Don’t Hold Your Next Academic Conference in Egypt or Pakistan

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 9:32 am

Mark Mazzetti has a blockbuster piece in today’s New York Times about a secret order issued by Gen. David Petraeus last fall, with the aid of Adm. Eric Olson, that authorizes Special Operations Forces in the Middle East and South Asia to “fill intelligence gaps about terror organizations and other threats in the Middle East and beyond.” In practice — and a Petraeus spokesman declined comment here — that reportedly means engaging in covert action to fill those gaps. That means taking measures that the government would deny any knowledge of occurring (something the CIA is legally authorized to perform) rather than clandestine operations, in which the government merely denies involvement. Special operators can do clandestine stuff, but (typically) not covert stuff.

What might this mean in practice? Mazzetti:

General Petraeus’s September order is focused on 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.

Petraeus’ spokesman declined comment. But if that’s faithfully reported, it sounds a lot like uniformed personnel could assume civilian cover for intelligence purposes. And that carries the non-trivial risk of unaffiliated businesspeople or academics or journalists or tourists in the Middle East or South Asia being presumed to be spies — and, hence, targets — by local security forces or extremists. Foreign allied governments in the region might also not like the U.S. sponsoring “local indigenous groups” that might destabilize their countries or threaten their rule.

Follow Spencer Ackerman on Twitter


Comments

6 Comments

U.S. Expanding Secret Military Acts in Mideast Region - Gossip Rocks Forum
Pingback posted May 25, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

[...] did you know it?" (6) Dangerous for Academics and Businessmen The Washington Independent's Spencer Ackerman warns that, because the military will now use businessmen and academics to gather intelligence in these [...]


The Code Name For This Blog Post Is Guacamole « Around The Sphere
Pingback posted May 28, 2010 @ 6:36 am

[...] Spencer Ackerman at The Washington Independent: Petraeus’ spokesman declined comment. But if that’s faithfully reported, it sounds a lot like uniformed personnel could assume civilian cover for intelligence purposes. And that carries the non-trivial risk of unaffiliated businesspeople or academics or journalists or tourists in the Middle East or South Asia being presumed to be spies — and, hence, targets — by local security forces or extremists. Foreign allied governments in the region might also not like the U.S. sponsoring “local indigenous groups” that might destabilize their countries or threaten their rule. [...]


General Petraeus’s Secret Ops « Empires To Ashes
Pingback posted May 28, 2010 @ 7:32 pm

[...] Dangerous for Academics and Businessmen The Washington Independent’s Spencer Ackerman warns that, because the military will now use businessmen and academics to gather intelligence in these [...]


Obama and Petraeus Running Secret Wars | Between the Lines
Pingback posted June 24, 2010 @ 11:13 am

[...] The common themes are striking: military black ops, deliberately designed to be beyond oversight, using soldiers out of uniform in both hostile and allied nations, operating under questionable legality, and in part aimed at [...]


yuregininsesi
Comment posted August 11, 2010 @ 12:36 pm

Thank you for article!


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