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January 11, 2014

Jed-21: Beyond Counter-Terrorism (Part 3)

What the American Special Operations and Intelligence community needs is a program which establishes these networks long before a crisis emerges. Positive steps have been made in this direction, but all fall short of maintaining long-term, consistent, and reliable intelligence gathering on a tactical level. This paper proposes a program which recruits willing Special Forces veterans and re-locates them to countries all over the world. They would not be going there on a mission, but rather they would be going there to live and work for the US government, perhaps for the rest of their lives.

These Americans would become part of what we will call the Jedburghs for 21st Century program or Jed-21. Jed-21 would recruit primarily from retired members of US Special Forces. Special Forces soldiers are the most qualified for this type of job due to their training in unconventional warfare, language proficiency, and experience in working by, with, and through indigenous peoples in austere environments. Jed-21 would have to be incentivized with an additional stipend. Pensions would have to continue to be paid and seed money would have to be provided so that the members could start business endeavors in their target countries. Once integrated into the local economy and culture, they would begin to build their networks.

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About the Author

is an eight year Army Special Operations veteran who served as a Sniper and Team Leader in 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group. Having left the military in 2010, he graduated from Columbia with a BA in political science. Murphy is the author of Reflexive Fire, Target Deck, Direct Action, and numerous non-fiction articles about Weapons, Tactics, Special Operations, Terrorism, and Counter-Terrorism. He has appeared in documentaries, national television, and syndicated radio.

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  • alexanderscrawford

    Mr. Murphy, To continue. I think the basis of your idea is a very good one.  In our post-Westphalian world, M.I. probably should establish long term 'back-up' semi-retired intelligence networks as a compliment to the 'official' networks controlled by the CIA and etc.  Such a large percentage of U.S. embassies are compromised, the DoD might as well flip a coin as trust a randomly selected embassies local intelligence stream. This said, let's consider this seriously for a moment.   You cannot just send one individual, even an elite veteran, into the chaos of the 'Dark Areas' of the world, and expect them to accomplish much.  The Brits and French are absolute experts at this sort of informal expat network building, and due to their long established cultural and colonial relations in most of the world, it's suicide to imagine THEY won't spot your guys before you spot them.   At any rate there are some first principles you should consider: A.  Money.  Establishing cover identities, and plausible cover stories, and something resembling "back up" and local support… independent of the embassies.  Takes money.  Probably $500,000+ per Country minimum.   Moving money around is a logistical headache, and can't be done without flagging domestic law enforcement… it also requires hoards of paperwork, which requires professional support staff. B.  A patron, or patrons within the M.I. establishment willing to provide clean 'legends', passports, and able to keep your files "closed" when the DHS, IC, or DoS come's demanding to know who the F@%^ you actually are.  If you answer to anything resembling a chain of command, you'll be compromised.  This carries an additional risk, as if your 'patron' dies or gets killed, and has done his job well… there's no paper trail or records.  To the entire U.S. DoD and IC, you'll just be another pest who's happened to serve in the Army or USMC for a couple of years. C.  SOF veterans reek of authority.  Normal U.S. civilians are frightened and insecure when abroad.  In one sense this is a good thing, because it'd be easy to pass yourselves off as mercenaries.  The issue then is:  if you DON'T work for the CIA, just who DO you work for?  In my opinion, you'd be better off pretending to be hired security for naive or gormless civilians, than pretending to be expats.  As hired guns for civilians doing something of dubious legality, you'd be able to approach local spooks and authorities without raising too many flags.  This said, the problem with this approach is that it's impossible to avoid conflict with rivals in similar areas of dubious legality… so you couldn't adopt a standard approach (different rackets and gangs have different priorities and angles in different places).   D.  In pretty much every region on the planet, there's some international racket or scandal that hasn't been exposed or made public, that involves BILLIONS of misappropriated dollars.  Even stumbling across a racket worth only, $400 million or so, will result in bloodshed and people getting killed… innocent people.    Moreover, the BANKERS aren't the ones who'll be coming after you and your local associates… it'll be professionals with training very much, if not exactly, like your own.  i.e. guys who'd gone over to the Dark Side for real, and liked it.   I suppose I could go on… but happily you have James Powell writing for you, who knows WAY more than he's allowed to say or write in a public forum.   Jack… I honestly agree with your concept.  With the need for a redundant, long term back up intelligence network in the field, largely independent of the existing IC and off the grid.    Do you have a cooperative billionaire in your pocket?  To a certain degree, you're describing a problem that every OIG that has to account for public monies abroad, including the DoD IG, has themselves.  LOL.   Ask Powell.  An effective model for something very similar to what you're proposing already exists, and has proven out in field trials (i.e. outperformed most official members of the IC).   The Russians got to the top guy years ago (Cheney's man).  The second shift guy, that fat bloated tick, was so obese he was a walking heart attack waiting to happen, which to the best of my knowledge, did.  and etc.  What happened to their men?  Your guess is as good as mine.   Alexander Scott Crawford

  • alexanderscrawford

    Mr. Murphy, If I might put forth some observations: Surely you appreciate that SOF veterans aren't able to just fade into the general public when they leave the service.  You all had security clearance, and while it's possible to go to ground in the U.S. without raising a flag, going expat is another matter.  I think I've written that CIA station chiefs are pretty sharp cookies, on the whole…  So, what do you think the response at the embassy will be when they learn a skilled veteran is considering living as an expat in their jurisdiction?  First and foremost, curiosity.  The CIA post-Cold War has tended towards recruiting Americans as 'assets' as much as foreign nationals.  They'd use their access to get their hands on your service record, or at least as much of it as they're able, and start drooling over the prospect of recruiting you as a 'disposable asset'.  If you look TOO shiny, they'll mark you as an "auditor", and every domestic law enforcement and spook agency in that Country will be told outrageous lies about you in order to convince them to keep you out of the Stations' hair. Next.  9 out of 10 U.S. embassy's abroad are compromised.  So if you're traveling under your own identity, and are obliged to register due to your prior service, that Countries domestic intelligence will flag you all on their own.  So unless you're on VERY friendly terms with the locals, and have a very solid plausible reason for being in their Country, no one is going to let a SOF veteran just wander around for years making friends. Next.  Jack, you've written enough about corruption and corrupt international institutions to appreciate that "corrupt systems do NOT RECOGNIZE innocence".  I've successfully operated in the first, second, third, fourth, fifth… most corrupt Countries in the world.  And the first thing I have to teach my, very earnest and honest, engineers, is HOW TO BEHAVE AND ACT LIKE A CRIMINAL.  LOL.  SOF guys are overwhelmingly honorable men, and comport themselves as such even in places I'd describe as Hell on Earth.   To be frank, it's impossible for me to imagine individual SOF vets pretending to be expats in an average second or third world Country and NOT doing something the locals would consider, 'heroic'.  And after the FIRST time one stops a bunch of thugs from raping some innocent girl on a bus, word spreads.  Suddenly all sorts of wretched and powerless people are showing up at ones door begging for protection or help against OTHER local thugs or gangsters or corrupt authorities.  And because without exception, these gangsters or corrupt officials have connections that lead up the political dark side, even in our own Country, each and every one of your guys would get flagged.  The the question that gets asked is:  "Are they rogue do-gooders?", "Would anyone in the U.S. get angry if they have an accident?" and etc.   Next.  SOF veterans have spent their professional careers being protected by the big bad U.S. government and DoD.  DoS consular staff regularly live like nabobs whilst abroad (to a degree that even surprises the normally cynical CIA officers when they first arrive at their new post).  To operate outside the DoD's chain of command, or the IC's official networks… is to be 'rogue'.  There are thousands of ways to get oneself killed in most parts of the world that no amount of SOF training can prevent or prepare one for…   Sigh.  There's a reason most CIA officers never travel very far from their post without a preposterous number of local guards or soldiers.   You've written about your disgust with U.S. VIPs running child sex harems abroad…  Jack:  pick a continent… Europe, N. America, S. America. E. Asia, SE. Asia, Central Asia, Africa, Oceania… there are gangs almost everywhere that specialize in selling women to foreigners, outright.  A freaking PEACE CORPS volunteer who saves their monthly stipend for a month or two can typically afford the asking price for a 14 or 15 year old girl.   An old Pied Noir French spook I know who compromised an entire CIA station explained his method to me, once it became obvious that I wasn't a spook.  Every Country he'd ever operated in, the first thing he did was get a new wife (he had five all around the world at the time)… The old scoundrel had fifteen children.  Would you like to know what convinced him I wasn't a threat?  CIA assets had taken out contracts on me across that Countries underworld!  LOL.  He'd compromised the embassy, after all.  ROFL. Enough with the criticism.  I'll continue in the next post with suggestions regarding how to make your idea actually work. A. Scott Crawford

  • flagg

    ArcticWarrior JackMurphyRGR flagg Along those lines……you would need to learn how to penetrate the world's mega-ghettos. Possibly looking at EACH mega-ghetto city as a Non-State-Actor riddled space that would need to be mapped and prepared to support future operations, possibly compelling the need for multiple "unconventional diplomats" per mega-ghetto city.

  • flagg

    BigRed69 I see it as a response to what the likes of Iran/China/Russia are doing in terms of hybrid threats.  All three have a high comfort level in working by,with,thru illicit networks. They have an inherent advantage in developing revenue streams to fund operations from illicit business interests that the US would be unable to replicate with the US having to focus on legal business interests to fund operations. I think it would be far easier to insert a retired SF fella into an existing business network than to necessarily start from scratch. I've worked in both military and entrepreneurial roles OCONUS and traveled to a fair few developing world countries. I reckon it would be easier to develop a database of existing American expat business owners and filter for long-term opportunity/potential in specific target countries or countries with easy access  to target countries. Then vet the expats and make an overt approach for a mutually beneficial relationship using a new retired SF fella who will add value to the business even though he might need a bit of time off work now and again.  American version of the Israeli Sayanim.

  • BigRed69

    Perhaps there is room to consider a team approach with a civilian "business partner" to handle commercial day to day issues.