Joint U.S. Military and CIA Special Operations Group (SOG) strategy and combat operations in support of OEF have transformed unconventional warfare. “CIA/SOG prides itself on being small and agile, capable of sending teams of 10 operators or fewer anywhere in the world much faster than the Pentagon can…CIA operatives have fewer regulations to hamstring them than their military counterparts.”20
One example, described by a former intelligence operative as “an extraordinary change of threshold”21, is the CIA Predator strike on Ali Harithi in Yemen.
The CIA strikes are also a reflection, they say, of how slow the U.S. military, even its Special Operations Forces, have been to adapt to the ad hoc, ever-changing
tactics of smaller and smaller cadres of terrorists now a command structure. The CIA, in fact, has become a
military tool in the has a much less
terrorism war than in any previous
operating without much of much more central tactical conflict, largely because it CIA’s separate targeting
was used in Sunday’s decision-makers in its
Predator strike, is quicker, more fluid and “trigger pulling” chain of command than
even the nimblest military operation, intelligence experts said.
But this change of threshold raises a host of new questions about legality, effectiveness and ethics. While the focus of this paper is not on the legal authorities that permit or restrict the activities of the DoD and members of the IC, it is useful to note that those authorities do vary significantly. The National Security Act of 194723 established the intelligence community, and Executive Order 1233324, along with other Presidential Findings, Congressional Authorization Acts, Presidential Decision Directives, etc., codify the limits of its activities, overt and covert.
DoD has a different set of authorities, and a different set of concerns. Military forces operate within the laws of war, and under Geneva Convention protections. The current White House emphasis on using unconventional forces to fight terrorists is shifting the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) mission, with more responsibility, more people, more weapons and a lot more money, into areas that tread the boundaries of these authorities.25
For an excellent discussion of this topic in detail, see COL Kathryn Stone’s 2003 Strategy Research Project. To drastically summarize her thesis:
The CIA paramilitary/SOF partnership increases the risk of making covert action more visible to the enemy.
While CIA may operate outside the laws of the target country (but inside U.S. law), the military must follow international law. Accountability is problematic under these circumstances.