The United States military since 2004 has used broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, according to senior American officials.
These military raids, typically carried out by Special Operations forces, were authorized by a classified order that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed in the spring of 2004 with the approval of President Bush, the officials said. The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States.
In 2006, for example, a Navy Seal team raided a suspected militants' compound in the Bajaur region of Pakistan, according to a former top official of the Central Intelligence Agency. Officials watched the entire mission - captured by the video camera of a remotely piloted Predator aircraft - in real time in the CIA's Counterterrorist Center at the agency's headquarters in Virginia 7,000 miles away.
The Old Gray Blabbermouth - Max Boot, Commentary's Contentions
The New York Times continues its series of articles exposing top-secret US operations in the War on Terror. Today's installment, as Abe mentioned, describes US Special Operations incursions into Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, and other countries under the terms of an executive order signedby President Bush.
Portions of these revelations have already been leaked in the past, making this piece less harmful than previous Times classics such as this 2005 article in which the Paper of Record exposed secret wiretapping of terrorists. Or this article from the Washington Post which exposed the CIA's overseas prisons in which top terrorists were held. But it's bad enough.
I can't help thinking that such operational details never would have been revealed in a war--say World War II--that the editors of these newspapers believed was worth fighting.
More at Contentions.
Pentagon Counterterror Teams Go Deep - Jeff Stein, Congressional Quarterly
It's interesting to speculate on why the expanded operations of Pentagon counterterror teams surfaced in the New York Times today. But one of them has to be that the noses of CIA and State Department officials remain severely out of joint from an initiative launched right after the 9/11 attacks by President Bush and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
According to the Times, a 2004 order identified "15 to 20 countries, including Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and several other Persian Gulf states, where Qaeda militants were believed to be operating or to have sought sanctuary, a senior administration official said."
Soon enough, American ambassadors, who are supposed to be the top US official in a foreign country, grew increasingly annoyed by Pentagon "cowboys" zipping in and out, congressional committees heard.
But if only because the State Department, and the CIA, couldn't keep DoD out of their sandboxes, they have been supporting the operations, the Times said.
More at Congressional Quarterly.
"Secret Order" to Target al Qaeda Not So Secret - Bill Roggio, The Weekly Standard's The Blog
The New York Times tells us today that the Bush administration granted approval for the US military "to use new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States." The US military used this "broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere," the Times reports.
But anyone who has been remotely following operations against al Qaeda and its allied terror groups has long been able to deduce the US government has granted approval for the military and CIA to attack high value targets outside of the hot zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. This was one of the worst-kept "secrets" because the high-profile nature of the operations can't remain hidden.
With very little time and effort, I tracked down seven of these so-called secret attacks. One of the most brazen attacks occurred in the country of Madagascar in January 2007. That's right, Madagascar. US special operations forces from the hunter killer teams of Task Force 88 (back then it was called Task Force 145, the name has likely changed yet again) killed Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, one of Osama bin Laden's brothers-in-law who has deep roots in al Qaeda as a financier and facilitator.
More at The Blog.
Did Secret Orders Keep US Commandos in Somalia? - David Axe, Wired's Danger Room
Fifteen years ago, a botched Special Forces raid targeting warlords in Mogadishu resulted in the deaths of 18 US servicemen and hundreds of others. The battle, recounted in the book and film Black Hawk Down, cut short an ambitious peacekeeping plan for war-torn Somalia.
Since then, US special operators have returned to the lawless East African country, thanks to secret orders approved in 2004 by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and President George W. Bush, and reported yesterday in the New York Times. So now, the question becomes: How often have those commandos been in Somalia, and how long have they stayed?
More at Danger Room.