Strategic Support Branch
The Strategic Support Branch (SSB) is an "espionage arm" of the Pentagon created by Donald Rumsfeld originally as Project Icon on April 25, 2002, a Washington Post article claimed on January 23, 2005, to end his "near total dependence on CIA" for intelligence gathered through the convert action and spy network that has been the dominion of the CIA since their charter. The SSB has its roots in the Defense Intelligence Agency's Defense Human Intelligence Service, a nine year old department that has mostly managed "military attaches openly to US embassies around the world."
The Washington Post goes on to explain the new unit is "designed to operate without detection" and under Rumsfeld's direct control. Among the small teams that make up SSB are case officers, linguists, interrogators and technical specialist working alongside special operations forces. They intend to add spy networks and the ability to recruit agents to fill in missing capabilities. Other plans include the creation of a Pentagon controlled espionage school and the technology to obtain direct access to national intelligence databases.
The current commander of operational units is Col. George Waldroup. Pentagon officials have admitted that many of those in the newly formed groups lack the experience in intelligence gathering that is common in the CIA.
SSB has been operating in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other unnamed places, The Post continues. Gen. Richard B. Myers, in an early planning memo, sets the focus on "emerging target countries such as Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia, the Philippines and Georgia."
SSB was created with "reprogrammed funds" that fall outside the oversight of congressional appropriations. Operations handled by the SSB also falls outside of congressional oversight. This has given Rumsfeld a fully operating intelligence arm run and regulated by him for the last two years.
Said Gen. Boykin on the matter, "The secretary actually has more responsibility to collect intelligence for the national foreign intelligence program . . . than does the CIA director."
The Post states Under Secretary for Intelligence Cambone said "that special operations personnel may "conduct clandistine HUMINT operations...before publication" of a deployment order, rendering notification unnecessary."
Defense Department lawyers claim the war on terror mutes the limitations put on the secretary of defense due to imminent combat. Said Assistant Secretary of Defense Thomas O'Connell, "many of the restrictions imposed on the Defense Department were imposed by tradition, by legislation, and by interpretations of various leaders and legal advisors. The interpretations take on the force of law and may preclude activities that are legal."
Other SourceWatch resources
- Covert operations
- Joint Intelligence Operational Command
- Joint Special Operations Command
- Special Operations Command
- Task Force 121