Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Secret Army of the United States

The authors of the United States Constitution were very aware of the mischief that kings had made through history with the power to wage war, so in their blueprint for a republic they specifically gave that power to the Congress, to ensure that wars would only be undertaken with the knowledge and consent of the people.

9/11 was the excuse for a lot of trampling of our constitution, and this delegation of war powers to Congress is one of the casualties.

Just recently I found myself wondering, "how many countries is the United States currently bombing? Two Washington Post journalists, Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, have just published a new book, entitled "Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State," which details the rise of a new secret U.S. army. 

An excerpt appeared in today's Washington Post, and it is filled with some scary information:
The U.S. military's Joint Special Operations Command, known by the acronym JSOC...takes its orders directly from the president of the secretary of defense and is managed and overseen by a military-only chain of command. 
Under President George W. Bush, JSOC’s operations were rarely briefed to Congress in advance — and usually not afterward, either — because government lawyers considered them to be “traditional military activities” not requiring such notification. President Obama has taken the same legal view, but he has insisted that JSOC’s sensitive missions be briefed to select congressional leaders.
On Sept. 16, 2003, Rumsfeld signed an executive order cementing JSOC as the center of the counterterrorism universe. It listed 15 countries and the activities permitted under various scenarios, and it gave the preapprovals required to carry them out.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, lethal action against al-Qaeda was granted without additional approval. In the other countries — among them Algeria, Iran, Malaysia, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia and Syria — JSOC forces needed the tacit approval from the country involved or at least a sign-off from higher up on the American chain of command.
When Obama came into office, he cottoned to the organization immediately. (It didn’t hurt that his CIA director, Leon Panetta, has a son who, as a naval reservist, had deployed with JSOC.) Soon Obama was using JSOC even more than his predecessor. In 2010, for example, he secretly directed JSOC troops to Yemen to kill the leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The president has also given JSOC the rare authority to select individuals for its kill list — and then to kill, rather than capture, them. Critics charge that this individual man-hunting mission amounts to assassination, a practice prohibited by U.S. law. JSOC’s list is not usually coordinated with the CIA, which maintains a similar, but shorter roster of names.
Created in 1980 but reinvented in recent years, JSOC has grown from 1,800 troops prior to 9/11 to as many as 25,000, a number that fluctuates according to its mission. It has its own intelligence division, its own drones and reconnaissance planes, even its own dedicated satellites. It also has its own cyberwarriors, who, on Sept. 11, 2008, shut down every jihadist Web site they knew.
Obscurity has been one of the unit’s hallmarks. When JSOC officers are working in civilian government agencies or U.S. embassies abroad, which they do often, they dispense with uniforms, unlike their other military comrades. In combat, they wear no name or rank identifiers. They have hidden behind various nicknames: the Secret Army of Northern Virginia, Task Force Green, Task Force 11, Task Force 121. JSOC leaders almost never speak in public. They have no unclassified Web site.

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