Tag Archives: Al Qaeda

Terrorism, the Internet, & Propaganda: A Deadly Combination

Ariel Lieberman outlines the evolution, content, and goals of modern terrorist propaganda on the Internet, and presents a three-pronged approach for challenging such propaganda using a combination of criminal prosecution, removal of terrorist propaganda from social media platforms, and an active counter-propaganda campaign to discredit and undermine terrorist groups.

The Covert Action Statute: The CIA’s Blank Check?

MAJ Peter Combe argues that the covert action statute prohibits the Central Intelligence Agency from violating self-executing treaties to which the United States is party, as well as non-self-executing treaties and customary international law implemented by statute, but it provides domestic legal authority to violate non-self-executing treaties and customary international law that have not been implemented through legislation by Congress. This application of the covert action statute in practice is illuminated through a case study of the legal issues surrounding the Osama bin Laden raid.

Setting the Record Straight: An In-Depth Review of “Duty” by Robert Gates

Bowman “sets the record straight” with his review of Bob Gates’ new book, Duty. He states that Duty is not a “tell all,” but rather a highly personal and almost daily reflection of what Gates thought and experienced during his time as US Secretary of Defense. Ultimately, Bowman concludes that while the book is very readable, it is primarily a catharsis with little to no commentary on national security or international law.

The Continuing Quandary of Covert Operations

In May 2011, shortly after a special operations team of Navy SEALs killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, there was a fresh surge of enthusiasm for covert operations. That is unfortunate because, behind the scenes, secret warfare is actually in crisis. We need to re-examine the suitability and constitutionality of covert operations and, among other things, devise a sound constitutional framework for conducting them.

I. HOST COUNTRY REACTIONS: PAKISTAN
A delegation of Pakistani officials recently completed a visit to Washington for very private talks about a secret war. Representing that nation’s premier spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and headed by its chief, Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the Pakistani delegation came to America to rein in the CIA. While CIA spokesmen put the best possible face on this event – calling the talks “productive” – there was no real meeting of the minds. The raid on bin Laden, executed without reference to Pakistani sovereignty, added insult to injury, since Pakistani demands to be kept fully informed of U.S. activities were clearly ignored in the SEAL operation. And just to pile on, American pundits, including former CIA director Leon Panetta, proceeded to accuse Pakistan of complicity or incompetence, given bin Laden’s presence in a Pakistani garrison town. Observers should be in no doubt that this moment marks a watershed in the South Asian secret war. Much like the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam conflict, the event signifies the instant when U.S. capabilities peak, past which further escalation on any plane becomes less probable.

Military-Intelligence Convergence and the Law of the Title 10/Title 50 Debate

Leon Panetta appeared on PBS Newshour not long after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. He was the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency at that time, and during the course of the interview he took up the question of the CIA’s role in the attack. It had been “a ‘title 50’ operation,” he explained, invoking the section of the U.S. Code that  authorizes the activities of the CIA. As a result, Panetta added, he had exercised overall “command.”

This surely confused at least some observers. The mission had been executed by U.S. Navy SEALs from Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) after all, and both operational and tactical command seemed to have resided at all times with JSOC personnel. But for those who had been following the evolution of the CIA and JSOC during the post-9/11 period, Panetta’s account would not have been surprising. The bin Laden raid was, from this perspective, merely the latest example of an ongoing process of convergence among military and intelligence activities, institutions, and
authorities.