Thursday, June 19, 2003

In an underground organization, such as the Ba'ath Party has become, the key information that fugitive must know at all times is whether his cell contacts are still secure. If they have been captured, turned, or followed, he must quit his abode instantly. Those with experience in these matters will immediately recognize the practical problems of life on the run.

First, the fugitive must make a clean sweep of his place of departure before leaving. All papers with telephone numbers, names, meetings and the like must be taken with him. This is surprisingly hard. Invariably some scrap is left behind. Which is why long-term fugitives, even those with money, soon acquire the aspect of hobos. They tend to keep nothing more than the clothes they can jump out the window in.

Second, he must maintain contact with the cell above and below him, otherwise he will snap the link -- or worse -- be suspected of turning coat himself. The problem of where to run when you suspect that some of your cell contacts have been broken is an exquisitely difficult one. The standard practice of running to a fallback safehouse or contact is exceedingly frightening, because one has no way of telling whether that link has been compromised too. Inevitably, there is the temptation to hole up with someone you personally trust, someone outside the organization. It is a kind of return to the womb. 'There,' you say, 'I'll lie low for a while, then cautiously regain contact after checking things out.' This is the beginning of the end and any professional operator knows it.

Third, he must keep himself in funds. This is no easy task when you have to operate without bank accounts, ATM machines, checks or credit cards. Money is what you can put in your pocket or a small bag. And that runs out.

For the hunter, the most important thing to maintain when operating against a clandestine network  is tempo. Tempo breaks up the cells, sends their members scurrying, flushes them out into the open, makes them take desperate chances to obtain money or lodging. Tempo, tempo and tempo.

The Belmont Club believes the inner wall of Ba'athist security has been breached; that Saddam, if he is still alive, will soon fall. The attacks on individual US soldiers  are an attempt to force CENTCOM onto the defensive. But even killing a soldier a day for ten years will not be enough. That many died on a single morning on September 11, 2001. Saddam and all the Islamists who participated in the attack of that morning should know: we're coming to get you.