Thursday, February 24, 2005

Counterterrorism Ops - Who Has to Know?

The Washington Post has a report on a plan to allow special operations forces to enter foreign countries for specific task without the prior approval of the US ambassador to that country. Link.
The Pentagon is promoting a global counterterrorism plan that would allow Special Operations forces to enter a foreign country to conduct military operations without explicit concurrence from the U.S. ambassador there, administration officials familiar with the plan said.

The plan would weaken the long-standing "chief of mission" authority under which the U.S. ambassador, as the president's top representative in a foreign country, decides whether to grant entry to U.S. government personnel based on political and diplomatic considerations.

The Special Operations missions envisioned in the plan would largely be secret, known to only a handful of officials from the foreign country, if any. (,,,)

The State Department and the CIA have fought the proposal, saying it would be dangerous to dilute the authority of the U.S. ambassador and CIA station chief to oversee U.S. military and intelligence activities in other countries.

Over the past two years, the State Department has repeatedly blocked Pentagon efforts to send Special Operations forces into countries surreptitiously and without ambassadors' formal approval, current and former administration officials said.

Personally, I would think of at least two reasons why an administration would not want an ambassador to know of undercover ops. (1) Sometimes an ambassador is a large campaign contributor with no foreign policy experience. Granted these types end up in countries too unimportant for undercover ops, but sometimes unexpected circumstances make an unimportant location suddenly important. (2) The desire for plausible deniability. The ambassador can deny any knowledge of the incident without lying.

I am curious if our ambassadors to Laos and Cambodia approved of our various clandestine incursions into those countries during the Vietnam War.


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