The Pentagon will start using the Army’s storied Green Berets as spies in addition to their traditional combat roles.
The training is part of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s overall goal of developing more “actionable intelligence” to find terrorists. Some senior Pentagon officials also believe Green Berets, officially called Special Forces, can do a better job than the CIA in preparing the battle space for insertion of Green Beret “A-Teams.”
In all, the new spy training will enable more Green Berets to enter countries undercover to survey urban or rural settings and set up networks of informants, missions normally executed by CIA paramilitaries. There are also plans to put them under diplomatic cover at U.S. embassies abroad, according to military sources.
Fort Bragg, N.C., home to U.S. Army Special Operations Command, opened an intelligence-training school in 1986 for a select few Green Berets. They would in turn train other A-Team members in intelligence techniques.
Now, the Army is quietly opening a second intelligence training center at Fort Lewis, Wash., near Tacoma, home to the 1st Special Forces Group.
“You’re not supposed to know what they do,” said a military source of the planned training site. “They say it’s an advanced intelligence course. It’s kind of like the ‘Farm’ in Virginia,” referring to the CIA training center for the clandestine service.
With two schools, the Army will at least double the number of intelligence-savvy Green Berets and broaden their skills in intelligence collection and preparing the battle space.
The courses now focus on how to create a network of sources and then plan meetings that do not endanger the informant’s life. Soldiers are also taught how to handle money that is paid to informants.
According to several military sources, the Green Berets will undergo far more extensive training. They asked that the exact name of the course not be disclosed.
Soldiers quote Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Lambert, the former commander of Army Special Operations Command, as saying intelligence training was a key to success in Afghanistan,where Green Beret teams organized and led anti-Taliban locals.
Sources described the more sophisticated intelligence training as a top priority of U.S. Special Operations Command (SoCom) in Tampa, Fla.
Mr. Rumsfeld has given SoCom new powers to plan and execute kill-or-capture missions against terrorists. To do it, SoCom needs intelligence on where al Qaeda operatives are hiding. The hope is that broader training and deployment of Green Berets is one more step toward that goal.
The secretary also created the Pentagon’s first-ever undersecretary of defense for intelligence who has met with SoCom officers to coordinate and improve military intelligence collection.