from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 62
June 18, 2007

Secrecy News Blog:

Support Secrecy News


The structure of Army special operations forces, their capabilities and characteristic mission profiles, and the role of intelligence in supporting them are described in a newly disclosed U.S. Army field manual.

There are nine distinct missions for Army special forces, including: unconventional warfare, direct action, counterproliferation, foreign internal defense, psychological operations, and "special activities," which is the DoD euphemism for covert action.

"Special activities fall under Executive Order 12333, United States Intelligence Activities," according to the Army field manual. "They require a presidential finding and congressional oversight. ARSOF [Army Special Operations Forces] conduct them abroad in support of national foreign policy objectives, but in a manner that USG [US Government] participation is neither apparent nor publicly acknowledged."

The 200-page Army field manual, which remains in effect, was issued in 2001. A copy of the unclassified document was obtained by Secrecy News.

See "Army Special Operations Forces Intelligence," Field Manual FM 3-05.102, July 2001:

The secrecy of DoD special operations has significantly impeded oversight and accountability, reported Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker this week. The Hersh article also said that the Bush Administration had "unilaterally determined after 9/11" that military intelligence operations could be conducted on presidential authority without congressional notification -- notwithstanding the contrary language of the Army field manual.

The "can do" attitude that characterizes Army and other special operations forces makes them attractive to policy makers, but it can also be a cause for concern, according to a congressional review of the failed Army Ranger mission in Somalia in 1993 (cited in a 2006 paper [pdf] by David Tucker and Christopher J. Lamb of National Defense University).

"One of the weaknesses of a unit like Task Force Ranger, whose combat capabilities are unparalleled, is the belief by the unit members and its commanders that they can accomplish any mission."

"Because of the supreme confidence of special operations forces, the chain of command must provide more oversight to this type of unit than to conventional forces."

See "Review of the Circumstances Surrounding the Ranger Raid on October 3-4, 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia," Senate Armed Services Committee, September 29, 1995:


A bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate would require the Director of National Intelligence to prepare an unclassified report on energy security.

"American dependence on foreign oil has made our Nation less safe," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) in an introductory statement. "Oil revenues have provided income for dangerous rogue states, they have sparked bloody civil wars, and they have even provided funding for terrorism."

"In a sickening phenomenon that I call the terror tax, every time that Americans drive their cars down to the gas station and fill up at the pump, the reality is that a portion of that money is then turned over to foreign governments that 'backdoor' it over to Islamist extremists, who use that money to perpetuate terrorism and hate."

The next administration would be required to conduct a comprehensive review of U.S. nuclear weapons policy and to prepare an unclassified report of its nuclear posture review, according to the 2008 defense authorization act, as marked up by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The report, which is intended to update the 2001 nuclear posture review (NPR), would have to be submitted in unclassified form in December 2009.

"Although the Secretary of Defense was directed to submit the December 2001 NPR in an unclassified form, unfortunately this never happened," the Senate Committee said.


To qualify for conscientious objector status and to be granted military discharge on that basis, an individual must oppose all wars, not just a particular war. However, a conscientious objector may still embrace "spiritual warfare" between good and evil, the Department of Defense explained in a new policy instruction.

"An individual who desires to choose the war in which he or she will participate is not a Conscientious Objector under the law. The individual's objection must be to all wars rather than a specific war."

But "a belief in a theocratic or spiritual war between the powers of good and evil does not constitute a willingness to participate in 'war' within the meaning of this Instruction." In other words, it is possible both to be a "spiritual warrior" and a conscientious objector. It is uncertain whether enlisting in spiritual warfare on the side of evil would void this distinction.

See "Conscientious Objectors," Department of Defense Instruction 1300.06, May 5, 2007:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The Secrecy News blog is at:

To SUBSCRIBE to Secrecy News, go to:


OR email your request to

Secrecy News is archived at:

SUPPORT Secrecy News with a donation here: