US military to expand its secret activities throughout the Middle East
The US military has signed off on a document authorizing the expansion of a military spy system in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Horn of Africa. The story was first reported by Mark Mazetti in the New York Times.
The directive was signed on September 2009, by General David Petraeus. The directive “authorizes the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations 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.”
This deepens a process of military covert activity begun under US president Bush, now broadened and further systematized under president Obama.
Mazetti’s writes in his New York Times article:
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.
[…] 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.
[…]Many in the military are also concerned that as American troops assume roles far from traditional combat, they would be at risk of being treated as spies if captured and denied the Geneva Convention protections afforded military detainees.
[…]The seven-page directive appears to authorize specific operations in Iran, most likely to gather intelligence about the country’s nuclear program or identify dissident groups that might be useful for a future military offensive.
[…]Unlike covert actions undertaken by the C.I.A., such clandestine activity does not require the president’s approval or regular reports to Congress, although Pentagon officials have said that any significant ventures are cleared through the National Security Council.
These clandestine activities, undertaken by the US military, are free from the same government oversight as CIA operations. Furthermore, the directive encourages a broad membership in intelligence gathering, “by American troops, foreign businesspeople, academics or others — to identify militants and provide ‘persistent situational awareness,’ while forging ties to local indigenous groups.”