February 13th, 2012
05:31 PM ET

Intel eyes and ears on Syria

By Barbara Starr

Even as the U.S. administration dismisses military action against the Syrian regime, a major effort is now under way to collect all possible intelligence on the plans and operations of the Damascus regime, two administration officials tell CNN.

"There is an obvious focus on developing intelligence," one official told CNN.

"People are talking about how we can get more," a second official said.

Both declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the efforts under way.

Gathering intelligence on Syria is now a top priority for the U.S. intelligence community, the officials said. Israeli and Jordanian intelligence services are also deeply interested in the same intelligence and assisting and conducting their own operations where they can, according to a third U.S. source with knowledge of the intelligence-gathering efforts.

That source, along with others, has also confirmed the United States is monitoring and intercepting the communications of key Syrian officials and operatives, though the American official could not say whether Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad's own communications were being intercepted.  Communications intercepts are one of the most secretive operations for the U.S. intelligence community, even though the United States knows the Syrians are well aware of that technology.

It's not just the Syrian government that U.S. intelligence is focused on, according to the third official. Washington also is working to intercept communications of operatives of al Qaeda in Iraq who are now in Syria and who U.S. intelligence believes are part of a network of AQI operatives responsible for recent attacks in the country.

The source said the latest intelligence clearly indicates small groups of AQI operatives have been "pushed into Syria" by their commanders and are able to carry out intelligence and reconnaissance against Syrian targets, and subsequent bombing attacks.

The first indication of the U.S. intelligence campaign came last week with the release by the State Department of low-resolution imagery showing Syrian forces in and around cities where civilians had been attacked.  Officials acknowledged to CNN that there is higher-resolution classified imagery showing the situation in great detail.

This capability is allowing the United States to monitor the movement of Syrian forces, assess their command-and-control units, their air defenses, the security of their chemical and biological facilities, and their ability to resupply their troops.

"We can see a crack on your sidewalk," another official said of the imagery capabilities.

By releasing the images, the Obama administration itself took the first public step to making it clear to al- Assad that the U.S. intelligence community is gathering independent evidence of what his regime is doing.

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  23. Frank

    Way to tip off that we're monitoring. Regardless of whether or not they may have suspected it, you don't confirm or deny anything. Now they can go ahead and change frequencies, throttle back comms, or step up encruption. Every once in a while, I wish journalists would think of their country first, instead of rushing out to be the first to print something.

    February 14, 2012 at 8:12 am | Reply
  24. Britney

    Im very satisfied with his article. To say that truth can be verified. However should be acted upon. So other countries stop with their unsubstantiated claims for no intervention.At least for humanitarian aid.

    February 14, 2012 at 4:01 am | Reply
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      April 7, 2012 at 2:28 am | Reply

    well said, a close watch should be on syria, u never knws when they strike.

    February 14, 2012 at 2:59 am | Reply
  26. mipolitic

    here is top secert , secert ok , ready , we send the bad guys water that makes them wiz all the time , so when they are pissing around we run in quick and take over. well if that won't work than we should just let putin to continue his support of murderous assad and remember what he did in the un .

    February 13, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Reply
  27. joneses

    WHAT?? We're sending again the silly message that we are watching the government? We should be gathering intelligence on both, the government and the REBELS!!

    February 13, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Reply
  28. Usawaraddict

    Not needed to be spy to got some facts straight:

    1. USA supported Al-Quaeda and Osama at Afganistan in 1970-s, financing based on Haliburton contacts with Saudis anbd Pakistan ISI
    Results: As soon as Soviets out, Al-Quaeda in, than it backfired 9/1/11..Haliburton cash check

    2. USA started war at Iraq based on lies to the face of UN SC, based on PNAC plan everyone knows
    Results: Al-Quaeda IN, US OUT, Al-Quaeda IN and got new base, 700 000 dead, will backfire .....Haliburton cash check

    3. USA started war at Afganistan based on lies about Ben Laden whereisabout, based on PNAC plan everyone knows
    Results: Al-Quaeda IN, US OUT, Al-Quaeda IN and got new base, 200 000 dead, will backfire .....Haliburton cash check

    4. USA started war at Libya based on lies to the face of UN SC about no fly zone, based on old PNAC plan everyone knows
    Results: Al-Quaeda IN and got new base, 150 000 dead, civil war, will backfire .....Haliburton cash check

    5. USA startING war at Libya based on lies to the face of UN SC about Syria "uprizers",
    who is in reality Al-Quaeda mercenaries paid by USA itself through same Haliburton and Saudi Arabia and ISI, just like 40 years ago!
    + Al-Quaeda ADMITTED that (!!!)
    everything AGAIN based on old PNAC plan everyone knows
    PROBABLE Results: Al-Quaeda IN and got new base, million will be dead, civil war, will backfire .....Haliburton WILL cash check ?

    6. (6666?) USA startING war at Iran (based on lies to the face of UN SC ??? ),
    everything AGAIN based on old PNAC plan everyone knows
    PROBABLE Results: Al-Quaeda IN and got new base, some A-Bombs now in hands, millions dead, civil war, will backfire .....Haliburton WILL cash check ?

    February 13, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Reply
    • midwest

      Usawaraddict – did you notice all your statements are basically lies? When did the US support Al Queada? Had you said Osama Bin Laden and possibly the Taliban then you would be much closer to the truth. The US has never support the Al Queada network of terrorists. The war in Iraq was based on what everyone in the world believed and that is that Saddam had WMD and would use them on anyone. Saddam even mentioned that he wanted everyone to believe he still had them because he feared Iran would attack him if they knew he did not. Do a little research before you start spouting off your lies. One article does not make it fact!

      February 14, 2012 at 8:45 am | Reply
  29. Usawaraddict

    Intel started this long ago sending mercenaries from Saudi Arabia IN – according PNAC plan.
    Now they lie they just started.

    February 13, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Reply
  30. RillyKewl

    This is taking way too long. We need to stop this massive slaughter. Civilians are dying in the streets, by the hundreds, every day. It is unconscionable to allow this to go on unchecked. Are we going to continue to stand + watch?

    Either we find a way to convince Russia + China, or we find a way around them. No more stalling.

    February 13, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Reply
    • 28mAmerican

      Yeah luckily my gov isn't as gullible as the masses. They clearly understand all is not as it seems. It is only a matter of time before they have what they need to prove what is happening and have an effective way to combat it. Military action is not an option. Arming them is not an option. The best bet is probably to find some where to put the civilians who arent being violent and then to support assad to remedy the jihadist who are now flocking to a country they dont belong in. Probably the way to do this is to talk to assad help him clean the jihadist out in exchange for him making serious efforts to promote elections once the country is back to being filled with syrians and not the jihadist who are currently poised to take it over just like egypt.

      February 13, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Reply
  31. 28mAmerican

    Here is how this went down. Legit protest started. The jihadist went after the monitors left. All of the sudden babies get sent by their parents into the riots. A few pictures of dead kids attempted to get us to arm them. Overwhelmingly there was no support because people saw the same tactics that jihadist used in iraq and abroad. Also the stuff in egypt made it clear that the peaceful protesters are not the ones running egypt. It fell to the ones who are making violence in syria. Once it was clear that we did not buy into the dead baby routine Alquida openly called jihadist to goto syria and over throw the government. They had already covertly sent in enough to organize the martyr's for media thing. But now they are publicly calling in the ones they could not quietly tell to go in. The people we want to support have "escaped" its all over the news. The people there now are the ones called in to jihad.
    The same thing is happening in greece they use the legit causes for protest to generate chaos on the streets and then send in a few guys to start fires and make violence . Then the police react as would any countries forces. The people get angry and more chaos ensues allowing the country to be burned to the ground and no one is held accountable. If we let our emotion run us we are going to enable greece , the symbol of democracy and freedom to be sacked and burned. This will be a huge symbolic win for the jihadist.
    We need to calm down and accept that the tactics they use are martyring children. Nothing we can do will change that. But getting involved at all is going to backfire no matter what. If any thing we should be finding safe places for non violent syrians to go to be safe. Then we should help assad stop the ones making a protest turn to hordes of people being slaughtered.
    This is even happening in the us. OCW is a peaceful protest and even it was nearly railroaded to turn violent. It is fundamentally flawed so our government cannot make it happy. It cannot meet demands when there are none stated. This is 100 % set up. The only way to defeat it is not to protest and stay at home so the people who are flooding into the areas that are not even citizens can be rounded up and dealt with. Once the jihadist openly called for soldiers to flock to syria it explains the child martyrs and all the tactics that have been used, like using defected soldiers uniforms to stage videos. We need to find a functional way to defeat the jihadist and also work to free people that are really being repressed. This will come to the US and we need to find an effective way to win these propaganda wars or we are going to lose. As bad as assad is It is becoming clear that jihadist are involved. We know their tactics and should be able to easily see what is happening. Stop the chaos and they wont be able to cover their actions . They can't just go around killing people and torching cities unless the people from that country are running the diversion.

    February 13, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Reply
  32. powderPUFF


    February 13, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Reply
  33. drod

    nuke tha b*@$?¥…s take over their coutry and be happy

    February 13, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Reply
  34. george

    The US should send Obama to Syria as an undercover suicide bomber.

    February 13, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Reply
  35. GO ASSAD

    Look how the US is meddling in the affairs of a soverign countries. What right do they have?

    February 13, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Reply
    • Lord Haw-Haw

      When you have an Empire, you do as you damn well please.

      February 14, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Reply
  36. Spaceman Spiff

    They should just contract it out to Anonymous. They'd have more intel than they could shake a stick at in no time.

    February 13, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Reply
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  37. dreamer96

    Al-Qaeda better not mess with Russia or China...they are not nice to captured terrorist that attack their people like the U.S. is...They would thrown them in the ocean alive, after bring around many hunger sharks...

    Latest intelligence collections methods are being used...ah yes dropping by parachute highly trained desert tortoises, and desert Hares into Syria...These super animal soldier spies like the Attack Squirrels and secret squadron of flying cows are highly trained, special attack, and surveillance teams, and have micro chips embedded in their brains to make them smarter than the average desert tortoise or hare.. These elite super spies pass undetected through enemy lines and secretly collect video, and radio, and cell phone information, and plant tracking devices... and then relay they information back by satellite...

    February 13, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Reply
    • dreamer96

      This really is nothing to kid about..humor sometime is used to mask the inter pain and disgust..when one is powerless to stop it..This is not accidental killing of women and children...these are not all terrorist,....and the photos and phone calls as it is happening, show there is no way,..that what this is happening in Syria can be justified as accidental killings...collect the phone calls and satellite images, and use them against Al-Assad in international court..

      February 13, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Reply
  38. HxC19D

    they don't just see the crack, they can see the weeds growing out of it too..

    February 13, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Reply
  39. Marvel

    Here is some intel...the US is creator of the intelligence data and all "reports" coming out of Syria. So don't waste the money. For once the right hand needs to know what the left hand is doing.

    February 13, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Reply
    • madcow11


      February 13, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Reply
  40. Oh Yeah

    The SYRIAN issue interlocks with the IRANIAN issue.......and a nuclear, unstable Iran is a very serious issue, particularly to US allies & interests. Syria also supplies the Russians with their only Mediterranean naval base. Progress in SYRIA will blunt Iranian influence in the Gulf thus helping to keep Americans, and others, safe. The Syrian people are bravely fighting their own army in a desperate battle for basic freedoms. They will probably hate us later, but helping them now seems the right thing to do. Then DO IT, get it over and get to work on job creation here at home.

    February 13, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Reply
    • Lee

      Yep, let's get involved in yet another war that is none of our business. If we were truely concerned about saving lives we would have been militarily involved in the Sudan months ago, but then again Sudan where hundreds of thousands have died. Nope, can't do that. Israel deems Syria to be a threat so we have to take care of that instead. In the case of Iran, there has been no proof at all that they are trying to get nuclear weapons and even if they are I certainly wouldn't blame them. It seems having WMD's is the only thing that stops the U.S. from invading countries it doesn't like. As far as starting a nuclear arms race in the region, Israel has already done that. When we do the same things to Israel that we're doing to Iran because of the nuclear weapons, then and only then will I believe a single word our government says about Iran.

      February 13, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Reply
      • citizenmn

        "No proof Iran is working on a nuclear program"? Very funny. You must be an Islamic regime troll trying to deny the obvious.

        February 13, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  41. jackii

    remember the hubble telescope? seeing to the ends of the universe? easy enought to turn it to look at any point on the planet the stupendous resolution.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Reply
    • CJA

      Yes and no. If you turn something like that downward it has to look through miles of atmospheric haze. In fact that is the reason Hubble is in orbit and not on the ground, so it does not need to look through all that air.

      February 13, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Reply
  42. US

    Good, good guys – seat tight, gather intelligence, study it, and don't stick your noses into other country's business. Create jobs for American citizens. Otherwise, 30 American citizens will be killed by poverty daily.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Reply
    • Diana

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      April 7, 2012 at 1:50 am | Reply
  43. spawn

    Why doesnt the US govt put some "intelligence" at creating jobs and cutting federal spending huh? This is just a huge distraction for America's domestic issues.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Reply
    • Jon

      Please. Like that's going to happen with Congress gridlocked.

      February 13, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Reply
    • mikey

      External threats and wars have been used by rulers since ancient times as effective methods of distracting the public from actual conditions at home.

      February 13, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Reply
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      April 6, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Reply
  44. joe joe

    30 ppl dead is not an onslaught. 30 US troops can be killed and there is no coverage but this headline news? WAKE UP

    February 13, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Reply
    • BORIS

      When 30 US troops die in combat in a single event, it is a very big deal.

      February 13, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Reply
    • Truth Hurts

      Where do people get this trash? 30 US troops killed is more than a big deal. When almost that many died in a Helicopter downing in Afghanistan it was covered by every news outlet in the US. Just because you missed it doesn't mean it didn't happen. And just because you think something so ill informed, doesn't make it the truth.

      February 13, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Reply
  45. mipolitic

    a little hint , social media or call putin

    February 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Reply

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