If you are snowed in or frozen in during the current winter storms, and desperate for entertainment at the end of the regular football season, I did an hour long interview with Jeff Bushman last evening. The discussion ranged from the recent 50th Anniversary events and conferences in Dallas on to an introductory chat about “Shadow Warfare”. You can find it archived with Jeff’s shows at:
http://www.GoingBeyondRadio.com/jeffbushman *AND NOW ON STITCHER — Search: Bushman*
One of the topics that came up in regard to Shadow Warfare was the rather convoluted legal nature of CIA covert activities. That’s a subject we touch on in several places in the book, both in regard to its earlier Cold War actions and in the even more complex relationship that has evolved though the combination of CIA intelligence collection and field support for the joint Task Forces which are engaged in global anti-terrorist operations.
Of course both the American military – through the legal codes supporting armed combat and the Uniform Code of Military Justice – is allowed to engage in actions that would be illegal under normal civil code. The CIA was given even broader responsibilities and exemptions under the code supporting the National Security Act of 1947. Those of you familiar with Staff D will appreciate that when burglary, hijacking and armed theft is necessary to acquire the other side’s codes, code books and related equipment, some legal exceptions have to be in place – particularly when the CIA actually made use of the talents of professional criminals the FBI was tracking on a routine basis. That’s a fairly simple example, its gets much more complex than that. But it gets exceptionally complicated when CIA employes performing illegal but sanctioned acts as part of their official duties, go off the rails and commit personal crimes on their own.
The reality o f that situation surfaced very early in the life of the Agency and in SW we discuss the evolution of the first “Understanding” between the CIA and the US Department of Justice. That understanding acknowledged that national security might have to be the priority in certain instances, when information required for legal proceedings would compromise Agency operations (sources and methods). That understanding delivered a great deal of autonomy and internal discretion to senior Agency officers. And it was “secret”.
Its likely there were other understandings and that some remain unknown to us. However we do explore at great length another Understanding between CIA and Justice, one which at the time allowed the Agency to forgo reporting drug related activities of their surrogates and assets – since those assets were critical to the CIA and Reagan era Contra effort against the Sandinista in Nicaragua. Those of you familiar with Gary Webb and his work on the “Dark Alliance” will be particularly interested in that understanding – one which allowed the CIA to stonewall both DEA and Gary Webb. Its not a pretty story but it certainly does confirm Webb’s suspicions. Perhaps the strangest thing may be that the host of individuals and even agencies which avidly denied that CIA Contra associates were involved in the escalation of drugs into the United States very likely had no idea about the ultra high level understanding between Director of the CIA and the Justice Department.
If such Understandings complicate matters for CIA personnel, so does the continued prosecution of overt, conventional military action in a war on terror which Congress decided to conduct without a formal declaration of war, the sort of declaration that identifies enemy combatants and allows for a suite of wartime legal remedies. The continuing decision to fight conventional military operations under “covert”/deniable National Security Act legal codes has led to a very strange form of “gray warfare”. Its a subject we examine at some length since it has potential negative legal ramifications for both American combat and intelligence personnel. And it takes us deeply into the subject and issues of both manned and unmanned weapons systems around the globe.
Shadow Warfare will immerse you in the trade-craft and logistics of covert action, as well as taking you into the new organizations and weapons of the war on terror. But we tried to take it deeper than that. I’ll try to pick up on a few of the other areas in follow-on posts.