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Hotmail for Terrorists

Steve Coll and Susan B. Glasser write an article about how al Queda used publicly available technology to run a base of operations.

The movement has also innovated with great creativity to protect its most secret communications. Khalid Sheik Mohammed, a key planner of the Sept. 11 attacks later arrested in Pakistan, used what four researchers familiar with the technique called an electronic or virtual “dead drop” on the Web to avoid having his e-mails intercepted by eavesdroppers in the United States or allied governments. Mohammed or his operatives would open an account on a free, public e-mail service such as Hotmail, write a message in draft form, save it as a draft, then transmit the e-mail account name and password during chatter on a relatively secure message board, according to these researchers. The intended recipient could then open the e-mail account and read the draft — since no e-mail message was sent, there was a reduced risk of interception, the researchers said.

They also used Houston-based Everyone’s Internet to share files.

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