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Title: Killing Pablo
LCpl Ejiro J. Owhoka
Author: Mark Bowden
Publisher: Penguin Books
Number of Pages: 272 (296 to include Sources and Index)
Book Cover: Attached
This book covers the hunt for Pablo Escobar and some Signals Intelligence operations.
My opinion of this book is that all Intelligence Marines should read this book. It should be read keeping in mind the assets and equipment used then and used now to accomplish that mission and missions today. The book accurately portrays how Signals Intelligence in generally conducted and what our limitations were back then during the search.
INTRODUCTION: At the beginning of ITC, my class was tasked with reading and composing a book report on “Killing Pablo,” by Mark Bowden. After reading this book it has dawned on me that there was far more knowledge in the book than I first expected. I initially thought this assignment was just another way for the cadre to grade our proficiencies, but in fact it was a way for us to learn outside of the classroom (bay). It both taught me about how useful SigInt truly is and confirmed the things that I was taught throughout ITC.
BODY: In the book “Killing Pablo” we learn that catching Pablo was no small feat. Pablo Escobar was a master at evading the authorities, and this was because of the way his entire empire was set up. He routinely moved from location to location and only communicated with his Secarios when he needed to. “Killing Pablo” taught me that Signals Intelligence is skill set that has changed the battlefield in more ways than one.
Some Signals Intelligence skills that were employed in this book were Direction Finding, Fixes, Cuts, and Line of Bearing. These skills were essential to narrowing down the area in which key members of the Medellin Cartel were hiding, such as the Secarios and Pablo himself. The intelligence agents in the SigInt van also employed things we learned about site set ups. They routinely parked the van on high ground as well as used baselines to get their cuts and fixes.
In one case, through the use of Signal Intelligence, agents were able to close in on what was presumed to be a safe house for Pablo Escobar, but after clearing the building the Signal Intelligence analyst concluded that the radio signal they were collecting on was in fact being reflected by a stream nearby the house. It may have taken some time, but after days and weeks going by the trail warmed back up and agents were able to again use Pablo’s radio signal to narrow down his location to one city block. After narrowing down his location, agents visually confirmed his presence and were able to call in the task force to their position. After trapping Pablo, officials engaged the target in a firefight before killing him and his remaining Secario.
Some noticeable mistakes the teams hunting Pablo made was: note accounting for electromagnetic interference (EMI), poor sight selection, chasing the signal, and not using a proper baseline in some cases. To be a more effective team, the agents should have gathered a series of lines of bearing (LOBs) to get a fix, or at least a cut, before calling in for the task force. The SigInt teams involved in the hunt could have also collected on the handset of Mrs. Escobar to gather even more information on the movements of everyone she was in contact with.
CONCLUSION: After reading this novel, I can definitely say that this book was a great read. It was insightful and action packed. Mark Bowden did a great job of meshing action, adventure, and facts all together in one. This effectively informed the reader on historical events and stimulated them on more than just an intellectual level. I would most definitely recommend to this book to other marines, if fact I already did.