Monday, January 04, 2010

The Afghan bombing

At the Confluence, Bostonboomer has an excellent piece up on the suicide bombing in Afghanistan that killed seven CIA officers and a Jordanian intelligence officer. I haven't the time to write at the length I would prefer, but I did want to note the latest: The bomber was a Jordanian double-agent who had provided information about targets in Afghanistan.

Traditionally, double and triple agents have always raised questions: Who's he really working for? Which side holds his true loyalty?

In this case, we have a pretty damned clear idea.

What we don't know yet is who the primary target was: The CIA officers or the Jordanian, Captain Al Shareef Ali bin Zeid.

There has been some question as to the actual nature of the U.S. personnel. Many news articles and blog posts have freely used the initials "CIA," which often serves (in public discussion) as an all-purpose term for the American intelligence community. A few news stories have hinted that some of the victims worked for the private firm Blackwater, which was recently renamed Xe. One victim has been identified as an Army officer working for the State Department.

I suppose we should get used to the new terminology: The National Clandestine Service (NCS) has recently taken over the functions of the CIA's Directorate of Operations, and thus now handles all in-the-field HUMINT, or human intelligence gathering. The NCS now handles the Agency's special ops/paramilitary functions, which means that they are in charge of the elite Special Activities Division, or SAD.

I'm not making this up: The covert op guys you see in movie shoot-em-ups are actually SAD. You never hear that term used in movies, probably because Arnold Schwarzenegger would sound really stupid identifying himself as an agent of SAD.

These guys are also SOG, which stands for Special Operations Group. You'll sometimes see the term SAD/SOG. AH-nuld would sound really stupid saying that.

It gets yet more complex. The Defense Department maintains the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which controls the Special Missions Units (SMUs), which is the catch-all term for Delta Force, ISA and the SEALs, plus an undisclosed number of Task Forces and ultra-elite paramilitary units so secret that we aren't supposed to know their names -- even though we do pay for them. The JSOC folks often work in tandem with Blackwater/Xe mercenaries (who probably don't like being called mercenaries, even though that's what they are). The Blackwater folk are highly esteemed because Eric Prince hires "old hands" with lots of experience.

Legally, the JSOC is not allowed to conduct covert ops on their own initiative. That's supposed to be the job of the NCS. So the JSOC "coordinates" with the SAD/SOG folk. The SAD agents are usually recruited from the SMUs.

Is your head spinning yet? Mine is. The situation is deliberately complex. Complexity helps to stave off inquiries from Congress or snoopy members of the press.

The bottom line is simple: We mere mortals may never know just who employs these paramilitary guys and covert operators. When they are in the field, they are supposed to be completely deniable.

If a Blackwater operative gets into trouble, the CIA can tell Congress and the press: "Hey, don't blame us. A retired merc working for the private sector went off on his own and did something stupid." But in the end, we can be pretty certain those guys were getting orders from someone within the CIA-NCS hierarchy.

Blackwater, in a sense, serves a function comparable to that of Evergreen Aviation, a private firm closely tied to the CIA. Evergreen runs an air museum in McMinville, Oregon, where they keep the Spruce Goose. But the various Evergreen facilities also provide "civilian" aircraft which can be used for covert operations. If one of those planes goes down in a hot zone, the CIA can claim "Not one of ours. It's simply private enterprise at work."

Let's get back to the people who were recently killed in Afghanistan. We are told that they
collected intelligence on the militant commanders living on both sides of the border and helped run paramilitary campaigns that tired to kill those commanders, including the drone program that has killed a dozen senior al Qaeda with missiles fired from unpiloted aircraft.
JSOC and Blackwater/Xe personnel have been running the drone program. On this point, we have contradictory information: The head of Blackwater, Eric Prince, says that his personnel do pick targets for the drones, while JSOC has denied Blackwater's involvement.

Writing for the Nation, Jeremy Scahill developed sources who gave him some idea as to who was behind the drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This paragraph will either clear things up or make your head explode:
The military intelligence source says that the drone strike that reportedly killed Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, his wife and his bodyguards in Waziristan in August was a CIA strike, but that many others attributed in media reports to the CIA are actually JSOC strikes. "Some of these strikes are attributed to OGA [Other Government Agency, intelligence parlance for the CIA], but in reality it's JSOC and their parallel program of UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] because they also have access to UAVs. So when you see some of these hits, especially the ones with high civilian casualties, those are almost always JSOC strikes." The Pentagon has stated bluntly, "There are no US military strike operations being conducted in Pakistan."
Blurring the distinction between the military and the CIA is convenient. Life is easier when you get to blame your mistakes on someone else. The Pentagon can honestly state that there are no military strike operations in Pakistan because the operations are being run by the NCS. But the NCS are using military guys. So really, who is kidding whom?

The head of the NCS is a fellow named Michael Sulick, who served as the Deputy Director of Operations under Porter Goss for about a month in 2004. Then he quit the CIA for mysterious reasons. Sulick came back in 2007, after Goss had left. Obviously, the guy had a strong disagreement with Goss. (I wonder if he had problems with Dusty Foggo, of Cunningham scandal infamy?) There's a story there, one which we will probably learn one of these decades.

If you want to know more about the seven murdered officers, ask Sulick. Alas, I doubt that you'll get much out of him.

Added note: As long as we're talking about double agents, have you considered the possibility that the exploding underwear fellow might belong in this category? That scenario would explain a lot of things, including 1. the sightings of Farouk at his Dad's retirement party, 2. the mystery videographer, and 3. the well-dressed "handler" at the airport.

What it doesn't explain is the exploding underwear. Setting one's privates on fire seems a bit much to ask of any double agent.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for all this information. I knew you would know about all the different agencies. I've noted them all down for future reference.

I am really curious about this situation. I can't understand why the administration has released so much information about the victims. Now I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Presidents who cross the CIA don't usually win in the end.

-- BostonBoomer

Nibbles McGee said...

Re: Undiebomber's new name here--I think 2Truthy came up with the best suggestion so far:

"Burning Pantsman."


Zach said...

Thank you, Michael Westen :D

MrMike said...

The guy wasn't searched because he was deemed to be in our pocket?
Were do we get these people?
We turned this guy so what is to prevent some one else from doing the same. I don't care how many letters of the alphabet the government uses up with these agencies they are still FUBARed.
Seems like things haven't changed since that riot scene welcoming Marlon Brando in the Ugly American.

Anonymous said...

I love your artwork mr cannon.


Joseph Cannon said...

It's not mine.

Anonymous said...

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.