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.

With legislation introduced by Republicans in Congress to name the drug cartels as terrorist organizations, and the increased use of the military in the war on drugs, those days may not be far off.

“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.”

< The Ticking Bomb And Torture | White House Press Briefing on Osama Bin Laden >
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  • Display: Sort:
    I'm going to be the last person to tell (none / 0) (#1)
    by Militarytracy on Mon May 02, 2011 at 02:24:28 PM EST
    you that they aren't spooky Jeralyn.  Who knows when and if they can or will start coloring outside of crazy lines like the CIA of the past has?  This has all been created to fight a certain enemy.  When and if that enemy is defeated what happens to all this?  Do they all just sigh and go home?  What if anyone who is a "leader" in JSOC isn't so ethical?  One of the person uncovered in the attack that anonymous made on the professional internet stalkers and attackers uncovered someone from JSOC being involved too.  Granted he was moonlighting, but WTF man?

    MT, honey? (none / 0) (#2)
    by sj on Mon May 02, 2011 at 04:10:44 PM EST
    This is a little garbled.  I have no real idea what you're trying to say here.

    JSOC has some amazing (none / 0) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Mon May 02, 2011 at 09:15:34 PM EST
    abilities to gather intel now, and they work closely with the CIA now too.  Nobody is supposed to even admit they work for or within JSOC either if they do or they have.

    But JSOC has been in charge of many things that even some people in the military have been uncomfortable with.  I even had an intel officer tell me that the teams that JSOC put out during the Iraq surge and the people that were killed made them sick to their stomach.  I have mixed feelings about JSOC.  JSOC was also behind the black sites in Iraq that McChrystal ran.

    One of the things that made me even more uncomfortable was when "anonymous" did that little shake down recently of the companies that were trying to sell themselves as internet stalkers who would threaten and ruin and astroturf people....remember the people that were hired to go after Glenn Greenwald?  Well, a JSOC soldier fell out of that tree when Anonymous shook it really hard.  Some JSOC soldier who was moonlighting I guess with one of the companies.  I'm sure he messed his britches when he was exposed, but I sort of messed mine too seeing that someone with JSOC was involved with those people.