Friday, March 09, 2012

SOF under CIA authority?

As Duckworth explained down below and we discussed in class on Wednesday, SOF has become a major part of US military operations. The AP reported this past week that according to sources, top Department of Defense officials were considering a plan in which special operators would be placed under CIA command in Afghanistan following the US's 2014 exit. In the original story a Pentagon spokesman denied that this was under consideration. In a follow-up story, the head of SOCOM Admiral William McRaven also stated that no such plans were in the works.

Of course, manipulating the status of special operators is not unheard of. The bin Laden kill team was placed under the control of Leon Panetta and the CIA on the night of the raid due to the restriction on US military in Pakistan and CIA operators themselves were on the ground acting as spotters for the SEALs and Night Stalker pilots. The intelligence community and SOF have increasingly worked together to hunt down al-Qaeda members.

If these are the plans, and it seems plausible considering the widening use of SOF in the War on Terror, McRaven and the Pentagon certainly would not be frank about it. The US would essentially be turning its uniformed military into spies. This could have complicated legal ramifications since uniformed soldiers are protected under the Geneva Convention while the CIA is not. Also, the military and the CIA operate under different titles of the US code, so there would be legal gray area about what SOF under CIA authority would be required to report to Congress.

As the US continues forward in its global hunt for terrorists, expect the wall separating the activities of SF commandos, CIA operatives, and paramilitary contractors to become thinner and thinner.

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