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Green Berets take on spy duties
Question of the Day
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.
"For too long, the shooters have left intel for the spooks to do," a Pentagon official said. "Our philosophy is: Everybody's an intelligence agent."
The end result, this official said, is that Green Berets will play a larger role in preparing the battle space -- a chore largely left up to CIA officers and paramilitaries.
Such preparation involves the insertion of small teams into a denied area to recruit agents and setting up landing zones and safe houses.
A confidential briefing chart obtained by The Washington Times shows the Pentagon's thinking on having Green Berets perform preparation of the battle space. The Green Berets would recruit locals who would help them infiltrate the country, and arrange transportation and shelter for soldiers, and organize the local resistance.
The CIA would "gain access to protected information" and conduct covert operations.
One benefit of having the Green Berets do battle space preparation is that it would not require the administration to submit a "finding" or notification to Congress.
Under Title 50 of the U.S. code, which controls CIA operations, the administration would have to notify Congress if the agency took on that mission.
By Mark Davis
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