SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 41
April 17, 2007

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SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND: A TWENTY YEAR HISTORY

As the missions and budgets for U.S. Special Operations Command steadily expand, a new official history looks back at the origins and development of SOCOM.

"Since its creation in 1987, USSOCOM has supported conventional forces and conducted independent special operations throughout the world, participating in all major combat operations," writes SOCOM Commander General Bryan D. Brown.

The new account, prepared by the SOCOM history office and obtained by Secrecy News, describes in new detail the major SOCOM operations of the past two decades up through the present.

"After 9/11, the first SOF [special operations forces] counterterrorism operations were not conducted in Afghanistan or even in the Middle East, but in Europe," the SOCOM history notes.

"In late September 2001, U.S. SOF learned that Islamic extremists with connections to Usama bin Laden were in Bosnia. SOCEUR forces quickly put together Operation RESOLUTE EAGLE to capture them. U.S. SOF surveilled the terrorists, detained one of the groups, and facilitated the capture of another group by coalition forces. These raids resulted in the capture of all the suspected terrorists and incriminating evidence for prosecution and intelligence exploitation."

Other operations, like the battle of Tora Bora, were admittedly less successful.

"The fact that SOF came as close to capturing or killing UBL [Usama bin Laden] as U.S. forces have to date makes Tora Bora a controversial fight. Given the commitment of fewer than 100 American personnel, U.S. forces proved unable to block egress routes from Tora Bora south into Pakistan, the route that UBL most likely took."

See "United States Special Operations Command, 1987-2007," SOCOM History and Research Office, MacDill Air Force Base, April 2007 (143 pages in a very large 32 MB PDF file):

The Government Accountability Office prepared a detailed critical profile of SOCOM in 2006.

"The Special Operations Command is comprised of special operations forces from each of the military services. In fiscal year 2005, personnel authorizations for Army special operations forces military personnel totaled more than 30,000, the Air Force 11,501, the Navy 6,255, and the Marine Corps 79," the GAO reported.

"From fiscal year 2001 through fiscal year 2005, funding for the Command increased from more than $3.8 billion to more than $6.4 billion," GAO said, and it is only projected to rise through 2011.

But recruiting and training special operations forces to meet expanding mission requirements will be a challenge, the GAO concluded.

See "Special Operations Forces: Several Human Capital Challenges Must Be Addressed to Meet Expanded Role" [GAO-06-812], July 2006:

See also "Army Special Operations Forces," U.S. Army Field Manual 3-05, September 2006, obtained by Secrecy News:


FY 2007 INTEL AUTHORIZATION AND BUDGET DISCLOSURE

In a heated debate April 16, the Senate failed to achieve cloture on the FY2007 Intelligence Authorization Act, leaving it open for further amendment today.

One of the points that now seems beyond debate, however, is the need to disclose the total intelligence budget figure.

"The chairman [Sen. Rockefeller] and I have agreed it makes sense ... to declassify the top line number of the intelligence budget," said Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO), Ranking Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"I have talked with leaders in the intelligence community and I said: Does that cause you any problems? They said: No. It is only when you get below that. Were you to go down the slippery slope of disclosing amounts going into particular units or particular programs of the intelligence community, you give away vital secrets," Sen. Bond said on the Senate floor.

"This body has twice gone on record and was stated by the chairman and the 9/11 Commission has recommended disclosing the overall number so that the people of America will know whether we are continuing to support the intelligence community adequately, whether we are supporting it with the kinds of resources needed," he said.

"In our [proposed] managers' amendment, we took out a [requirement for a] study that would purport to look at the possibility of declassifying further details, other than the top line. We both agreed that should be out," Sen. Bond said.

See the full debate and the list of pending or proposed amendments to the FY 2007 Intelligence Authorization Act here:

Despite the intelligence community acquiescence noted by Senator Bond, the White House remains opposed to any disclosure of intelligence budget information, according to an April 12 policy statement (pdf).


VARIOUS RESOURCES

The role of air and space power in U.S. military operations was addressed in a newly updated U.S. Air Force publication. See Air Force Doctrine Document 2, "Operations and Organization," 3 April 2007:

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Federation of American Scientists, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has just released a somewhat perfunctory "2006 Annual Report of the U.S. Intelligence Community," dated February 2007:

The Center for American Progress has published the transcript (pdf) of a March 30 program on "Ensuring Congressional Access to National Security Information," linked (under Resources) from this page:


OTHER SECRECY NEWS

The politicization of the Department of Justice, the erosion of professional values and the state of Freedom of Information Act policy were discussed with unusual candor by Daniel J. Metcalfe, former director of the DoJ Office of Information and Policy, in an interview with Tony Mauro of Legal Times.

NASA secretly paid $26.6 million several years ago to the families of the astronauts who died in the 2003 Columbia space shuttle accident, reported Jim Leusner of the Orlando Sentinel on April 15.

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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