directs our attention to some rather ominous developments
The U.S. military command in charge of protecting the homeland asked the Pentagon earlier this year for a contingent of special operations officers to help with domestic anti-terrorism missions.
Military sources told The Examiner that U.S. Northern Command, established at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado in 2002, requested its own special operations command similar to ones assigned to overseas war-fighting commands, such as U.S. Central Command.
Keating's request to the Pentagon raised some eyebrows because of the sensitivity of deploying commandos domestically. Under U.S. Special Operations Command, covert warriors are playing a key role in fighting terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere overseas.
"Sensitivity" hardly covers the issue. I don't mind seeing commandos operating on U.S. soil if we are talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger up on screen where he belongs. At all other times, I'd like to know who is in charge, who is doing what, and why they are doing it.
More from William Arkin
The establishment of a domestic special operations mission, and the preparation of contingency plans to employ commandos in the United States, would upend decades of tradition. Military actions within the United States are the responsibility of state militias (the National Guard), and federal law enforcement is a function of the FBI.
Employing special operations for domestic missions sounds very ominous, and NORTHCOM's request earlier this year should receive the closest possible Pentagon and congressional scrutiny. There's only one problem: NORTHCOM is already doing what it has requested permission to do.
When NORTHCOM was established after 9/11 to be the military counterpart to the Department of Homeland Security, within its headquarters staff it established a Compartmented Planning and Operations Cell (CPOC) responsible for planning and directing a set of "compartmented" and "sensitive" operations on U.S., Canadian and Mexican soil. In other words, these are the very special operations that NORTHCOM is now formally asking the Pentagon to beef up into a public and acknowledged sub-command.
Okay. So just what are these sensitive operations on North American soil? Or don't we have a right to know?
According to NORTHCOM documents, CPOC is involved in planning for a number of domestic missions, including:
-- Non-conventional assisted recovery
-- Integrated survey programs
-- Information operations/"special technical operations"
-- "Special activities"
"Special activities" sounds like a catch-all phrase for covert mayhem. "Information operations" -- hmm. Are we talking about information collection
or attempts to pollute the data stream through hacking, disinformation, communications disruption or what-have-you? (I'm reminded of the cell phone harassment discussed in a recent post.) "Integrated survey prgrams" sounds a bit like code word for spying and infiltration. "Assisted recovery" of what
CPOC's basic missions include responding to incidents of weapons of mass destruction, support for continuity of government, protection of the president, response to domestic terrorism and insurrection and (presumably) domestic intelligence collection.
We're all for the interception of WMDs, of course. If that is what these guys are doing, then God speed and more power to 'em.
But why weren't the traditional forces sufficient? Why do we need special ops? Why did these guys ask for permission after
the fact? Who provides oversight? To whom do these forces answer?
Who watches the watchmen?