Secret unit hunts terrorists worldwide
It seems in some cases this unit is not just an intelligence unit but judge and executioner killing the people it targets without benefit of trial. As I recall it was actually Kurdish operatives that are at least rumoured to have found Saddam. Kurdish press reported he was found long before other sources and that may be the reason, i.e. that they had found him and the US special forces were then brought in for a photo op. Many iconic events are such. A good example is the staged toppling of Saddam's statue. Clips of this are still often seen. Why don't they just do these sorts of things in Hollywood where it would be easier!
A secret terrorist-hunting unit has been converted by the Pentagon into a nearly self-contained command of more than 1,000 men and women who collect intelligence and track and capture America’s most–wanted enemies. Printer Friendly | PDF | Email | digg
Rowan Scarborough, The Examiner
Read more by Rowan Scarborough
Mar 2, 2007 3:00 AM (2 days ago)
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon has turned a secret terrorist-hunting unit into a nearly self-contained command of more than 1,000 men and women who collect intelligence and track and capture America’s most–wanted enemies.
The most significant boost for U.S. Joint Special Operations Command came last year in an unpublicized move. The Pentagon took a super-secret spy unit at Fort Belvoir, Va., from the Army and put it under the JSOC’s control.
The unit, code–named Task Force Orange, specializes in infiltrating foreign countries, tailing people and intercepting communications. Operatives have dug up fiber-optic telephone lines overseas and attached a listening device for the National Security Agency.
The task force features veteran warriors, intelligence officers and technical wizards who use electronic devices in innovative ways. It maintains its own fleet of airplanes at a Washington-area airport.
Information for this article came from two sources involved in the special operations community. They requested anonymity because of fear of reprisal for talking to a reporter.
The JSOC has not found its two most-wanted targets, Osama bin Laden and his second-in-command, Ayman Zawahiri. Intelligence officials this week told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the two are in Pakistan’s ungoverned badlands. Pakistan is officially off-limits to U.S. combat troops.
The JSOC’s successes are normally not publicized. But when it tracked a cleric to the doorstep of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the notorious leader of al–Qaida in Iraq, and the Air Force killed him in an air strike last June, President Bush publicly praised the commando group.
Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the JSOC commander, was one of the first people to view Zarqawi’s body amid the rubble. The JSOC has also chased down scores of senior Zarqawi lieutenants and played a role in the “spider hole” discovery of Saddam Hussein in December 2003.
Bush disclosed that the unit located Zarqawi, but he did not say how it did it. Task Force Orange tracked various cell phones during the search.
Until its recent buildup, the JSOC had about 600 operatives. Bush’s fiscal 2008 budget calls for even larger increases at the JSOC’s Fort Bragg, N.C., compound. The JSOC has received more warriors, intelligence officers and communications specialists.
The JSOC’s principal operators are Navy SEALs and Army Delta Force, soldiers who began special operations careers as Rangers or Green Berets.
The JSOC’s operations are so secret that spokespeople at the Pentagon and at U.S. Special Operations Command declined to answer questions about its budget.
The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and subsequent war on terrorism have propelled the JSOC into one of the military’s most important combat units. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld empowered SoCom, the JSOC’s overseer, to do its own battle planning and missions. He also handpicked McChrystal.
“JSOC is a central component in the war on terror because it’s the tip of the spear,” said professor Richard Shultz, who teaches international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. “It is the force used to strike at the most important targets.”
It was not always that way. The Pentagon commissioned Shultz in 2001 to research why the JSOC was never used in the 1990s to hunt down bin Laden and other al–Qaida leaders.
He found that the Pentagon wanted better intelligence on bin Laden’s whereabouts and the CIA said the information was the best it had. The stalemate resulted in the JSOC doing a lot of planning but no counter-terror action.
“It’s your strike force, and yet it was never used once for its primary mission before Sept. 11,” Shultz said.
The Pentagon has increased SoCom’s manpower from 45,655 in 2001 to 47,911 today. But at the same time, it took away 9,000 civil affairs and psychological warfare officers and put them under the Army Reserves. The increase in the number of pure warriors — Rangers, Delta Force, SEALs, Green Berets and special aviators — is larger than the numbers comparison indicates.
Navy Vice Adm. Eric Olson, a SEAL and SoCom’s deputy commander, said its active-duty roster will increase by 17,000 during the next six years, according to a Pentagon news release.