Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham is quoted by NBC News on whether drones would be useful in locating the more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by the terrorist organization Boko Haram:

“Drones might be marginally helpful, but what we really need first in recovering these girls – and in fighting a group like Boko Haram – is good intelligence,” said J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council.

Describing the search for the girls as “looking for needles in a haystack,” he said human intelligence and communications, or signals, intelligence – are both crucial.

“This is a puzzle,” he said. “It’s going to be cracked primarily with human intelligence. And that takes time.”


“Irrespective of what one thinks of NSA surveillance, there is a certain value in being able to collect that kind of data an analyze it,” Pham said. “But you can’t collect or analyze if you shut down the whole system.”


“It’s one thing if you have Toyota trucks full of armed guys creating a wave of dust across the Sahara,” said Pham. “It’s a whole other thing when they’re hidden in the population.”

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