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Hezbollah highly skilled at infiltrating technology

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

Security experts say it's no surprise that a group linked to Hezbollah cloned the cellphones of Ted Rogers and other high-level Rogers executives.

The Iranian-backed radical Shia group based in Lebanon -- regarded by many as even more sophisticated than al-Qaeda -- has sharpened its counterintelligence expertise over the years by keeping a step ahead of Mossad, Israel's secret service. Hezbollah, whose name means Party of God, has become ever more adept at intercepting electronic surveillance, penetrating cellphone networks and recruiting computer science technicians.

"Hezbollah has a long history of underworld wrestling, matching wits with Israeli intelligence agents," said Wesley Wark, an intelligence expert at the University of Toronto. "Hezbollah has become technologically more sophisticated to avoid detection. It's an ironic spinoff of having Western agencies monitor their communications."

Cindy Hopper, a manager at Rogers security department, told a Toronto fraud conference in September, 2005, that a group linked to Hezbollah not only cloned Mr. Rogers' cellphone, but search warrants revealed the group was also making phony passports, credit cards and other false documents. She discovered the individuals were taking their scanners to Rogers' north building, where the senior executives worked, knowing that nobody would want to cut off the cellphones of Mr. Rogers or those directly reporting to him. The impostors would call Iran, Lebanon, Kuwait and Syria on the cloned phones.

Martin Rudner, head of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Carleton University, said Hezbollah's terrorist arm raises funds in Canada, and has also been involved in the stealing of cars that are shipped to southern Lebanon.

"Hezbollah successfully recruits computer scientists and is very effective in telecommunications and in encrypting their messages in order to defeat national security agents in Canada and the U.S.," he said.

In December, 2002, Hezbollah, whose goal is to establish a radical Shia theocracy in Lebanon and to destroy Israel, was declared a terrorist organization in Canada.

A recent high-profile case involving cigarette smugglers based in North Carolina revealed a Hezbollah cell had penetrated Vancouver three years earlier.

In their book, Lightning out of Lebanon, authors Tom Diaz and Barbara Newman describe the 1999 case. They note that CSIS began tracking a group of Hezbollah agents in Vancouver. They were buying high-tech equipment, using money sent to them from Hezbollah in Lebanon and from a cigarette-smuggling ring in North Carolina.

Mr. Diaz and Ms. Newman note that Hezbollah in Canada is also known to recruit operatives.

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