January 24, 2005

Rumsfeld: Beyond Accountability

Rumsfeld has set up a new espionage arm and is reinterpreting US law to give the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, broad authority over clandestine operations abroad.
The previously undisclosed organisation, called the Strategic Support Branch, arose from Mr Rumsfeld's written order to end his "near total dependence on [the] CIA" for what is known as human intelligence.

Designed to operate without detection and under Mr Rumsfeld's direct control, the Strategic Support Branch deploys small teams of case officers, linguists, interrogators and technical specialists plus newly empowered special operations forces.

Military and civilian participants said the new unit has been operating in secret for two years - in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places they declined to name.

An early planning memorandum to Mr Rumsfeld from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, says the focus of the intelligence initiative is on "emerging target countries such as Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia, Philippines and Georgia".

The Strategic Support Branch was created to provide Mr Rumsfeld with independent tools for the "full spectrum of humint operations", an internal account says.... A recent Pentagon memo says recruited agents may include "notorious figures" whose links to the US Government would be embarrassing if disclosed.

Perhaps the most significant shift is the Pentagon's attempt to conduct surreptitious missions, in friendly and unfriendly states, when conventional war is a distant or unlikely prospect - activities that have traditionally been the province of the CIA's Directorate of Operations.

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