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Ex-CIA tracker now targeting poachers with Project Grey Goose

May 16, 2012|By Ken Dilanian
  • Former CIA terrorist tracker Nada Bakos is now working to combat animal poaching with Project Grey Goose.
Former CIA terrorist tracker Nada Bakos is now working to combat animal… (Los Angeles Times )

WASHINGTON -- When Nada Bakos was a targeting analyst for the CIA, she spent four years piecing together bits of information in the hunt for one of the world’s most lethal terrorists.

Bakos, who retired from the CIA in 2008, now is teaming up with a cyber-security expert in a volunteer effort to use the Web to go after animal poachers.

Jeffrey Carr -- whose firm, Taia Global, consults with major corporations and government agencies -- became well-known in intelligence circles when he helped produce a 2008 report about Russian cyber attacks that coincided with Russia’s invasion of Georgia. Carr’s effort, dubbed Project Grey Goose, brought together as many as 100 volunteers, including U.S. intelligence officers working on their own time. The group studied publicly-available data in an effort to uncover how the Russia attacks worked and who was behind them.

Now Carr and Bakos want to use the same approach against animal poachers. 

“We’re going to look at online forums and identify the more active groups that use this for monetary gain,” Bakos said. “We’re going to look at what are their tactics, how do they move the goods, how do they accept payment.”

From 2002 to 2006, during her CIA tenure, Bakos helped track Abu Musab al Zarqawi, leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. U.S. special operations forces killed Zarqawi in June 2006, shortly after Bakos left for another job.

Bakos spent a few years working for Starbucks in Seattle, and now is a private consultant. But she misses the hunt. And the Montana native has long been concerned about the killing of endangered animals.

So far, the anti-poaching project has attracted 15 volunteers, Carr said. They will scour online sites and other information sources to identify players in the trade. If the past is any guide, they will first come across aliases and use other databases and websites to connect those aliases with real names. They’ll turn over what the find to the FBI or other authorities, they said.

Poaching is a global problem against which law enforcement agencies are ill-equipped and underfunded, Carr said.

For example, despite a decades-long ban on international trade in ivory, poaching of African elephants for their tusks has hardly abated. Last year a record amount of illegal ivory was seized around the world, according to TRAFFIC, a group that monitors the ivory trade. The group counted seizures of more than 23 tons, a figure it says probably represents about 2,500 elephants.

ken.dilanian@latimes.com

Original source: Ex-CIA tracker now targeting poachers with Project Grey Goose

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