Tuesday, May 25, 2010

When Is A Secret Policy Not A Secret? When the NY Times Deems It So

When is a secret policy not a secret? When it gets published in the NYT. The more things change, the more they stay the same and it doesn't matter what Administration we're talking about.

The Obama Administration and Gen. Petraeus had ordered a broad expansion of clandestine military activity in an effort to disrupt militant groups or counter threats in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other countries in the region, according to defense officials and military documents.
The secret directive, signed in September by Gen. David H. Petraeus, authorizes the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces. Officials said the order also permits reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran if tensions over its nuclear ambitions escalate.

While the Bush administration had approved some clandestine military activities far from designated war zones, the new order is intended to make such efforts more systematic and long term, officials said. Its goals are to build networks that could “penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy” Al Qaeda and other militant groups, as well as to “prepare the environment” for future attacks by American or local military forces, the document said. The order, however, does not appear to authorize offensive strikes in any specific countries.

In broadening its secret activities, the United States military has also sought in recent years to break its dependence on the Central Intelligence Agency and other spy agencies for information in countries without a significant American troop presence.

General Petraeus’s order is meant for small teams of American troops to fill intelligence gaps about terror organizations and other threats in the Middle East and beyond, especially emerging groups plotting attacks against the United States.
Note the word clandestine. That means covert, secret, and otherwise not to be broadcast to the general public.

So, what does the Times do? You got it. They published it, based on their sources.

Once again, the Times thinks that its job is to determine the national security policy of the US and that they are the final arbiter of what is necessarily secret and what isn't. Are they putting US troops and US national security at risk? I believe that they are, and they are increasing the risks for blowback.

Yet, there is some good news in all this. I will say that this does give me a better feeling about the Administration's counter-terror operations that they were letting the DoD take on covert ops in the Middle East, although my confidence in the Administration's actual knowledge of ME policy - particularly the operation of terror groups like Hizbullah, Hamas, and the ME peace process leave me scratching my head as if they've never heard of Bernard Lewis, or read anything other than the diplomatic releases that engage in pseudoreality on a regular basis. After all, this is the same Administration that thinks that they can reach out to moderates in Hizbullah, and that Hamas will accept a peace deal with Israel even though that terror group has nothing but the eradication of Israel on its mind.

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