Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Giving special ops the green light

Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly follows up on another key point in the Sy Hersh article I mentioned the other day, notably Hersh's

...description of how covert ops are being moved from the CIA to the Pentagon in order to avoid traditional congressional oversight. Jennifer Kibbe wrote about this issue last year in Foreign Affairs, explaining that, although the 1991 Intelligence Authorization Act requires both a presidential finding and congressional notification prior to covert operations by either the CIA or the Pentagon, there's an exception for "traditional military activities."

... The unconventional nature of the war on terrorism already makes "traditional military activities" harder than usual to define, and Donald Rumsfeld apparently wants to take full advantage of that ambiguity by changing both the size and reporting structure of Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

In the end, the realist in Drum emerges:
I don't think there's any question that special ops teams have — and should have — an increased role to play in today's world of asymmetrical warfare. At the same time, though, it's simple reality that their very nature makes covert operations prone to abuse.
This is a supremely important issue that should not have been obscured by my obsessive discussion with the ins-and-outs of the "Salvador option." Drum ends up saying that this kind of thing is dirty, but necessary, so we should make darn sure there's proper oversight. I think we see the emergence here (or perhaps it's not so new) of a 21st century version of Cold War Liberalism, one that could be termed "Terror War Liberalism."

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