Small Wars Journal

Inside FBI’s Secret Relationship with the Military’s Special Operations

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 9:55am

Inside FBI’s Secret Relationship with the Military’s Special Operations by Adam Goldman and Julie Tate, Washington Post

… The FBI’s transformation from a crime-fighting agency to a counterterrorism organization in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been well documented. Less widely known has been the bureau’s role in secret operations against al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other locations around the world.

With the war in Afghanistan ending, FBI officials have become more willing to discuss a little-known alliance between the bureau and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that allowed agents to participate in hundreds of raids in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The relationship benefited both sides. JSOC used the FBI’s expertise in exploiting digital media and other materials to locate insurgents and detect plots, including any against the United States. The bureau’s agents, in turn, could preserve evidence and maintain a chain of custody should any suspect be transferred to the United States for trial…

Read on.


Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 12:18pm

Sometimes I feel bad focusing on the things that I do around here, although I know it's the right thing to do. It overshadows other actions, though, which doesn't always feel right:

<blockquote>An American doctor kidnapped by the Taliban was rescued Sunday by Afghan and coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan, officials said. At least six people were killed, including a member of a U.S. special forces Navy SEAL team. Two Taliban leaders were arrested during the rescue.</blockquote>…

There are good people in this world, really good people.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 11:25am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

<blockquote>Because I read a book in junior high called Men With Green Faces that inspired me to want to become a SEAL and serve my country. I wanted to do the same thing with No Easy Day. Also, the idea that there should be no discussion about what SEALS or Special Operations Forces do seems kind of irrelevant at this point. [Former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon] Panetta essentially authorized the movie Zero Dark Thirty on the Bin Laden raid, and he also wrote his own book [Worthy Fights]. [Former Joint Special Operations Command commander] Gen. Stanley McChrystal wrote his own book [My Share of the Task]. [Navy SEAL] Marcus Luttrell wrote his book [Lone Survivor, which was turned into a movie]. [Navy Special Warfare Command Cmdr. Admiral Brian] Losey comes out and says SEALs shouldn't be talking about what they do, which would be an easier argument to buy if the command itself didn't authorize the Hollywood blockbuster Acts of Valor, which included real active-duty SEALS and exposed real tactics. So the argument that we shouldn't be telling our stories doesn't mean that much, if our own leadership is doing it. Heck, [SEAL Team 6 founder Richard] Marcinko and [U.S. Army Delta Force founder Charlie] Beckwith both wrote books [Rogue Warrior, and Delta Force, respectively], and no one really complained.</blockquote>…

Since I am quoting <em>Sunset Boulevard</em>, maybe I should take the time to point out it didn't end well for William Holden's character and I'm not sure who I am really talking to with that. My usual DC-insider distaste is taking over, I suppose.

<em>Norma Desmond: [to newsreel camera] And I promise you I'll never desert you again because after 'Salome' we'll make another picture and another picture. You see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark!... All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.</em>

Poor DC is never ready to give up its close up. Human nature, eh? Who can understand any of it.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 11:15am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

And this from the NYT article (which is maybe a terrible thing for me to pick out of that article, terrible because it is hard to actually DO things):

<blockquote>But in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” Mr. Crile calls Mr. Vickers a romantic at heart, <strong>a man transfixed by James Bond movies</strong> who dreamed (along with becoming a football or baseball star) of espionage. “It was pretty easy to see it coming, he was interested in all that spy stuff,” Richard Vickers said. The brothers grew up in <strong>Hollywood</strong>, where their father worked as a master carpenter on movie sets for 20th Century Fox.</blockquote>

Wherever you go, there you are. "Mr. Demille (Zero Dark Thirty), I'm ready for my close up"....second look at the points "Mark Owen" is making?

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 11:04am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

There's really no way for an everyday citizen like me to know, is there, whether this program really did disrupt plots and so protect people, or if it a sort of mythology, like so much of the mythology surrounding our dealings in Afghanistan during the 80's, including the story about Stingers? How would a person know, really know, ever? Not in my lifetime, I suppose, and then future historians will argue about it forever....

<blockquote>In recent months, it was Mr. Vickers, an administration official said, who helped persuade a cautious Robert M. Gates, then the defense secretary, to go along with the Bin Laden raid. It was Mr. Vickers who was a driver behind two other covert American military operations, in <strong>Syria</strong> and Pakistan, which killed more than two dozen militants in <strong>late 2008.</strong> It was Mr. Vickers who made sure that Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal had enough drones at his disposal when he ran the military’s Special Operations Command, which staged secret raids in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We had one Predator available to us, and we built an entire fleet of them,” General McChrystal, now retired, said in a recent interview. “He was a major player.”…
Mostly unknown outside of Washington, Mr. Vickers, 58, had a moment of fame in the 2007 movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” based on the book by George Crile. Mr. Vickers was portrayed as a chess-playing nerd from the 1980s C.I.A. who armed the Afghan resistance against the Soviets, still the largest covert operation in the agency’s history.</blockquote>

<em>Novelists should never allow themselves to weary of the study of real life.

- CHARLOTTE BRONTE, The Professor</em>

Yet it is real life and its study that seems to weary the foreign policy consensus of the West, as if it was not hard enough to look at the world and study it as it is, as best as one is able, we have to add all kinds of crazy delusions and false theories and strange stratagems and odd scholarship to the mix.…

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 10:07am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

This too:

<blockquote>Former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh says $2 billion that flowed from a British arms manufacturer to U.S. bank accounts controlled by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then Saudi ambassador to the U.S., was not a bribe, but was instead part of a complex barter involving the exchange of Saudi oil for British fighter jets.</blockquote>


<blockquote>Becoming dangerously "radicalised" in effect means adopting a violent sectarian anti-Shia ideology akin to Saudi Wahhabism. Stopping this happening means confronting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE over their support and funding for Sunni fundamentalism. To do this requires a political decision from the Prime Minister not the Home Secretary. The failure to take such action against the real sources of terror in the wake of 9/11 is the reason why Isis exists today.</blockquote>…

We (meaning the Americans) will never confront them, it's not even about oil or the dollar entirely, I think, it's the millions of little ways we are wrapped up in one another and perhaps the only way is to cut strings, and cut strings, and cut strings, slowly, slowly, slowly, bit by bit, fracking vs. oil price dropping, hiding the missing 9-11 pages vs. publishing the missing 9-11 pages, extricating ourselves from the Mid East, bit by bit. Here too, the old emotional connections to NATO and Europe and North Africa and the "underbelly" of Europe is one string. To be a sophisticated person is to replace American thinking with the thinking of those belonging to European centric international institutions which include many strings connecting to Saudis and the Mid East....I don't know.

As for the British, Nigel Farage makes interesting statements, not about this specific topic, but about the UK having a "global future," and, then, he talks about the Commonwealth and how a global future will be in some way a reflection of the old Empire through British Commonwealth connections. But these two ideas conflict with one another on the ground, and in complicated ways. A complicated psychology, especially in South Asia.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 9:51am

I know this is a bit tangential but this name in the article caught my eye:

<blockquote>"The members of HRT are not commandos,” then-FBI Director <strong>Louis J. Freeh</strong> told lawmakers in 1995. “They are special agents of the FBI. Their goal has always been to save lives.”</blockquote>

I think I posted the following somewhere else around here, or maybe at the old Line of Departure site:

<blockquote>According to a source close to the former ambassador, a contract for the apartment’s sale was submitted to the 2029 Connecticut Avenue Condominium Unit Owners Association in May for $2.1 million. Feeling that price undervalued one of the largest downtown apartments in the city, the association exercised its right of first refusal, bought the apartment itself, and is now selling for a sum closer to the $3.1 million a comparable unit in the building garnered in 2011.

Who tried to buy it for so much less than it’s worth? According to a resident of the building, <strong>former FBI director and longtime friend of Prince Bandar Louis Freeh.</strong>

Roger Kline, a representative for Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan, says Freeh was not personally trying to acquire the property, but rather was representing a third party.</blockquote>…

And this link from the Hugh Hewitt show which stays in a partisan lane in its questioning, and is very "2007" if you see what I mean:

<blockquote>You know, we put him on the Top Ten list, we indicted him, we brought back many of his co-defendants, tried them in New York. I went over to see Musharraf, I tried to get him to help grab bin Laden, who was across the border protected by the Taliban, which was <strong>then</strong> allied, if you remember, with the Pakistani authorities, including the inter-agency intelligence service. Musharraf was no help to me. But you know, that was a law enforcement initiative. The Agency had some covert opportunities. None of them worked out.</blockquote>

I wonder about these intellectual and psychological circles, how an idea works itself out, where the idea came from for working with this person, or that person. When you then signal you will work with someone (the Saudis, actually, it's now the Saudis I am thinking about) you also then given them information, don't you, if only into your own thinking?


Fri, 04/11/2014 - 1:08pm

In reply to by Dave Maxwell


You make a valid point, but let me offer a different perspective by using the U.S. Army as my example. The Army's Mission Statement: "The Army’s mission is to fight and win our Nation’s wars by providing prompt, sustained land dominance across the full range of military operations and spectrum of conflict in support of combatant commanders." OK, we fight and win Americas'a wars on land. Simple. Our vision from the 2013 Strategic Planning Guidance is a little more broad: "The Army is globally responsive and regionally engaged; it is an indispensable partner and provider of a full range of capabilities to combatant commanders in a Joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational environment. As part of the Joint Force and as America’s Army, in all that we offer, we guarantee the agility, versatility and depth to Prevent, Shape and Win." I assume that when we say "prevent, shape, and win", we are still talking about war.

Yet, the Army is involved in many operations that have little to do with war, at least in the conventional sense. Counterdrug operations come to mind, unless you believe there is a war on drugs that we will eventually win after the drugs surrender. So while I believe you are absolutely correct that an organization should stick to its core mission, it should also not lie to itself as to what its core mission is. Either the Army has a much larger mission than simply war, or we need another orginzation seperate from the Army to do all those other things that the Army is and has been doing for some time now.

Please don't take this as an attack on you or your comment. Only an observation that what you point out is a double edged sword that cuts both ways.

Dave Maxwell

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 10:43am

QUOTE JSOC had shifted priorities, Joyce said, targeting Taliban and other local insurgents who were not necessarily plotting against the United States. Moreover, the number of al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan had plummeted to fewer than 100, and many of its operatives were across the border, in Pakistan, where the military could not operate.

The FBI drew down in 2010 despite pleas from JSOC to stay.

"Our focus was al-Qaeda and threats to the homeland," Joyce said. "The mission had changed." END QUOTE

What I like about the FBI is their ability to not succumb to bureaucratic inertia and when the mission changes they are not afraid to call endex and move on when other organizations might try to reinvent themselves to continue operations and to remain deployed and "in the fight." There is a lesson to be learned about remaining true to one's designated mission and expertise. Other organizations might benefit from such discipline.