!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Context of 'January 23, 2005: Washington Post Exposes Pentagon Covert Operations Unit Kept Secret from Congressional Oversight'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event January 23, 2005: Washington Post Exposes Pentagon Covert Operations Unit Kept Secret from Congressional Oversight. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

In October 2001, the Pentagon establishes what is later known as the Strategic Support Branch (SSB), or Project Icon, to provide Rumsfeld with tools for “full spectrum of humint [human intelligence] operations” in “emerging target countries such as Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia, Philippines and Georgia.” It become functional in April 2002. It is said that Rumsfeld hopes the program will end his “near total dependence on CIA.” According to Assistant Secretary of Defense Thomas O’Connell, a possible scenario for which the Strategic Support Branch might be called to action would be if a “hostile country close to our borders suddenly changes leadership… We would want to make sure the successor is not hostile.” When SBB’s existence is revealed in early 2005 (see January 23, 2005), the Pentagon denies that the program was established to sideline the CIA, insisting that its sole purpose is to provide field operational units with intelligence obtained through prisoner interrogations, scouting and foreign spies, and from other units in the field. [CNN, 1/24/2005; Washington Post, 1/25/2005] As an arm of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA) Defense Human Intelligence Service, SSB operates under the Defense Secretary’s direct control and consists of small teams of case officers, linguists, interrogators and technical specialists who work alongside special operations forces. [Washington Post, 1/23/2005] However some SBB members are reported to be “out-of-shape men in their fifties and recent college graduates on their first assignments,” according to sources interviewed by the Washington Post. [Washington Post, 1/23/2005] When the SSB’s existence is revealed in 2005, its commander is Army Col. George Waldroup, who reports to Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). SSB’s policies are determined by Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone. [CNN, 1/24/2005] Critics say Waldroup lacks the necessary experience to run SSB and note that he was once investigated by Congress when he was a mid-level manager at the INS. SSB includes two Army squadrons of Delta Force; another Army squadron, code-named Gray Fox; an Air Force human intelligence unit; and the Navy SEAL unit known as Team Six. According to sources interviewed by the Washington Post, the branch is funded using “reprogrammed” funds that do not have explicit congressional authority or appropriation. [Washington Post, 1/23/2005] However, this will be denied by the Pentagon when the unit’s existence is revealed. [CNN, 1/24/2005]

Entity Tags: Stephen A. Cambone, US Naval Special Warfare Development Group, Gray Fox, Donald Rumsfeld, Strategic Support Branch, or Project Icon, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment--Delta, George Waldroup, Thomas O’Connell

Timeline Tags: US Military, Complete 911 Timeline

President George Bush issues an executive order transferring control of the covert operations unit “Gray Fox” from the US Army to Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in Tampa at the insistence of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s office. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005 Sources: unnamed former high-level intelligence official interviewed by Seymour Hersh] Gray Fox becomes part of the Strategic Support Branch (SSB), a unit jointly run by the Defense Department and the DIA (see October 2001-April 2002).

Entity Tags: Strategic Support Branch, or Project Icon, Donald Rumsfeld, Gray Fox, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US Military

US President George Bush signs the 2003 Defense Authorization Act. [US President, 12/9/2002] One of the act’s provisions creates the new Pentagon post of undersecretary of defense for intelligence (see June 21, 2002). [US Congress, 11/12/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US Military

The US Senate confirms the nomination of Stephen Cambone as undersecretary of defense for intelligence, a new Pentagon position that was created by the 2002 Defense Authorization Act (see December 2, 2002). [US Department of Defense, 4/15/2004] Cambone now oversees “assets that used to belong elsewhere, most notably a secret intelligence organization [code-named ‘Gray Fox’] that specializes in large-scale ‘deep penetration’ missions in foreign countries, especially tapping communications and laying the groundwork for overt military operations.” Asked by the Washington Post about the transfer of Gray Fox a few months later, Cambone responds, “We won’t talk about those things.” [Washington Post, 4/20/2003] He also sets the priorities for the Strategic Support Branch, a military unit running covert operations established shortly after 9/11 that Gray Fox is a part of (see October 2001-April 2002). [Washington Post, 1/23/2005] Cambone is not well-liked among the military and civilian intelligence bureaucrats in the Pentagon, “essentially because he [has] little experience in running intelligence programs,” New Yorker magazine will later report. [New Yorker, 5/24/2004] In fact, Cambone will become so hated and feared inside the Pentagon as Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s loyal “hatchet man” that one anonymous general will later tell the Army Times, “If I had one round left in my revolver, I’d take out Stephen Cambone”. [CounterPunch, 2/7/2006]

Entity Tags: Gray Fox, Strategic Support Branch, or Project Icon, Stephen A. Cambone

Timeline Tags: US Military

A Pentagon memo states that agents recruited as part of the Pentagon’s covert operations program, the Strategic Support Branch (see October 2001-April 2002), “may include ‘notorious figures’ whose links to the US government would be embarrassing if disclosed.” [Washington Post, 1/23/2005]

Entity Tags: Strategic Support Branch, or Project Icon

Timeline Tags: US Military, Complete 911 Timeline

The Washington Post publishes a story revealing the existence of a previously unheard of covert operations unit called the Strategic Support Branch (SSB), or Project Icon. It conducts operations that had previously been done mainly by the CIA, and was set up in the weeks just after 9/11 (see October 2001-April 2002). [Washington Post, 1/23/2005] Members of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees say they have never been aware of the unit’s existence until the Post expose. Sen. Dianne Feinstein calls for Senate Intelligence committee hearings into the matter, but no such hearings take place. The committees are only briefed by the military about the unit one day after the Post story. [CNN, 1/24/2005] One anonymous Republican member of Congress involved in national security oversight complains, “Operations the CIA runs have one set of restrictions and oversight, and the military has another. It sounds like there’s an angle here of, ‘Let’s get around having any oversight by having the military do something that normally the [CIA] does, and not tell anybody.’ That immediately raises all kinds of red flags for me. Why aren’t they telling us?” [Washington Post, 1/23/2005]

Entity Tags: Dianne Feinstein, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: US Military, Complete 911 Timeline

Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone resigns. His resignation closely follows that of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (see November 6-December 18, 2006). Cambone, who had held his position since early 2003, was widely considered Rumsfeld’s closest aide and his “hatchet man” (see March 7, 2003). [US Department of Defense, 12/1/2006] He was in charge of many of the military’s most covert and controversial programs. Less than a year later, Cambone will be hired by QinetiQ North America (QNA), a British-owned military and intelligence contractor based in Virginia. Shortly after Cambone is hired, QNA wins a $30 million contract to provide unspecified “security services” to the US military’s Counter-Intelligence Field Activity office (CIFA). Cambone helped create and run CIFA. In 2003, CIFA launched an electronic database called Talon to collect domestic intelligence. The database later faced scrutiny when it was reported to be collecting data on anti-military protesters and peaceful demonstrators. [CorpWatch, 1/15/2008]

Entity Tags: QinetiQ North America, Donald Rumsfeld, Stephen A. Cambone, Counter-Intelligence Field Activity

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Ordering 

Time period


Email Updates

Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database

 
Donate

Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
Donate Now

Volunteer

If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.
Contact Us

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike