al-Qaeda Produces Video On How To Evade Predator Drone Strikes: Portable Body-Wrap Purportedly Thwarts Infrared Camera; Video Follows 22pt. Manual Discovered In 2013 By French Forces In Mali
Rowan Scarborough, writing in today’s (January 5, 2015) Washington Times, says that “the most dangerous al-Qaeda affiliate to the U.S. homeland, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), — is teaching fighters how to avoid detection by Predator drones. The video contains a step-by-step process for making and using portable body-wrap, which the group claims will prevent the Predator’s infrared cameras from detecting a human’s heat signature.” And, the video also recommends a camouflage version for moving around in daytime hours undetected,” according to a video posted to a jihadi Twitter account.
“Whether the homemade shield actually works is unclear,” Mr. Scarborough notes, “but, the AQAP’s instructional video is an example of how violent extremists are studying American tactics — many of them openly on display in the media — and then, trying to counter them. In this case,” Mr. Scarborough adds, “AQAP has taken official Defense Department video of the Predator, its spying pods, and generic bomb-camera footage to drive home this point: If it can’t see you, it can’t strike with a Hellfire missile.”
A spokesman for USSCENTCOM, which oversees military operations in Yemen, said “For operational reasons, we wouldn’t discuss the possible effectiveness, or ineffectiveness of specific enemy [tactics, techniques, and procedures], nor would we speculate how they derive their information.”
“One part of their military strategy is to distribute videos and information to followers online, particularly via Twitter and YouTube, showing they are actively engaged in countering the impact drones have had on their capabilities,” said Steve Stalinsky, Executive Director of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a non-profit think tank that tracks jihadi communications and, who has also analyzed the video.
“Al-Qaeda’s 16-minute video, “Combating Spy Planes,” is part arts-and-crafts show, and part science,” Mr. Scarborough wrote, “splice together with U.S. military public relations videos. The segment, for example, that explains a person’s heat signature uses the scene of a lab worker heating up a frozen dinner in a microwave oven. Production of one insulation wrap: a body-size tarp is spread on the floor. A paint brush smears it with glue. Basic super-market aluminum foil is pressed against it. Then, more glue and another tarp to form sort of an aluminum sandwich. On the screen, a fighter re-creates hearing, or seeing a U.S. drone overhead; and, quickly huddling inside the insulation.”
“The aluminum is supposed to act like a heat barrier, keeping the fighter’s body heat from being detected by the drone camera system,” says an analysis by MEMRI. “The insulation can be enhanced by attaching tree branches, and painting a camouflage pattern. It can also be folded for easy carrying. The video’s last two minutes are devoted to showing how convoys should seek and cover once an airplane [drone] is seen, or heard.”
The Adversary Gets A Vote
al Qaeda’s attempt to find a way to defeat U.S. drone surveillance and targeting isn’t surprising. The age old adage that the adversary gets a vote applies. The adversary will always seek to learn and adapt as time goes on. And, they will invent new and clever ways to employ technology we understand very well — in ways we did not anticipate, or envision. And, this video is but the latest in a series of instructions on evading U.S. drone strikes.
Indeed, in a February 21, 2013 article in London’s The Telegraph, noted that “a document containing al-Qaeda’s 22 tips for dodging drone strikes, was found in a building abandoned by Islamists in Mali. The twenty two tips included the purchase of the Russian-made “sky grabber” device to [purportedly] infiltrate the drones waves and frequencies. The document said the device could be purchased f[at the time] or $2,595. Other tips included spreading reflective, broken glass on the roof/hood of a car or building; jamming and confusing [the Predator’s] electronic communication, using an ordinary water-lifting dynamo — fitted with a 30-meter copper pole; and other means of denial and deception. Another recommendation included the formation of fake gatherings, by using dolls and statutes placed outside false ditches to mislead the enemy, as well as the use of carpet/mats on the roofs of vehicles, The document was discovered by French military forces during anti-Islamist operations in Mali in early 2013.
“These are not dumb techniques. It shows that they are acting pretty astutely,” said Col. Cedric Leighton, a 26yr. veteran of the USAF, who helped set up the U.S. Predator Drone Program. “What it does, it buys them a little bit more time… and in this conflict, time is key. And, they will use it to move away from an area, from a bombing raid, and do it very quickly.” At the time of the seizure of the document with 22 tips for evading U.S. drones, Bruce Riedel, a 30yr. veteran of the CIA and now Director of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institution, said, “this new document…..shows we are no longer dealing with an isolated, local problem; but, with an enemy that is reaching across continents to share advice.” V/R, RCP