"I am a spy and I took part in four attacks," said Sidinkay, a young tribesman who said he was paid $350 to help direct CIA drones to their targets in Pakistan's tribal belt. Sweat glistened on his forehead; he rocked nervously as he spoke. "Stay away from the Americans," he said in an imploring voice.
Al Qaeda and the Taliban have few defenses against the American drones that endlessly prowl the skies over the bustling militant hubs of North and South Waziristan in northwestern Pakistan, along the Afghan border. CIA missiles killed at least 246 people in 2012, most of them Islamist militants, according to watchdog groups that monitor the strikes.
The dead included Abu Yahya al-Libi, the Qaeda ideologue and deputy leader. Despite the technological superiority of their enemy, however, the militants do possess one powerful countermeasure.
For several years now, militant enforcers have scoured the tribal belt in search of informers who help the CIA find and kill the spy agency's jihadist quarry.
The militants' technique - often more witch hunt than investigation - follows a well-established pattern.