Special Operations


Materials arranged chronologically.

Dozier, Kimberly. "US Officials: White House Picks Special-Ops Chief." Associated Press, 3 Jan. 2011. []

"The top Pentagon job overseeing the secret special operations war on terrorist groups has been offered to former U.S. counterterrorism ambassador Michael Sheehan, according to two senior U.S. officials.... The post, currently held by CIA veteran Michael Vickers, comes with the cumbersome title of assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict & interdependent capabilities.... Vickers is running the office while awaiting his own confirmation hearing for the Pentagon's top intelligence job, his spokesman said." [Michael G. Vickers was confirmed as Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USDI) by the Senate on 17 March 2011. See]

Ambinder, Marc. "The Secret Team That Killed bin Laden." National Journal, 2 May 2011. []

The Navy SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden on 1 May 2011 belong to "SEAL Team Six, officially called the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, but known even to the locals at their home base Dam Neck in Virginia as just DevGru." DevGru is part of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). The "operation provides strong evidence that the CIA and JSOC work well together." JSOC's "size has tripled since 9/11. The command now includes more than 4,000 soldiers and civilians. It has its own intelligence division,...and has gobbled up a number of free-floating Defense Department entities that allowed it to rapidly acquire, test, and field new technologies."

Whitlock, Craig. "Adm. William McRaven: The Terrorist Hunter on Whose Shoulders Osama bin Laden Raid Rested." Washington Post, 4 May 2011. []

"As U.S. helicopters secretly entered Pakistani airspace [on 1 May 2011], the Joint Operations Center at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan was under the control" of Vice Adm. William H. McRaven. A former SEAL, McRaven "had tapped a special unit of Navy SEALs for the mission two months earlier" and "overseen weeks of intensive training for a covert operation.... In March, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he was recommending McRaven for promotion to four-star admiral and leader of the U.S. Special Operations Command."

Dozier, Kimberly, and Robert Burns. "Bin Laden Raid Shows Blur Between Military and Intelligence: Who's a Soldier, Who's a Spy?" Associated Press, 5 May 2011. []

"Navy SEALs carried out what those involved call a textbook military operation that killed ... Osama bin Laden. Yet the man in charge was CIA Director Leon Panetta.... That speaks volumes about the government's rarely noticed post-9/11 melding of military might with intelligence craft.... In the bin Laden mission, the chain of command extended from [President] Obama to Panetta to Navy Adm. William H. McRaven," commander of the military's Joint Special Operations Command. "The military is capable of leading a counterterror operation like the bin Laden raid, but putting the CIA in charge avoided potential controversy over legal questions."

Priest, Dana, and William M. Arkin. "'Top Secret America': A Look at the Military's Joint Special Operations Command." Washington Post, 2 Sep. 2011. []

JSOC "has grown ... into America's secret army.... This article, adapted from a chapter of the newly released 'Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State,' ... chronicles JSOC's spectacular rise... Two presidents and three secretaries of defense routinely have asked JSOC to mount intelligence-gathering missions and lethal raids, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in countries with which the United States was not at war, including Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, the Philippines, Nigeria and Syria.... The president has also given JSOC the rare authority to select individuals for its kill list -- and then to kill, rather than capture, them."

CNN. "Drone Strike Kills U.S.-Born al Qaeda Cleric al-Awlaki, U.S. Officials Say." 30 Sep. 2011. []

According to U.S. and Yemeni government officials, "Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki -- an American ... [who was] one of the top terrorist recruiters in the world -- was killed [on 30 September 2011] in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen." A U.S. official said that "the U.S. military helped target al-Awlaki.... The strike also killed American Samir Khan and two others who were in the same vehicle as al-Awlaki, said another U.S. official, who was briefed by the CIA. Khan specialized in computer programming for al Qaeda and produced the terrorist network's English-language online magazine, Inspire."

See also, Mark Mazzetti, Eric Schmitt, and Robert F. Worth, "Two-Year Manhunt Led to Killing of Awlaki in Yemen," New York Times, 30 Sep. 2011.

Finn, Peter. "Secret U.S. Memo Sanctioned Killing of Aulaqi." Washington Post, 30 Sep. 2011. []

According to administration officials, "[t]he Justice Department wrote a secret memorandum authorizing the lethal targeting of Anwar al-Aulaqi, the American-born radical cleric who was killed by a U.S. drone strike" on 30 September 2011. " The decision to place Aulaqi on a capture or kill list was made in early 2010, after intelligence officials concluded that he played a direct role in the plot to blow up a jet over Detroit and had become an operational figure within al-Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen." See also, Scott Shane, "Judging a Long, Deadly Reach," New York Times, 30 Sep. 2011.

Miller, Greg. "Strike on Aulaqi Demonstrates Collaboration between CIA and Military." Washington Post, 30 Sep. 2011. []

On 30 September 2011, "armed drones from the CIA and the military's Joint Special Operations Command converged above Anwar al-Aulaqi's position in northern Yemen ... and unleashed a flurry of missiles. US officials said the CIA was in control of all the aircraft, as well as the decisions to fire.... The military aircraft came across the Gulf of Aden from Djibouti, which has been the primary base for JSOC drones patrolling Yemen for much of the past year. U.S. officials said that CIA drones involved in the strike took off from an agency base in the Arabian peninsula so new that it had become operational only in recent weeks."

Reuters. "The Rise of Secret Warfare." U.S. News & World Report, 18 Oct. 2011. []

Adm William McRaven, U.S. special forces head, "argues that his shadowy, secretive warriors are increasingly central to how America and its allies fight." Since 9/11, "U.S. Special Operations Command personnel numbers have doubled, its budget tripled and deployments quadrupled." The appeal of special operations "tactics is clear. Military operations are far more politically palatable if you keep dead bodies off TV screens.... In an era of budget cuts, they are also cheap ... compared with the cost of maintaining and deploying a large conventional military force." According to McRaven, "his 58,000 operatives cost a mere 1.6 percent of the Pentagon's predicted 2012 budget."

Naylor, Sean D. "The Secret War." Series in Army Times []

1. "How U.S. Hunted AQ in Africa: Clandestine SEAL Mission Planted Cameras, but Little Came Out of the Images." 30 Oct. 2011.

2. "Lack of Human Intel Hampered AQ Hunt in Africa." 8 Nov. 2011.

3. "Clandestine Somalia Missions Yield AQ Targets." 14 Nov. 2011.

4. "Years of Detective Work Led to al-Qaida Target: Often-Frustrating Search for Harun Fazul Combined High-tech Gear, Low Tech Human Intelligence and Courage." 21 Nov. 2011.

5. "Tense Ties Plagued Africa Ops." 28 Nov. 2011.

6. "Africa Ops May Be Just Starting." 5 Dec. 2011.

Pfarrer, Chuck. SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama bin Laden. New York: St. Martin's, 2011.

Dozier, Associated Press, 15 Nov. 2011, reports that the "U.S. Special Operations Command [SOCOM] is calling" this book "bogus.... 'It's just not true,' [SOCOM] spokesman Col. Tim Nye said. 'It's not how it happened.'" Nye was "issuing an on-the-record denial on behalf of Navy SEAL [and SOCOM commander] Adm. Bill McRaven," who "oversaw the raid in May as head of the ... the Joint Special Operations Command." Clark comment: As far as I am aware, it is unprecedented for DoD to refer to a published work as a "fabrication," as Nye has done here.

Miller, Greg. "Under Obama, an Emerging Global Apparatus for Drone Killing." Washington Post, 28 Dec. 2011. []

The Obama "administration has built an extensive apparatus for using drones to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists and stealth surveillance of other adversaries. The apparatus involves dozens of secret facilities, including two operational hubs on the East Coast, virtual Air Force cockpits in the Southwest and clandestine bases in at least six countries on two continents....

"The rapid expansion of the drone program has blurred long-standing boundaries between the CIA and the military. Lethal operations are increasingly assembled a la carte, piecing together personnel and equipment in ways that allow the White House to toggle between separate legal authorities that govern the use of lethal force.... The convergence of military and intelligence resources has created blind spots in congressional oversight. Intelligence committees are briefed on CIA operations, and JSOC reports to armed services panels. As a result, no committee has a complete, unobstructed view."

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