Referred to by her spy masters only as “Mrs. Galt,” she is by day an unremarkable American housewife and mother. But after her two children go to bed, she plunges into a secret world of Internet chat rooms and Web sites populated by some of the most dangerous people on earth.
Burrowing into the byzantine network of unpublicized Web sites used by al Qaeda and other terror groups for their routine communications, she sweet-talks her interlocutors into revealing their plans, often with fatal consequences for the terrorists.
They have no idea that their supportive new “sister” is a terrorist hunter reporting every word they say to a variety of intelligence agencies.
She is so trusted by her unsuspecting targets that they often send her pictures of themselves displaying heavy machine guns and other weapons. She has even been sent pictures of men proudly displaying severed human heads.
Her most recent venture — penetrating al Qaeda-affiliated groups in Pakistan — is said to have resulted in the death and detention of several terrorists. Others are still at large, making it necessary to keep her real name and hometown secret.
The results of her latest exploits, including transcripts of her chats with suspects, have been placed on a Web site for all to see at www.pakistan-army-isi.com. Despite the name, the site has no connection to the Pakistani army or ISI, the country’s intelligence service.
“I would have loved to have seen [the terrorists] faces when they saw the messages on the Web,” Mrs. Galt, 42, said in an interview conducted by e-mail.
“All I can do is hope that some of the terrorists I talked to get picked up. After all, they are not terrorists until a court says they are.”
Mrs. Galt is an example of a new breed of cyber-spy — ordinary citizens who want to “do their bit” by putting their computer skills to use fighting terrorism.
She reports to London-based private intelligence consultant Glen Jenvey, who makes his research available to government services, including the FBI and the military intelligence agencies of Russia and India.
“She has brought us first-rate military counterintelligence, and the people at the top respect her very much,” said her British handler, one of a loosely organized group of counterintelligence researchers who specialize in using the Internet to infiltrate militant Islamic groups.
Armed with a crib sheet summarizing Islamic sayings and customs, Mrs. Galt plays the part of a “sister” wanting to support the men waging jihad. She ingratiates herself and offers to lend her expertise with computers to further the aims of the groups.
Jihad fighters on the front lines in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir, who often have not seen a woman for several months, seize on the chance to talk to a woman.
Mrs. Galt says she flirts with the men to play on their hopes and deflect any suspicions. Over a period of weeks and even months, she slowly teases out details of coming operations, locations of bases and movements of personnel.