from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2012, Issue No. 21
March 7, 2012

Secrecy News Blog:


U.S. special operations forces are engaged in "more than 100 countries worldwide," said Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday.

"In significant ways, our forces are creating visible and dramatic effects of the greatest magnitude across the globe," Adm. McRaven said in the 2012 US SOCOM posture statement.

"The decade of war after 9/11 has proffered many lessons; among them, specific to SOF, is the complementary nature of our direct and indirect approaches and how these SOF approaches are aligned to this changing strategic environment," Adm. McRaven said.

"The direct approach is characterized by technologically-enabled small-unit precision lethality, focused intelligence, and interagency cooperation integrated on a digitally-networked battlefield.... Extreme in risk, precise in execution and able to deliver a high payoff, the impacts of the direct approach are immediate, visible to the public and have had tremendous effects on our enemies' networks throughout the decade."

"However, the direct approach alone is not the solution to the challenges our Nation faces today as it ultimately only buys time and space for the indirect approach and broader governmental elements to take effect. Less well known but decisive in importance, the indirect approach is the complementary element that can counter the systemic components of the threat."

"The indirect approach includes empowering host nation forces, providing appropriate assistance to humanitarian agencies, and engaging key populations. These long-term efforts increase partner capabilities to generate sufficient security and rule of law, address local needs, and advance ideas that discredit and defeat the appeal of violent extremism."

"As Al Qaeda and other extremist organizations attempt to franchise their ideology and violence globally, we will likely remain engaged against violent extremist networks for the foreseeable future," he said.

In a rare unclassified "notification of special forces operation," President Obama formally advised Congress last January of the rescue of an American in Somalia.

"At my direction, on January 24, 2012, U.S. Special Operations Forces conducted an operation in Somalia to rescue Ms. Jessica Buchanan, a U.S. citizen. The operation was successfully completed," President Obama wrote. The report was transmitted "as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed."


"In accordance with United States law, the U.S. Government places conditions on the use of defense articles and defense services transferred by it to foreign recipients," a new report from the Congressional Research Service explains. "Violation of these conditions can lead to the suspension of deliveries or termination of the contracts for such defense items, among other things."

In practice, however, no clear-cut violations have been found, so no contracts have been terminated.

"Since the major revision of U.S. arms export law in 1976, neither the President nor the Congress have actually determined that a violation did occur thus necessitating the termination of deliveries or sales or other penalties set out in section 3 of the Arms Export Control Act."

On the other hand, the U.S. government has occasionally exercised options short of termination, including temporary suspension of weapon deliveries and refusal to allow new arms orders.

In the past, "The United States has utilized at least one such option against Argentina, Israel, Indonesia, and Turkey." Background on each of those cases is provided in the new CRS report. A copy of the report was obtained by Secrecy News.

See "U.S. Defense Articles and Services Supplied to Foreign Recipients: Restrictions on Their Use," March 6, 2012:


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

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