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U.S. secrets sold in Afghan bazaar
Los Angeles Times
BAGRAM, Afghanistan — A computer drive sold openly Wednesday in a bazaar outside the U.S. air base here holds what appears to be a trove of potentially sensitive American intelligence data, including the names, photographs and telephone numbers of Afghan spies informing on the Taliban and al-Qaida.
The flash memory drive, which a teenager sold for $40, has scores of military documents including escape routes into Pakistan and $50 bounties paid for each Taliban or al-Qaida fighter apprehended based on the source's intelligence.
The documents appear to be authentic, but the accuracy of the information they contain could not be independently verified.
U.S. commanders in Afghanistan said an investigation was under way into what shopkeepers at the bazaar describe as ongoing theft and resale of U.S. computer equipment from Bagram. The base is the center of intelligence-gathering activities.
The credibility and reliability of some intelligence sources identified in the documents is marked as unknown. Other operatives, however, appear to be of high importance, including one whose information, the document says, led to the apprehension of seven al-Qaida suspects in the United States.
Even the names of people identified as the sources' wives and children are listed — details that could put them at risk of retaliation by insurgents who have boasted about executing dozens of people suspected of spying for U.S. forces.
The drive includes descriptions of Taliban commanders' meetings in neighboring Pakistan and maps of militants' infiltration and escape routes along its border with Afghanistan.
In another folder, there is a diagram of a mosque and "madrassa," or Islamic school, where an informant said fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar had stayed in Pakistan.
Numerous files indicate the flash drive may have belonged to a member of the Army's 7th Special Forces Group.
Some files are dated as recently as this month, while others date to 2004.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company