When JSOC, Commandos and Intelligence-Gathering Converge
Last night on NBC, the correspondent with Brian Williams kept repeating we would be hearing more about JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) in connection with the killing of Osama bin Laden. Today, there is this description from Marc Ambinder at the National Journal. It makes warrantless wiretapping seem so last year.
McChrystal and Flynn introduced hardened commandos to basic criminal forensic techniques and then used highly advanced and still-classified technology to transform bits of information into actionable intelligence. One way they did this was to create forward-deployed fusion cells, where JSOC units were paired with intelligence analysts from the NSA and the NGA. Such analysis helped the CIA to establish, with a high degree of probability, that Osama bin Laden and his family were hiding in that particular compound.
These technicians could “exploit and analyze” data obtained from the battlefield instantly, using their access to the government’s various biometric, facial-recognition, and voice-print databases. These cells also used highly advanced surveillance technology and computer-based pattern analysis to layer predictive models of insurgent behavior onto real-time observations.
The military has begun to incorporate these techniques across the services. And Flynn will soon be promoted to a job within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, where he’ll be tasked with transforming the way intelligence is gathered, analyzed, and utilized.
Ambinder refers to two JSOC units as the "silent squirrels": the Technical Application Programs Office and the Aviation Technology Evaluation Group. We spend over a billion dollars a year on JSOC.
The command has its critics, but it has escaped significant congressional scrutiny and has operated largely with impunity since 9/11. Some of its interrogators and operators were involved in torture and rendition, and the line between its intelligence-gathering activities and the CIA's has been blurred.
JSOC recently built a Targeting and Analysis Center in Rosslyn, Va.
Where the National Counterterrorism Center tends to focus on threats to the homeland, TAAC, whose existence was first disclosed by the Associated Press, focuses outward, on active “kinetic” -- or lethal -- counterterrorism missions abroad. ... JSOC is involved in more than 50 current operations spanning a dozen countries.
It's the JSOC units that are primarily responsible for the “kinetic” action in Afghanistan. The current commander is Vice Adm. William McRaven. His nominated replacement is Maj. Gen. Joseph Votel. Both advocate expanding "intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance technology " from the "war theater" to places "where al-Qaida and its affiliates continue to thrive."
Given the Government's increasing emphasis on information sharing between agencies, I wonder how long it will be before these technologies are employed against other groups believed to be engaged in criminal activity, including those here at home.
And who, besides al Qaida leaders like Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, who is believed to be the likely successor to bin Laden, are on the "kinetic" kill list. Cleric Anwar al-Awlaki is an obvious one.
“The definition under federal law of terrorism says ‘to intimidate a civilian population or a government by assassination or kidnappings.’ To me the cartels fall squarely into that definition,” said Mr. McCaul, a former chief of counterterrorism and national security in the United States attorney’s office. “I am concerned that Mexico is losing this war against the drug cartels, and so are we.”
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