Pentagon reveals new spy groups


Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 24, 2005 at 11:50 p.m.
COUNTERTERRORISM EFFORTS WASHINGTON - The Pentagon has created new battlefield espionage units that for the first time have been assigned to work directly with Special Operations forces on secret counterterrorism missions, tasks that until now have largely been the province of the Central Intelligence Agency, senior Defense Department officials said Sunday.
The small clandestine teams provide the military's elite Special Operations units with battlefield intelligence using advanced technology, help recruit spies in foreign countries, and scout potential targets, the officials said.
The teams, which officials say have been operating in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries for about two years, represent a prime example of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's desire to expand the Pentagon's ability to gather human intelligence - information gathered by spies.
Some intelligence experts said the creation of the units is the latest chapter in a long-running battle for intelligence dominance in the government between Rumsfeld's Defense Department and the CIA.
"This is really a giant turf battle," said Walter P. Lang, a former head of the Defense Human Intelligence Service.
Among the CIA's concerns, former intelligence officials have said, were that an expanded Pentagon role in intelligence-gathering could escape the strict congressional oversight imposed by law on such operations when they are carried out by intelligence agencies.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on the CBS News program "Face the Nation" that the Senate Armed Services Committee would hold hearings on the intelligence units.
But other analysts said the teams are merely the latest incarnation of espionage units that the Army, Navy and Air Force operated throughout the Cold War to recruit spies, debrief defectors and gather information about foreign weapons systems in countries like China and the Soviet Union.
"DOD is not looking to go develop strategic intelligence," said one senior adviser to Rumsfeld who has an intelligence background. "They're looking for information like, where's a good landing strip? Who's going to get our guys in and out of the country? Who will rat out the activities of home country's military and intelligence services?"
The espionage teams are made up of case officers, linguists, interrogators and other specialists from the Defense Human Intelligence Service. Within the Defense Information Agency, these teams are known as the Strategic Support Operations Group, said a senior Pentagon official who has been briefed on their activities.
These front-line teams are different in scope and frequency of deployments from existing Defense Information Agency units called national intelligence support teams, groups of technical experts that deploy to commanders' wartime headquarters and provide analytical advice.
"Prior to the 9/11 commission issuing their conclusion that the nation's human intelligence capability must be improved, the Defense Human Intelligence Service has been taking steps to be more focused and task-oriented for the global war on terror," Di Rita said in his statement. "One of the objectives of this effort is to make better human intelligence capability available to assist combatant commanders for specific missions involving regular or Special Operations forces."
The espionage teams work closely with the Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., and its clandestine component, the Joint Special Operations Command, in Fort Bragg, N.C., which includes the Army counterterrorism unit popularly known as Delta Force.
The Pentagon is drawing up a range of plans that would give the military a more prominent role in intelligence-collection operations that have traditionally been the CIA's bailiwick. Among the ideas cited by Defense Department officials is the idea of "fighting for intelligence," or commencing combat operations chiefly to obtain intelligence.
Among the proposals described by Defense Department officials is a plan to create a Joint Intelligence Operational Command within the Pentagon, which would elevate intelligence missions to much more power and prominence and possibly replace the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Many of the new approaches stem from initiatives by Stephen A. Cambone, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, and his deputy, Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin of the Army, Pentagon officials said.
Even some of Rumsfeld's supporters acknowledge that as the Pentagon takes on new intelligence-related activities, it has not yet fully worked out coordination with the CIA, particularly in Washington. "They should meet on a weekly or biweekly basis, to make sure the activities and locations of Pentagon units are known to the CIA," said the senior adviser to Rumsfeld. "I'm not sure that mechanism is fully operating yet."
In his statement on Sunday, Di Rita disputed any suggestion that the Pentagon's new human-intelligence activities cross any legal parameters or are conducted without notifying the CIA or Congress.
"These actions are being taken within existing statutory authorities to support traditional military operations and any assertion to the contrary is wrong," Di Rita said. "The department remains in regular consultation with the relevant committees in Congress and with other agencies within the intelligence community, including the CIA."
A Central Intelligence Agency spokesman declined to comment on The Washington Post article.
In recent weeks, intelligence officials asked about Pentagon efforts to expand intelligence-gathering efforts have responded carefully, praising current levels of cooperation between the Pentagon and the CIA, but saying that the relationship depends on each agency focusing on what the tasks it does best.
A former senior intelligence official who left his post last year said that he had known that the Defense Department was seeking a greater role in human intelligence collection, in areas traditionally the purview of the Central Intelligence Agency. But the official said he had not known that the Defense Department had begun any such effort, and said he did not believe the Central Intelligence Agency had been notified.
"I was astounded, and it's the sort of thing I should have known about, given the perch I had," the former senior intelligence official said of the details reported in The Washington Post.
A second former intelligence official said there had been extensive discussion between the CIA and the Pentagon in the past two years about Defense Department efforts to expand its role in gathering human intelligence. Among those involved in the discussions were Boykin and James L. Pavitt, who stepped down as deputy director of operations last August.
But the former intelligence official said that the CIA believed as recently as last summer that it had successfully forestalled Boykin's efforts to expand the Pentagon's role into collecting human intelligence in areas like terrorism and the proliferation of illicit weapons, which have traditionally been the responsibility of the CIA.
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon has created new battlefield espionage units that for the first time have been assigned to work directly with Special Operations forces on secret counterterrorism missions, tasks that until now have largely been the province of the Central Intelligence Agency, senior Defense Department officials said Sunday.
The small clandestine teams, drawn from specialists within the Defense Intelligence Agency, provide the military's elite Special Operations units with battlefield intelligence using advanced technology, help recruit spies in foreign countries, and scout potential targets, the officials said.
The teams, which officials say have been operating in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries for about two years, represent a prime example of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's desire to expand the Pentagon's ability to gather human intelligence - information gathered by spies. rather than by technological means, both within the military services and the Defense Intelligence Agency, whose focus is on intelligence used on the battlefield.
"It is accurate and should not be surprising that the Department of Defense is attempting to improve its long-standing human intelligence capability," the Pentagon spokesman, Lawrence Di Rita, said in a statement Sunday. "A principal conclusion of the 9/11 Commission report is that the U.S. human intelligence capability must be improved across the board."
Di Rita's statement came in response to an article in The Washington Post on Sunday that first reported the existence of the clandestine units.
Some intelligence experts said the creation of the new units is the latest chapter in a long-running battle for intelligence dominance in the government between Rumsfeld's Defense Department and the CIA, a battle that has only intensified after the 9-11 commission recommended creating the job of national intelligence director to oversee all intelligence programs.
"This is really a giant turf battle," said Walter P. Lang, a former head of the Defense Human Intelligence Service, a branch of the Defense Information Agency.
Among the CIA's concerns, former intelligence officials have said, were that an expanded Pentagon role in intelligence-gathering could, by design or effect, escape the strict congressional oversight imposed by law on such operations when they are carried out by intelligence agencies.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on the CBS News program "Face the Nation" that the Senate Armed Services Committee would hold hearings on the intelligence units.
But other analysts said the teams are merely the latest incarnation of espionage units that the Army, Navy and Air Force operated throughout the Cold War to recruit spies, debrief defectors and gather information about foreign weapons systems in countries like China and the Soviet Union.
"DOD is not looking to go develop strategic intelligence," said one senior adviser to Rumsfeld who has an intelligence background. "They're looking for information like, where's a good landing strip? Who's going to get our guys in and out of the country? Who will rat out the activities of home country's military and intelligence services?"
The espionage teams are made up of case officers, linguists, interrogators and other specialists from the Defense Human Intelligence Service. Within the Defense Information Agency, these teams are known as the Strategic Support Operations Group, said a senior Pentagon official who has been briefed on their activities.
These front-line teams are different in scope and frequency of deployments from existing Defense Information Agency units called national intelligence support teams, groups of technical experts that deploy to commanders' wartime headquarters and provide analytical advice.
"Prior to the 9/11 commission issuing their conclusion that the nation's human intelligence capability must be improved, the Defense Human Intelligence Service has been taking steps to be more focused and task-oriented for the global war on terror," Di Rita said in his statement. "One of the objectives of this effort is to make better human intelligence capability available to assist combatant commanders for specific missions involving regular or Special Operations forces."
The espionage teams work closely with the Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., and its clandestine component, the Joint Special Operations Command, in Fort Bragg, N.C., which includes the Army counterterrorism unit popularly known as Delta Force.
The Pentagon is drawing up a range of plans that would give the military a more prominent role in intelligence-collection operations that have traditionally been the CIA's bailiwick. Among the ideas cited by Defense Department officials is the idea of "fighting for intelligence," or commencing combat operations chiefly to obtain intelligence.
Among the proposals described by Defense Department officials is a plan to create a Joint Intelligence Operational Command within the Pentagon, which would elevate intelligence missions to much more power and prominence and possibly replace the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Many of the new approaches stem from initiatives by Stephen A. Cambone, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, and his deputy, Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin of the Army, Pentagon officials said.
Even some of Rumsfeld's supporters acknowledge that as the Pentagon takes on new intelligence-related activities, it has not yet fully worked out coordination with the CIA, particularly in Washington. "They should meet on a weekly or biweekly basis, to make sure the activities and locations of Pentagon units are known to the CIA," said the senior adviser to Rumsfeld. "I'm not sure that mechanism is fully operating yet."
In his statement on Sunday, Di Rita disputed any suggestion that the Pentagon's new human-intelligence activities cross any legal parameters or are conducted without notifying the CIA or Congress.
"These actions are being taken within existing statutory authorities to support traditional military operations and any assertion to the contrary is wrong," Di Rita said. "The department remains in regular consultation with the relevant committees in Congress and with other agencies within the intelligence community, including the CIA."
A Central Intelligence Agency spokesman declined to comment on The Washington Post article.
In recent weeks, intelligence officials asked about Pentagon efforts to expand intelligence-gathering efforts have responded carefully, praising current levels of cooperation between the Pentagon and the CIA, but saying that the relationship depends on each agency focusing on what the tasks it does best.
A former senior intelligence official who left his post last year said that he had known that the Defense Department was seeking a greater role in human intelligence collection, in areas traditionally the purview of the Central Intelligence Agency. But the official said he had not known that the Defense Department had begun any such effort, and said he did not believe the Central Intelligence Agency had been notified.
"I was astounded, and it's the sort of thing I should have known about, given the perch I had," the former senior intelligence official said of the details reported in The Washington Post.
A second former intelligence official said there had been extensive discussion between the CIA and the Pentagon in the past two years about Defense Department efforts to expand its role in gathering human intelligence. Among those involved in the discussions were Boykin and James L. Pavitt, who stepped down as deputy director of operations last August.
But the former intelligence official said that the CIA believed as recently as last summer that it had successfully forestalled Boykin's efforts to expand the Pentagon's role into collecting human intelligence in areas like terrorism and the proliferation of illicit weapons, which have traditionally been the responsibility of the CIA.
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon sent its top intelligence official to Capitol Hill on Monday to explain the mission and makeup of a secret battlefield intelligence group that some lawmakers suggested may have skirted congressional oversight and not been coordinated fully with the CIA.
Some Democrats pressed for hearings, but Republicans said they were in no rush.
At the Pentagon, two senior defense officials told reporters that members of Congress had been fully briefed on the intelligence group during last year's budget deliberations. They said lawmakers may not recognize it now because the group's name was changed after their briefings.
The group, now called Strategic Support teams, were previously called Humint Augmentation teams, the officials said, speaking on condition that they not be identified. Humint refers to human intelligence.
"These intelligence programs are vital to our national security interests, and I am satisfied that they are being coordinated with the appropriate agencies of the federal government," said chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John Warner, R-Va.
Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., urged hearings. "While I fully support improving the ability of our men and women in the field to get accurate real-time intelligence, the creation of this unit raises a number of questions that this committee has a duty to examine," Tauscher said.
The concept of augmenting military forces with specialized intelligence teams was born after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks as a means of expanding the military's ability to collect human intelligence.
Some Democrats press for hearings

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