U.S. stepping up Syrian intel gathering
A DigitalGlobe image of Homs, Syria published on the U.S. embassy in Damascus' Facebook page
February 10th, 2012
03:15 PM ET

U.S. stepping up Syrian intel gathering

By Barbara Starr, Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott

The United States has recently stepped up intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations over Syria, CNN has learned.
"This is for situational awareness," a senior U.S. official told CNN.  "There are media reports but we also want to verify exactly what is happening."

The official said the United States believes all the media reports coming out of Syria, but for intelligence uses they want to gather even more information to understand precisely what is happening there.

The official would not address whether U.S. intelligence-gathering operations include eavesdropping on or jamming of Syrian government and military communications. Such actions were used in Libya.Under fire from some quarters for not doing more immediately to help stop the bloodshed in Syria, the State Department on Friday said it will release publicly reconnaissance photos of Syrian cities showing broad images of what appeared to be smoke rising from areas where the fighting is most intense.

The first image was posted on the Facebook page of the U.S. Embassy in Damascus. That embassy was closed last week when U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford and his remaining staff were called back to Washington.

The images shows "some declassified U.S. national imagery of destruction of Homs, very gruesome pictures showing lines of tanks, showing fire, showing the kind of things that you really only see when you have a major military attacking in a civilian area," explained State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

But the United States is continuing to look for non-violent solutions, Nuland said.

The release of the images followed Russia's charged that opposition groups are mounting an increasingly well-armed resistance against government forces, with weapons supplied by other countries.

"We are trying to demonstrate the kind of weaponry the regime is using," a senior State Department official said. "This is military hardware of a very sophisticated nature being used against civilians."

The official said the intended audience is "those who might doubt those who are doing the violence because, clearly, these are government weapons," alluding to Russia and China, which have echoed the Syrian regime's argument that much of the violence is being carried out by anti-regime rebels.

Nuland said there photos will be released in coming days on the embassy's site and on a new site created by the State Department.

Pictures to be released on that site later Friday include ones showing the cities of Zabadani, Halboun and Rancous, she said.
"Our intent here is to, obviously, expose the ruthlessness and the brutality of this regime and its overwhelming predominance of military advantage and the horrible kinds of weaponry that it's deploying against its people," she said.

soundoff (27 Responses)
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    May 29, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Reply
  2. outspoken123

    Now a days people become immune to this photos, media coverage. Thanks to IRAQ,AFGANISTAN and LYBIA war.
    I think this time US is having real trouble. If SYRIA goes down, everybody will go down. Russian is already gave
    warning to socalled FUKUS.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Reply
  3. Neutral

    State Dept, If I may.

    Your trying to sell a Product, Policy, Movement, are you not?

    Personally..I could careless either way..I know thats not the answer anyone wants to hear, it is what it is.
    That said.

    After close inspection of the pictures , Some appear Clear and matchup to your JANES Images well.
    Others are Pityfull...considering ...What you are trying to achieve.

    Black & White..CMON? There are NO National Security Issues in Color.
    Also...1 or 2 Pictures look as if they were taken with 50's SAT Imaging Technology. REALLY? Thats what your using to Sell this thing?

    If you were a Business trying to sell yourself to ME with that SHOW...I'd Pass. NEXT!
    I/WE get the National Security, NRO, GEOSpatial thing, BUT, let's see a better effort in your Product and End Game.

    With Respect

    February 11, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Reply
  4. Mike

    Am I the only person who really wants to see the U.S., U.K., France, and whoever else has a half-decent satellite surveillance and ELINT capability do a nice dog and pony show for the U.N. General Assembly? In this day and age it is very possible to play the fire command orders, show the Syrian guns fire, and display the impact points. Ask the Russian and Chinese representatives to deny the closeups are clearly of tanks and BMPs they made. Challenge the Russians and Chinese to show the opposition's artillery fire and where those shells land. Any sign of opposition tanks? The Russians and Chinese say both sides are shelling – prove it!

    February 11, 2012 at 1:55 am | Reply
    • AlexShch

      All what you see in the news - CNN, BBC, YouTube - is a low quality cell-phone video of a tank of few tanks (I personally saw three on a single video) somewhere in a street in an undisclosed location, presumably in city of Homs or around.

      What you can say about these tanks?

      All I can say that these tanks are T-55, they are much older than T-72 Syrian army is supposed to have, and these tanks have no reactive armor whatsoever. In city environment these tanks are sitting ducks for RPG-7s. I am not saying that these tanks belongs to opposition because I do not know it for sure. But using them this way by regular Syrian Army is kind of dumb, to say it politely.

      Besides, what else do you see on CNN and Youtibe?

      You obviously saw remains of several destroyed APCs and BMPs, and liiks like city streets of Homs are littered with these. If, assuming that these belonged to Syrian Army, the sole presence of these destroyed vehicles proves that the opposition has weapons capable to destroy them. Which means only thing: the opposition is not just peaceful demonstrators slaughtered by brutal Assad regime, but rather armed fighters capable of destroying APCs and BMPs in urban combat. This means what is means: it is a two sided armed conflict, and basically a civil war.

      February 11, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Reply
      • Mohammed

        Alex, to say it politely, you're dumb. The Syrian government is fighting civilians who took up arms to defend themselves. What kind of arms? Small arms. They don't have RPG 7s, where the heck would a civilian get it from, nevermind the ammunition? There may be a couple of rounds from defected soliders or from dead government soliders but no where near enough to actually be a threat to gov't tanks. Destroyed tanks and APCs? 1) Theyre the same few from different angles. 2) They could be military defectors that were killed immediately. 3) where are they gonna keep getting ammo from to hit the gov't like that?. This is not a civil war. The opposiiton can't move anywhere theyre stuck in their neighbourhoods being bombarded. Thats not a civil war thats slaughter.

        February 11, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  5. Bullington

    Lets face it folks we haven't had a president with any real guts since Kennedy
    Remember the Cuban missle crisis? He told the Russians to take them out or we would.
    Now the whole world talks tough ,but thats all it is talk while Soldiers use children for target practice.
    What if it was your child or grandchild?

    February 11, 2012 at 1:30 am | Reply
    • AlexShch

      In reality Khruschev merely responded to US placing its nuclear missiles to Turkey. Khruschev was obviously uncomfortable with having US missiles just south of Sovied border and suggested to US/Kennedy through diplomatic channels to remove them. What he got in response? That is right, just an F-you. What he was supposed to do then? Complain to United Nations? He new that it was useless, but did it any way. He also took his shoe off and tap it on the table during General Assembly meeting. Also no effect. So Khrushev put missiles to Cuba. US became uncomfortable with it. No wonder - those missiles were placed there specifically to make US/Kenedy/McNamara uncomfortable.

      The rest of the story is known as Cuban missile crisis.

      The outcome:

      Kennedy and McNamara - first soiled pants, but at the end it turns out as a 100% public relationships victory for them in the eyes of American People.

      Khrushev: achieved 100% of what he intended to achieve: (1) US missiles were removed from Turkey; and (2) Cuba and Castro were left alone by the US.

      The dry outcome on the ground: compare the situation 6 month after the Crisis to 6 month before: Khrushev's 100% got it his way, see above.

      Casualties:

      Only one person died during the whole affair - a US U-2 pilot shot down over Cuba by Soviet military.

      Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963 for unrelated reasons (looks like the whole Kennedy family was sore for "wise guys").

      Khruschev was dismissed in December 1964 for unrelated reasons (apparently oversleeping a coup brewing among his closest "comrades").

      February 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Reply
  6. Saber

    I want to know what the Pot-Head Statements have to do with this article on Syria? Nothing!

    As for the activites in Syria? Well there is an answer, but the answer is ugly. Its called press the ignore button and let them fight it out for themselves. If the US wants to supply the weapon pool for this, then great. It will help put more Americans to work. I say give them the equipment, and weapons, ans let the two sides go at it on an even ground basis. May the best party win! Best of all no US Troops need be involved. Problem solved!

    February 11, 2012 at 1:25 am | Reply
    • Bullington

      No ground troops required,take out Assad with a drone apparently we have plenty for Pakistan!

      February 11, 2012 at 1:33 am | Reply
  7. Joseph

    Probably russian tanks killing civs. Hopefully we do the right thing and launch the missiles when they begin the final push to destroy the city. I knew we were watching but wanted to see the photos.

    February 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Reply
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    months of protest, stil insight.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Reply
  9. mipolitic

    really they turned to the bbc

    February 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Reply
  10. Naomi Grffin

    I don't understand why the U.S. was willing to help defeat the regime in Libya in pratical ways, but is doing nothing to stop the bloodshed in Syria!!

    February 10, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Reply
  11. Voice of Reason

    Yeah, eat it Russia. Of course the rebels are now fighting back, they went for months with just protests and got shot for it.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Reply
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      • Mohammed

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        February 11, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • zakkroskell

      i totally agree..russia can go to hell!!innocent ppl are being slaughtered and WHY??because russia is more interested in selling arms to that tyrant assad rather than agreeing to the u.n resolution..its all about money and political interests folks...theres only one thing left to do,since our hands are tied regarding a u.n resolution and that is, arm these innocent ppl,at least give them a chance to defend their mothers,fathers,sisters,brothers and children..my prayers are with you syrian ppl..

      February 12, 2012 at 8:09 am | Reply

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