Category Archives: Unconventional Warfare

One Raid, Two Tales, Two SEALs

tridentSupposedly, they’re going to have the guy who plugged Bin Laden on Fox (warning, Daily Caller link, often has autoplay spam1).

Meanwhile, the guy who wrote a book about it under the pseudonym Mark Owen is under criminal investigation. According to the New York Times, investigators have been shadowing his speaking engagements. According to the Times, “Owen’s2” decision to write a book came about after then-SecDef Leon Panetta pressured unit members to tell their stories exclusively to the makers of Zero Dark Thirty, a propaganda film lionizing the CIA and the Administration.

["Owen's" lawyer] said [Former SEAL Marc] Bissonnette had decided to write “No Easy Day” after Leon E. Panetta, then the C.I.A. director, urged some of the members of SEAL Team 6 to cooperate with the producers of the film “Zero Dark Thirty.” The filmmakers benefited from extensive assistance from the C.I.A. and the Pentagon.

“Matt’s view was: ‘Wait a minute. This is our story, not their story,’ ” Mr. Luskin said. “And why should that story be told through the mouths of others?”

While his “crime” is ostensibly breach of classified TTPs, his real offense was to publish a story that was substantially different from the largely-fictional version released by DC officialdom and already massaged into two below-average films: Zero Dark Thirty and the even worse TV outing, SEAL Team SIX, which has the production values and plot of a North Korean propaganda flick.

Reuters graphic of the bin-the-bin raid. Timeline, etc., based off the "official" leaks from Panetta and others.

Reuters graphic of the bin-the-bin raid. Timeline, etc., based off the “official” leaks from Panetta and others. Actually, two aircraft delivered the SEALs. The helicopter was not hit by an RPG, but some .gov “source” made up the story and Reuters ran with it single-source. Because that’s what J-school “pros” do.

What’s at stake here is who can write about classified operations. Traditionally, this privilege has been part of the de facto Title of Nobility that comes with being a member of Codevilla’s Political Class: the Yarvard apparatchiks who take great pleasure in bossing special operators around, but cringe at the idea of actually being among them. No general officer, flag officer, political appointee or SES member has ever been punished for publishing a book, no matter what he revealed (such books frequently blow sources and methods; one actually blew a hyper-sensitive, code-word protected special-purpose cryptosystem). And no junior staff member has ever been punished — so long as his book came later, and supported the narrative, of the Political Class books. But “Owen” may soon join Fred Snepp (a junior CIA officer at the time of the fall of Saigon) in the ranks of those for whom the 1st Amendment must be bent, if not broken.

Snepp lost a precedent-making lawsuit; his ostensible crime was the same as Bissonnette’s, but hisreal crime was to expose the cynicism of SecState Henry Kissinger’s Nobel-Prize Winning deal to delay the fall of Saigon until a “Decent Interval” (the title of Snepp’s book) had passed, and to expose the failure of the CIA to protect its human sources in Vietnam.  These “secrets” were certainly known to America’s enemies, with whom the first had been deliberately negotiated and to whom the second, in the form of the personnel files of human agents, had been mistakenly delivered. The purpose of the secrecy Snepp (and Bissonnette) breached was to keep the American public in the dark in order to polish political reputations. 


The Pentagon really wants to reserve discussion of this raid to people who have been to the right schools (and BUD/S doesn’t count), or maybe, signed-on to Hillary 2016. They’ve threatened the SEAL in a “nice life you have here, shame if you lost it” statement through an otherwise insignificant Pentagon spokes-dolly, Navy Commander Amy Derrick-Frost, who almost certainly was mouthing words written for her by someone much higher up the totem pole.


1. We previously have not named Owen, but that ship has well and truly sailed, and the media long ago outed him — thanks possibly to Panetta and other figures tied in with the Zero Dark Thirty project — so we give up.

2. We’ve finally beaten autoplay spam in Safari with a well-behaved Safari plugin, Click-to-plugin by Mark Hoyois.

Fred the Great: On Duty, and On General Order Nº1

Frederick II "The Great's" sarcophagus was hidden in a mineshaft by Nazis who feared it would be destroyed by the Allies. It wasn't (his peripatetic corpse finally was buried on his lawn where he'd originally requested -- in the 21st Century).

Frederick II “The Great’s” sarcophagus was hidden in a mineshaft by Nazis who feared it would be destroyed by the Allies. It wasn’t (his peripatetic corpse finally was buried on his lawn where he’d originally requested — in the 21st Century).

Frederick II, “the Great,” of Prussia was one of the most brilliant generals that ever lived. His strategy, his tactics, and his relative attention to logistics and mobility were all ahead of their time, and enabled the relatively small principality of Prussia to kick ass and take names all over Europe.

Frederick is also remembered for his correspondence: a witty writer, he was fortunate to live at the time of the Enlightenment, and exchanged pithy and deep letters with Voltaire. He encouraged immigration to Prussia, but particularly skilled immigration: he cared not if one was a Huguenot farmer, Jesuit scholar or a Jewish trader, but if you had something to bring to Prussia the door was open to you. At the same time he accepted Protestants fleeing Catholic pressure in some countries, and Catholics fleeing the Protestants in others — as long as they could bring something to Prussia.

He is less remembered for his artsy personality; he may indeed have been queer as a three-mark coin, and he wrote four symphonies and scores of concertos in the baroque style as well as military marches; he sponsored CPE Bach and received a sonata as a gift from Bach’s father, Johann Sebastian Bach (that’s “the” Bach to you musical ignorami). He preferred French to his native German, but was fluent in both, and functional in several other European languages.

The National Archives calls these swords of Frederick the Great, but says in the same article they were from the coronation of Frederick I.

The National Archives calls these swords of Frederick the Great, but says in the same article they were from the coronation of Frederick I, so they may predate the great general-king.

But in military arts, he is remembered for what he said as much as for what he did (which laid the groundwork for Bismarck’s unification of the German states under a Prussian king a century on).

He won battles and lost them; he came within a hair of losing Berlin to a Russian and Austrian alliance that fortuitously fell apart after the death of Elizabeth of Russia and the ascension of her nephew Peter the Great (Peter III, the not-so-great1, see the footnote and correction in comments), an admirer of Frederick, to the throne.

But he was a master of, not exactly the pithy aphorism like those for which Napoleon was deservedly legendary, but a well-turned entire paragraph, of which we have a couple of examples to offer you today.


He had this to say (in a letter to Voltaire, who was critical of Frederick’s militarism), about the military life and its attractions, or lack thereof, for him:

Do you think I take any pleasure in this dog’s life, in seeing and causing death in people unknown to me, in losing friends and acquaintances daily, in seeing my reputation ceaselessly exposed to the caprices of fortune, in spending the whole year with uneasiness and apprehension, in continually risking my life and my fortune? I certainly know the value of tranquility, the charms of society, the pleasures of life, and I like to be happy as much as anybody. Although I desire all these good things, I will not buy them with baseness and infamy. Philosophy teaches us to do our duty, to serve our country faithfully at the expense of our blood and of our repose, to commit our whole being to it.

You may believe him or not — we suspect that he took rather more pleasure in campaigning than that, at least while he was winning. We also suspect Voltaire didn’t buy it for a minute.

The next aphorism is also one that deserves reflection almost 240 years after its utterance. While today’s abstemious (sometimes to the point of asceticism) American officers revel in the purity of the Temple they have made of their bodies, Frederick’s words, from 1777, rise from his grave at Sans Souci to condemn General Order One:

It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects, and the amount of money that goes out of the country as a consequence. Everybody is using coffee; this must be prevented. His Majesty was brought up on beer, and so were both his ancestors and officers. Many battles have been fought and won by soldiers nourished on beer, and the King does not believe that coffee-drinking soldiers can be relied upon to endure hardships in case of another war.

Yeah. What Fred said.

The only reason we haven’t actually lost yet is that the pathetic hadjis are coffee-drinkers, too.


1 Re: Peter the not-too-great, read Max’s comment and check the bios at and at Russian state-controlled broadcaster Russia Today for the short and unhappy reign of this guy, who was most important in Russian history as the way that Catherine the Great (who really was great) rose to the throne. The problem with kings and nobles is, of course, the tendency to regression to the mean (or beyond) in their posterity.

10th Legion Inscription from Destroyed Arch Found in Jerusalem

The new discovery.

The new discovery, outdoors undergoing conservation.

Israelis could be excused for not wanting anything to do with the Roman Legion X Fretensis, which occupied Judea for a long period and suppressed the Maccabee and Bar-Kochba Revolts in counterinsurgency campaigns of the type common in classical antiquity: brutal and sanguinary.

But Israeli archaeologists were thrilled to announce the rediscovery of a long-lost inscription dedicated to the Roman Emperor Hadrian by the Legion in 129 or 130 AD. The tag end of the inscription had long been known, but the upper part turned up in reused stones that had been the lintel of an arch of triumph.

To the Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the deified Traianus Parthicus, grandson of the deified Nerva, high priest, invested with tribunician power for the 14th time, consul for the third time, father of the country (dedicated by) the 10th legion Fretensis (2nd hand) Antoniniana.

via Stone engraved to Roman emperor Hadrian discovered in Jerusalem | Israel | Jewish Journal.

hadrian_statueHadrian was a remarkable emperor, known for Hadrian’s Wall in Britain and for his famous villa/palace. But his rule of the inhabitants of Judea was marked by cruel conquest. Jerusalem was destroyed, and a city named “Aelia Capitolina” built on its ruins. The arch celebrated Hadrians’ troops’ eradication of Jewish resistance; the statue of Hadrian (on the right) was also erected to celebrate this victory. It’s unknown who pulled down and broke up this statue of Hadrian; it could have been Jews getting some cultural revenge, or it could have been iconoclastic Ottomans, although iconoclasts usually destroyed the noses or faces of statues, in addition to pulling them down and breaking them up. (Will archaeologists be unearthing Lenins in 2000 years? One hopes not).

An archaeologist conserves the new-found inscription honoring Hadrian.

An archaeologist conserves the new-found inscription honoring Hadrian.

Outside of Judea, Hadrian was often viewed (including by European historians) as a model of the benevolent despot. In Judea, that was not his image, as a review of the history of the Bar-Kochba revolt indicates. After the initial, AD 70, revolt led to a Jewish defeat, Rome imposed a harsh peace, and on taking the reins of power, Hadrian cranked up the pressure on his Judean subjects, demanding they convert to Roman religion and abjure their ancient faith. Titus had already razed the Temple; Hadrian planned his city, Aelia Capitolina, with a temple to his god, Jupiter, and the Jews grudgingly accepted that — until he banned two Jewish religious practices that had long struck Romans as barbarous: castration and circumcision. (Jews do not practice castration; Hadrian may have been misinformed). That and other offenses against Jewish belief were enough to bring the Jews to the brink of revolt. In 132 AD, Roman engineers constructing the new Roman city collapsed the Tomb of Solomon, venerated by Jews as a holy place. Fuel-air mixture, meet spark. The rebellious Jews, led by Simon bar-Kochba, seized the countryside and knew better than to engage the Roman legions directly.

The rebels did not dare try to risk open confrontation against the Romans, but occupied the advantageous positions in the country and strengthened them with mines and walls, so that they would have places of refuge when hard pressed and could communicate with one another unobserved underground; and they pierced these subterranean passages from above at intervals to let in air and light.

[Cassius Dio, Roman history 69.12.3]

(Now you see where Hamas got the tunnel idea). Even sending a top general, Julius Severus, didn’t win the war; Hadrian actually had to come himself. (We have a vision of him saying, “Severus, you had one job.“)  Somewhere between four and seven Legions were deployed; one, XXII Deiotariana, vanishes from history after this war. One source suggests it was annihilated; it might also have been disgraced, or lost its eagle.

The X Legion had been through that disgrace in Parthia, after Crassus led them to defeat at Cannae (another emperor later ransomed the eagles back after an interval). So it was going to celebrate any victory it got.

Going back to Cassius Dio again (courtesy of that same source), we see that Hadrian won by a counterinsurgent campaign that resembles more closely German campaigns against Russian partisans or America’s crushing of the Indians than the kinder, gentler COIN of today.

Severus did not venture to attack his opponents in the open at any one point, in view of their numbers and their fanaticism, but -by intercepting small groups, thanks to the number of his soldiers and under-officers, and by depriving them of food and shutting them up- he was able, rather slowly, to be sure, but with comparative little danger, to crush, exhaust and exterminate them. Very few Jews in fact survived. Fifty of their most important outposts and 985 better known villages were razed to the ground. 580,000 were killed in the various engagements or battles. As for the numbers who perished from starvation, disease or fire, that was impossible to establish.

[Cassius Dio, Roman history 69.13.2-3]

The last stand of the rebels was in Betar, in the desert southwest of Judea; rather than an Alamo storm, the Romans simply starved the last of the Jewish resisters out. Tradition holds that the head of Bar-Kochba was brought to Hadrian, who said over the grisly sight, “If his God had not slain him, who could have overcome him?”

hadrian_killing_jewThere were still mopping up operations, but the war was over. Along with the new name for Jerusalem, Judea itself got a new name — Palestine. The survivors of the Jewish armies were sold into slavery or put to the sword — in this fanciful carving, by Hadrian himself.

Victorious, but weakened by Roman losses during the long campaign of no quarter, Hadrian returned to Rome.

The part of the inscription discovered by a French archaeologist in the 19th Century.

The part of the inscription discovered by a French archaeologist in the 19th Century.

After he was gone, and after the Romans were gone, someone knocked down the plaque and broke it up. A part was found the century before last by French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau, and the remainder turned up on a dig this year — it had been used to pave a well. The arch-shaped lower part, the original discovery from the 1800s, is on outdoor display at the Studium Biblicum Franciscan Museum in Jerusalem.


Latin inscriptions did not fare well in Judea in the millennia that followed the retreat of Rome. Very few have survived, and to have one that is both complete and readily dated is rare indeed. Over a century passed between the discovery of the two parts of the inscription.

And enough time has passed that even the Israelis are excited about it, maybe more excited than today’s Romans.

As we used to say in 10th Group, Ave Caesar! Morituri te Salutamus.

Some Ranger Halloween Humor

We plucked all these photos off of the Regiment’s twisted Twitter feed, which we found thanks to Lee Williams. We start off more serious, and quickly get less serious.

Would you like to meet this guy in a dark alley? Why, he’s not even wearing his reflective belt!

Ranger Sniper

Judging from the way he’s armed, you might encounter him in a dark alley, but you wouldn’t be seeing him.

The other hand, judging from his arms, he’s already on the bubble, as the Army’s tattoo nazis try to weed guys like him out of the service.

I’m not sure these fellows are Rangers. They are, however, posing like Army Guys:

Clowning Around with Army Guys

And speaking, as we were a moment ago, about dark alley apparitions:

Ranger Alien

You thought Alien was science fiction. This guy thought it was a visual Ranger Handbook. He’s just about at a sci-fi level of kit-out, however: SCAR Mk17, Elcan w/Docter, M320 GL, etc. But the Hollywood combat mask and out-of-this-world dreadlocks make him pretty memorable.

The Regiment originally didn’t like the SCAR but it’s grown on them a lot, probably because of the high marks other ARSOF units have given it, especially with the 10.3″ barrel for CQB. The soldier above is well-situated for targets from anywhere within powder-burn range to 800 meters out. For targets beyond that? That’s what radios are for.


A Bit of Cold War History

CIA SealOver at the CIA’s FOIA files, there’s a remarkable 1983 letter (.pdf) that more or less predicted the fall of the Soviet Union. Now, predicting the fall of the Soviet Union was a Cold War hobby of many people of many nationalities. Soviet dissident Andrei Amalrik even wrote a book, Can the Soviet Union survive until 1984? Amalrik answered his question in the negative. He wasn’t so much wrong, as a few years ahead of the game.

A lot of people, especially among those with hands-on experience in the Soviet and slave-satellite system, predicted the fall of the USSR. But in the US intelligence community, those predictions were rare (and were resisted by the Soviet desk analysts). “Rare” is not the same thing as “nonexistent,” though, and today’s document is one of those rare exceptions.

This letter, from National Intelligence Council Vice-Chairman Herbert Meyer to the Director and Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, was shocking in its prescience. He began by noting a marked uptick in violence and threats of violence in the late summer and fall of 1983: KAL 007, the Beirut bombings, the coup and US countercoup in Grenada, the now-forgotten Libyan invasion of Chad, terrorist murders of South Korean and Filipino politicians. Many of these events were aided, if not commanded, by the Soviet intelligence services.

He notes that the Soviet system was within decades of collapse, enumerates why, and points at some indicators of insecurity in the Kremlin:

Two Kremlin actions provide a good measure of Moscow’s domestic impotence. To boost the birthrate among Russian women — who average six abortions, according to recent, highly credible research — the Soviet Union has decided to offer Glory of Motherhood awards to women who bear large families. And to reform the world’s second-largest economy, Kremlin leaders last month ordered the execution, for corruption, of the poor devil who managed Gastronome Nº. 1, Moscow’s gourmet delicatessen. These feeble and pathetic actions are not those of a dynamic or even a healthy leadership responding to national emergency. They bring to mind neither Roosevelt in 1933 nor Reagan in 1981, but rather Nicholas II in 1910.

Meyer points out that Soviet officials who saw the possibility of Cold War victory slipping away — more likely fellows a few rungs down from the top, rather than the top-level leaders — might lose many of their inhibitions. Nevertheless, he considered the Cold War as good as won.

It has long been fashionable to view the Cold War as a permanent feature of global politics, when that will endure the next several generations at least. But it seems to me more likely that President Reagan was absolutely correct when he observed in his Notre Dame speech that the Soviet Union – “one of the histories saddest and most bizarre chapters” – Is entering its final pages. (We really should take up the President’s suggestion to begin planning for a post-Soviet world; the Soviet Union and its people won’t disappear from the planet, and we have not yet thought seriously about the sort of political and economic structure likely to emerge.) In short, the free world has outdistanced the Soviet Union economically, crushed it ideologically, and held it off politically. The only serious arena of competition left is military. From now on the Cold War will become more and more of a bare-knuckles street fight.

Some Insights into Drone Warfare

mq9 and JDAMsDeskbound managers, who have replaced leaders in most military operations these days, are extremely enthusiastic about drones. Combat leaders are somewhat less so, leading us to this:

Drones will not be late to briefings, start fights at happy hour, destroy Officers Clubs, attempt to seduce others’ dates, purchase huge watches, insult other military services, sing “O’Leary’s Balls,” dance on tables, yell “Show us your tits!” or do all of the other things that we know wins wars!

This quote is attributed to one “Ace” Jewell, CDR USN, Ret. about whom the source email says,  “Now about 88, Fighter Pilot in 3 wars and LSO extraordinaire.”

Those things he mentions do win wars. Do we need to explain why?

Zombie Headshots with Jerry Miculek

It’s amazing, but we can’t even keep up with all the gun stuff that’s coming out. So in order to get a post up that doesn’t require a ton of writing, we’re going to fob off another Jerry Miculek video on you. In this one, Jerry tries to reenact some of the script-driven trick shooting of the AMC series, The Walking Dead — using the same weapons some of the actors in the show use.

We have to confess, we watched The Walking Dead’s first two — or three? — seasons. The first season was fairly engaging, for a zombie flick, but the second season – or was it the third? – left us cold. The season that turned us off, whichever one it was, was one characterized by the former leader Rick spending all his time brooding, sighing, and generally acting morose. He looked like some escaped Royal Hospital for Overacting patient, emoting lugubriously amid his teethmarks on the scenery. The leader of a band of survivors in desperate times does not have the freedom to go moping about like the unwanted turkey-baster baby of Alanis Morissette and Sylvia Plath in a world without antidepressant meds. Who really cares about that? Not us, anyway.

We’re a little bemused by the whole zombie thing. Our best guess is, in the same way that Japanese monster movies of the 1950s were a distortion of the fear of nuclear war, that couldn’t  really be addressed by filmmakers at the time, the zombies are a decent proxy for Moslem terrorists, who Hollywood PC renders unusable as screen villains. It’s OK to whack zombies: they’re already dead, after all.

But we’re always in for some good killin’, or re-killin’ as the case may be.

And Jerry addresses a question that every shooter has to ask himself — are those running headshots even possible? Even Jerry, it seems can make a mistake, but when the Zombie Apocalypse strikes, he seems like a pretty good guy to have in your redoubt. He hits the walkers with AUG w/EoTech, “backwards-rotating” Colt Python, Mossberg 12-gauge pump, a Cold Steel Katana, and, naturally, a Barnett Crossbow. Laughing, naturally. Does he hit ‘em? Watch and see. (some good high-speed video, too).

It’s good to have him walk through the stage after shooting it, and explain what was going on.

Is it repeatable under stress? I dunno. They wasn’t attacking me. I was attacking them.

The coolest detail of all comes at the end: Jerry’s got a new reality show, Shootout Lane, in the works.  2nd Coolest detail? If you use the discount code JERRY10, you can save 10% on Zombie Industries targets (the ones in his zombie stage)., where the zombies are afraid of the humans – and that’s the way it should be.

(Hat tip: Guns Save Life. Thanks).

One Thing Tells You how the Bergdahl Investigation Went

mad-magazine-trading-private-bergdahlOne thing reveals the truth of what the Army discovered during its investigation of the alleged desertion of SGT Bowe Bergdahl: the Army won’t be releasing the report.

You may rest assured that if the report reflected well on Bergdahl, his unit, or the Army in general, the politicians-in-uniform at the Pentagon would have released, or at least leaked, the results by now. The absence of reporting means it’s bad news for one or more of those. Our informed guess is, it’s bad news for two of the three, but whenever it does finally come out, it will be spun to deflect most of the blame onto Bergdahl’s non-deserting comrades.

The Hill:

The Army has no plans to release the results of an investigation into Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s disappearance and capture by the Taliban in 2009, a spokesman said Friday.

“We recognize the importance of the media and the public understanding of our investigative process, and look forward to future discussions on this issue. However, the Army’s priority is ensuring that our process is thorough, factually accurate, impartial, and legally correct,” Army spokesman Wayne Hall said in a statement.

via Army won’t release Bergdahl review | TheHill.

We’ve long suspected that Bergdahl deserted with some ill-formed or half-baked intent to collaborate, only to find that an infidel’s Taliban welcome — even a traitor’s — was less warm that Afghan hospitality usually tries to extend.

The swap for Bergdahl was a good deal for the Taliban. They got rid of a guy who was no use to them, and a hassle to feed and keep safe, and picked up five of their own guys who were in captivity. (From the Taliban point of view, it was a hostage rescue — their guys held hostage by us). It was a bad deal for the USA, unless you’re a closet Islamist or a peace-at-any-price white-flagger. Or Bowe Bergdahl’s mom, perhaps.

The Army, and Dahl, seemed to be trying very hard not to investigate Bergdahl.

This is not the first time. In the aftermath of the return of the Vietnam War, the military wanted nothing to do with prosecuting deserters and traitors among the prisoners, some of whom had gone over to the NVA for comforts or privileges or to get back at SROs in the camps. (SRO Ted Guy had brilliantly arranged for several loyal prisoners to infiltrate the Peace Committee, so the identities of the “ducks” or traitors were well known and there was a great deal of available evidence against them). The outrage of several of the loyal prisoners began to force the issue, and seven identified and named turncoats were selected for possible prosecution. Ted Guy filed charges, then another officer did likewise.

When it looked like a court-martial might actually happen, one of the guilty traitors, ex-Marine Abel Kavanaugh, spared the Corps a trial and shot himself in the left temple. Kavanaugh had made propaganda statements and broadcasts, and assisted the NVA in rooting out escape plans, in return for food and privileges. The Washington make-no-waves crowd was far more upset over this than they’d ever been about the torture and murders of prisoners. Then Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird (the same DC crapweasel who thought the Son Tay Raiders deserved no more than the Army Commendation Medal(!), at the time the service’s lowest award), quickly pulled the plug on the court-martials of the remaining seven collaborators.

Abel was one of only two former POWs to commit suicide in the five years following their release (the other guy was not one of the 8 collaborators).

After the Korean War, many more Americans had collaborated (two hundred-odd out of ~7,000 taken captive, of whom some ~2,500 were murdered in captivity) but very few were put on trial (the Army alone court-martialed collaborators, 15 of them, one of whom had murdered at least three fellow prisoners).  The other services dealt with a few cases of similar misconduct administratively.

In any event, it was always, and remains, extremely unlikely that the military would prosecute a prisoner/collaborator, no matter how egregious his misconduct. After all, in 1954, the court-martials of the Korean War collaborarors were expremely controversial; in 1973, court-martials were too controversial even to try; the nation is no more united, nor interested in martial values in 2014 than it was forty or sixty years ago.

So the fix is in for Bergdahl, but they won’t go public until after the election.

Nobody Loves a Snitch (source, agent, informer, CI)….

spy vs spyNobody loves a snitch, not even the people they’re snitching to. But normally they take some precautions to keep the snitch from being whacked, kidnapped, or otherwise inconvenienced by the people he or she is snitching on.

The fundamental key to that is to keep the snitched-upon from knowing that their secrets are in play. Even if you despise, detest, or maybe at best don’t care an iota about your sources, you shouldn’t let them be burned, for the simple reason that it makes it a damned sight harder to recruit more sources.  This is true even if you’re a really outstanding recruiter (which is about as common as a solar eclipse, actually).

But the DEA apparently acts like they have informants to burn:

The court tells us what happened next: “In early 1995, DEA thwarted a plot to assassinate the Princess.” Then, in March of that year, a federal prosecutor informed a criminal defendant in Chicago — a defendant with connections to the cartels — that the Princess was a confidential informant. A few months later, “DEA in Rome, Italy, intercepted a conversation between drug traffickers that suggested the Princess’s cover had been compromised.”

You will not be surprised to learn that the agency sent her back anyway. And this time, her handler did not follow proper procedures for alerting the DEA’s people in Bogota that an informant was on the way.

Shortly after her arrival for that final trip, the Princess was kidnapped at gunpoint. She was held in a small hut for three and a half months, where she spent five days with a noose around her neck. Although the opinion of the Court of Claims says she was not physically abused, her interrogation became, in the words of the Princess’s own testimony, “a little bit I will say violent.” She was finally freed after an unnamed source paid a ransom of $350,000 “from his own funds.”

It gets better (? maybe “better” is the wrong word).

Ironically, the Princess was put at risk in part because the drug money she was supposed to be laundering was instead stolen by a supervisory agent, who later pleaded guilty to the theft of $760,000 and was sentenced to prison. But the Princess, pressed by the cartel on the whereabouts of their money, could hardly tell them that a fellow DEA employee had stolen it. So she made up a story instead — a story that was sufficiently weak that the cartel evidently began to suspect not that she was an undercover informant, but that she herself had stolen their money.

The country’s in the very best of hands, eh?

Again, you don’t reward and protect snitches because you like them. if you’re any kind of a decent human being, you probably don’t like them, because any snitch with the placement and access to be of any use to you is, at the barest of minima, one of your enemies. And the best placed snitch is someone who has endeared himself to your enemies by doing reprehensible things to your friends.

You reward and protect snitches because, repulsive though many of them are, you need them, and when the utility of this one is done you need another one, next. There are some agencies that get this (and open themselves up to charges of coddling their agents/sources/CIs). There are some agencies that, generally, don’t. These non-coddlers operate on the theory that a source is just another scumbag, and there’s always a fresh scumbag coming down the pike, usually with something you can use to get leverage over him.

But the word of how you treat these people does get out (criminals, and sources are usually criminals, have piss-poor opsec), and it’s just good business not to be That Guy who burns his sources.

Note: A Word about Definitions

The criminal investigation agencies tend to call human sources “informants” or “informers,” if they’re making some effort to protect the source’s identity, “confidential informants/ers”. They (usually) call their trained and sworn personnel “special agents.” Meanwhile, the intelligence agencies that conduct human source operations call their sources “agents” and the guys and gals that run the sources, “officers.” Meanwhile, since the Church Commission the military lawyers have been clutching their pearls about the idea that military personnel would run agents, so the service elements that you would expect to run agents never do any more. Nope, they run sources. Until they handover to another agency, when the terms used for the snitch and his handler may change.

That’s one tip for readers of spy novels — anybody who writes about a “CIA Agent” meaning an American professional CIA employee knows not whereof he speaks. The agents are the guys snitching out their country’s secrets to a COA officer. But since the mid-1970s, your friendly SF ODA 18F (who used to be called the intelligence sergeant before his job was renamed) no longer trains and certifies as an agent handler (which used to be the name of the course, run at since-defunct Ft. Holabird).  He might know a thing or two about sources, but good luck finding out from him.

ISIL: No fun being right

The author of this piece in the Independent, Patrick Cockburn, is one of a family of Irish Communist journalists; while they all have had a kind word for Stalin, Brezhnev, or Andropov, who from time to time enriched them, none of them has ever had a kind word for the United States, and that familial hostility permeates Patrick Cockburn’s copious writings about Iraq, which tend to exemplify prose fellatio of Muqtada al-Sadr much the way he father performed the figurative act for Uncle Joe, back in the day.

Yet, even with the this-guy-hates-us-so-much-he’s-cheering-ISIL discount applied, it’s hard to disagree with what Cockburn is saying in this case:

In the face of a likely Isis victory at Kobani, senior US officials have been trying to explain away the failure to save the Syrian Kurds in the town, probably Isis’s toughest opponents in Syria. “Our focus in Syria is in degrading the capacity of [Isis] at its core to project power, to command itself, to sustain itself, to resource itself,” said US Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken, in a typical piece of waffle designed to mask defeat. “The tragic reality is that in the course of doing that there are going to be places like Kobani where we may or may not be able to fight effectively.”

Unfortunately for the US, Kobani isn’t the only place air strikes are failing to stop Isis. In an offensive in Iraq launched on 2 October but little reported in the outside world, Isis has captured almost all the cities and towns it did not already hold in Anbar province, a vast area in western Iraq that makes up a quarter of the country. It has captured Hit, Kubaisa and Ramadi, the provincial capital, which it had long fought for. Other cities, towns and bases on or close to the Euphrates River west of Baghdad fell in a few days, often after little resistance by the Iraqi Army which showed itself to be as dysfunctional as in the past, even when backed by US air strikes.

via War against Isis: US strategy in tatters as militants march on – Comment – Voices – The Independent.

The failure, ultimately, is a failure of will: there is no will to win on the American side. Well, there is, but not at the policy-making level. Only at the policy-implementing level, where the people are wearing uniform collars, something that is never wrapped around the neck of anyone calling the shots in DC. (Well, except Chuck Hagel, who seems to be content playing Iscariot to the boys and girls in uniform. Or maybe that analogy is over the top, and who he’s playing is actually Macnamara. Which only puts Judas at one more remove, actually).

The many pale talents of the Obama “national security” team run together in our mind, so we  don’t remember whether Tony Blinken was the guy who was a speechwriting wunderkind, the guy who drove a campaign van, or the guy hired as a playmate for the Portuguese Water Dog. But whichever one he is, all he knows about Iraq is that he’s superior enough to be swollen with contempt for all you dumb clucks who went there.

Exercise for the reader: find the parvenu in strategic circles in World War II who is the most fitting analogue for Tony Blinken.

As far as ISIL’s ongoing victories in the face of the ineffective bombing being done with one eye on the media and one on the midterms (leaving none for the target, the enemy, or friendly forces), well, we predicted it but it isn’t fun being right in this case.