[F]ull accountability [for covert operations] is often lacking and one of the chief culprits is use of ‘generic findings.’ The word ‘finding’ refers to the president’s formal approval of a covert action. The expectation in Congress is that a finding will be reported to lawmakers with a reasonably fulsome statement about the operation, so that the oversight committees can evaluate its appropriateness. With generic findings, however, specificity is abandoned, say, by providing authority ‘to fight global terrorism.’ For CIA operatives, this broad language could be interpreted to mean almost anything.
The Myths of America’s Shadow War
The branches are blurring. The military, CIA, State Department, and Drug Enforcement Agency are becoming a team that operates in secret at the behest of the President. (Before you cheer, stop and consider that come January the president may belong to the Bad Team.) The Pentagon now has its own ‘intelligence’ agency, while the State Department has its own office of proxy war making. U.S. Special Forces are active in 70 nations on any given day, on behalf of the President, without the authorization of Congress, and in the name of the uninformed people of the United States. The ‘special’ forces, operating under the acronyms SOCOM and JSOC, are no longer special for being smaller. They’re special for having the power to operate in greater secrecy and without the apparent limitation of any laws whatsoever.
Drowning on Wall Street and Ending World War II by David Swanson
› CIA seeks to expand drone fleet, officials say | The Washington Post
Anonymous officials, officially speaking on condition of anonymity at the request of anonymous senior White House sources, say that
the President’s never officially verified secret personal death squad the CIA may have officially requested (confirmed by anonymous sources with high-level knowledge of the official request) more drones for a possibly, but not definitely, existing assassination-by-drone campaign in the Middle East, Central Asia, and northern Africa:
The CIA is urging the White House to approve a significant expansion of the agency’s fleet of armed drones, a move that would extend the spy service’s decade-long transformation into a paramilitary force, U.S. officials said.
The proposal by CIA Director David H. Petraeus would bolster the agency’s ability to sustain its campaigns of lethal strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and enable it, if directed, to shift aircraft to emerging “al-Qaeda” threats in North Africa or other trouble spots, officials said.
If approved, the CIA could add as many as 10 drones, the officials said, to an inventory that has ranged between 30 and 35 over the past few years.
The outcome has broad implications for counterterrorism policy and whether the CIA gradually returns to being an organization focused mainly on gathering intelligence, or remains a central player in the targeted killing of “terrorism suspects” abroad.
In the past, officials from the Pentagon and other departments have raised concerns about the CIA’s expanding arsenal and involvement in lethal operations, but a senior Defense official said that the Pentagon had not opposed the agency’s current plan.
Scahill is very likely to be right, I think. In Obama’s next term we’ll be moving to what he dubbed a Clintonian ‘cruise missile liberalism’ where there will be few to no big deployments but an increase in these precision air wars in God knows how many countries.
The Obama Administration is arming and training 15,000 Africans from 5 different countries to fight a proxy war in Somalia. They are arming the army with surveillance drones, ammunition, small arms, armored personnel carriers, night-vision goggles, communications gear, medical equipment and other sophisticated aid and training, documents show.
On July 20th, Obama signed an Executive order banning charcoal import from Somalia. Days after the EO was issued, drones were spotted in Somalia.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has collected the comprehensive database of reported drone attacks in Somalia. The use of drones in Somalia the U.S. may have violated the 1992 United Nations Security Council arms embargo.
In a recently completed report, U.N. officials describe several narrowly averted disasters in which drones crashed into a refugee camp, flew dangerously close to a fuel dump and almost collided with a large passenger plane over Mogadishu, the capital.
The report, from the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia, noted that some of small drones were attached to African Union troops. However, the use of US Reapers or Predators in kill operations would ‘be operating in violation of the embargo’, according to the UN’s Matthew Bryden. As the Washington Post notes
The United Nations said it had documented 64 unauthorized flights of drones, fighter jets or attack helicopters in Somalia since June 2011. At least 10 of those flights involved drones, according to the report, which provided dates and locations but few other details. UN officials said they catalogued the flights from ‘confidential international agency security reports’ and press reports.’
They call it the New Spice Route, an homage to the medieval trade network that connected Europe, Africa, and Asia, even if today’s “spice road” has nothing to do with cinnamon, cloves, or silks. Instead, it’s a superpower’s superhighway, on which trucks and ships shuttle fuel, food, and military equipment through a growing maritime and ground transportation infrastructure to a network of supply depots, tiny camps, and airfields meant to service a fast-growing U.S. military presence in Africa.
Nick Turse, America’s Shadow Wars in Africa | TomDispatch (via nickturse)
First, an excerpt from a longer piece at TomDispatch.com by Nick Turse
Shedding Light on “the Dark Continent”
One locale likely to see an influx of Pentagon spies in the coming years is Africa. Under President Obama, operations on the continent have accelerated far beyondthe more limited interventions of the Bush years. Last year’s war in Libya; a regional drone campaign with missions run out of airports and bases in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of Seychelles; a flotilla of 30 ships in that ocean supporting regional operations; a multi-pronged military and CIA campaign against militants in Somalia, including intelligence operations, training for Somali agents, secret prisons, helicopter attacks, and U.S. commando raids; a massive influx of cash for counterterrorism operations across East Africa; a possible old-fashioned air war, carried out on the sly in the region using manned aircraft; tens of millions of dollars in arms for allied mercenaries and African troops; and a special ops expeditionary force (bolstered by State Department experts) dispatched to help capture or kill Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony and his senior commanders, operating in Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic (where U.S. Special Forces now have a new base) only begins to scratch the surface of Washington’s fast-expanding plans and activities in the region.
Even less well known are other U.S. military efforts designed to train African forces for operations now considered integral to American interests on the continent. These include, for example, a mission by elite Force Recon Marines from the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 12 (SPMAGTF-12) to train soldiers from the Uganda People’s Defense Force, which supplies the majority of troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia.
Earlier this year, Marines from SPMAGTF-12 also trained soldiers from the Burundi National Defense Force, the second-largest contingent in Somalia; sent trainers into Djibouti (where the U.S. already maintains a major Horn of Africa base at Camp Lemonier); and traveled to Liberia where they focused on teaching riot-control techniques to Liberia’s military as part of an otherwise State Department spearheaded effort to rebuild that force.
The U.S. is also conducting counterterrorism training and equipping militaries in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Niger, and Tunisia. In addition, U.S. Africa Command (Africom) has 14 major joint-training exercises planned for 2012, including operations in Morocco, Cameroon, Gabon, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Senegal, and what may become the Pakistan of Africa, Nigeria.
Even this, however, doesn’t encompass the full breadth of U.S. training and advising missions in Africa. To take an example not on Africom’s list, this spring the U.S. brought together 11 nations, including Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Liberia, Mauritania, and Sierra Leone to take part in a maritime training exercise code-named Saharan Express 2012.
Read the rest of the piece. It doesn’t stop with Africa as we all know.
Of course, this “pivot” will require further sacrifice from us, and the defense corporations are resorting to what amounts to extortion to ensure that the “sequestration” of the defense budget won’t happen. From Politico yesterday, Layoff threats put Congress on notice:
Facing economic uncertainty, defense contractors are plotting to spur Congress to nix the automatic budget cuts set to begin next year.
The plan? Threaten to send out layoff notices — hundreds of thousands of them, right before Election Day. Congress, industry leaders contend, has left them few options.
Federal law, they say, requires employers to give notice of 60 days to workers facing layoffs. … With the automatic cuts, called sequestration, set to begin taking effect on Jan. 2, the layoff notices would have to be sent out by Nov. 2 — four days before this fall’s elections.
"I’ve been told by some of our major employers that layoff notices are going to come before the election," said Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), a member of the Armed Services Committee and a vocal critic of the automatic cuts. “It’s dangerous and irresponsible for Congress to play with this.”
Yes. Musn’t make them angry. Africa needs us.
› The Golden Age of Special Operations | Andrew Bacevich
“Goodbye accountability. Autonomy and accountability exist in inverse proportion to one another. Indulge the former and kiss the latter goodbye.”
The displacement of conventional forces by special operations forces as the preferred U.S. military instrument — the “force of choice” according to the head of USSOCOM, Admiral William McRaven — marks the completion of a decades-long cultural repositioning of the American soldier. The G.I., once represented by the likes of cartoonist Bill Mauldin’s iconic Willie and Joe, is no more, his place taken by today’s elite warrior professional. Mauldin’s creations were heroes, but not superheroes. The nameless, lionized SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden are flesh-and blood Avengers. Willie and Joe were “us.” SEALs are anything but “us.” They occupy a pedestal well above mere mortals. Couch potato America stands in awe of their skill and bravery.
This cultural transformation has important political implications. It represents the ultimate manifestation of the abyss now separating the military and society. Nominally bemoaned by some, including former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, this civilian-military gap has only grown over the course of decades and is now widely accepted as the norm. As one consequence, the American people have forfeited owner’s rights over their army, having less control over the employment of U.S. forces than New Yorkers have over the management of the Knicks or Yankees.
Bacevich then asks:
In practice, the only thing the public knows about special ops activities is what the national security apparatus chooses to reveal. Can you rely on those who speak for that apparatus in Washington to tell the truth?
This question was tackled in the New York TImes this morning. tl;dr — The answer is No.
No, we can’t “rely on those who speak for that apparatus in Washington to tell the truth”.
Read the whole piece →
› A Secret War in 120 Countries | Nick Turse
A stunning, must read from the fantastic Nick Turse. Big ups for a great piece of investigative journalism.
In 120 countries across the globe, troops from Special Operations Command carry out their secret war of high-profile assassinations, low-level targeted killings, capture/kidnap operations, kick-down-the-door night raids, joint operations with foreign forces, and training missions with indigenous partners as part of a shadowy conflict unknown to most Americans. Once “special” for being small, lean, outsider outfits, today they are special for their power, access, influence, and aura.
[Black] operations like the bin Laden mission, with commandos conducting heliborne night raids, were now exceptionally common. A dozen or so are conducted every night, [Navy Admiral Eric Olson] said. Perhaps most illuminating, however, was an offhand remark about the size of SOCOM. Right now, he emphasized, U.S. Special Operations forces [are] approximately as large as Canada’s entire active duty military. In fact, the force is larger than the active duty militaries of many of the nations where America’s elite troops now operate each year, and it’s only set to grow larger.
Americans have yet to grapple with what it means to have a “special” force this large, this active, and this secret — and they are unlikely to begin to do so until more information is available. It just won’t be coming from Olson or his troops. “Our access [to foreign countries] depends on our ability to not talk about it,” he said in response to questions about SOCOM’s secrecy. When missions are subject to scrutiny like the bin Laden raid, he said, the elite troops object. The military’s secret military, said Olson, wants “to get back into the shadows and do what they came in to do.” [read more]
› How many secret wars are we fighting?
“U.S. special ops forces are being deployed in more and more nations — and the public has no idea.”
Last year, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post reported that U.S. Special Operations forces were deployed in 75 countries, up from 60 at the end of the Bush presidency. By the end of this year, U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me, that number will likely reach 120. “We do a lot of traveling — a lot more than Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said recently. This global presence — in about 60 percent of the world’s nations and far larger than previously acknowledged — provides striking new evidence of a rising clandestine Pentagon power elite waging a secret war in all corners of the world.