations Command — which oversees the Army’s Delta Force, the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, and other secretive and elite units — estimated Abu Ghadiya was running 120 to 150 foreign fighters(including twenty to thirty suicide bombers) a month into Iraq.The command had plenty of reasons for wanting to get inside Syria after the September 11 attacks.One was the knowledge that Syria had chemical weapons and was trying to achieve nuclear capability, perhaps with help from Iran, whose Quds Force was gaining influence in Syria.meaning they posed as businessmen and had what a special mission unit veteran called “established presence” in the region.During the middle of the decade, Orange had fewer than a dozen personnel operating under commercial cover, about half a dozen of whom were conducting the Syrian operations.The 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq soon heralded a new concern: Sunni insurgent groups’ use of Syria as a way station en route to Iraq for volunteer militants from the broader Muslim world.