At SOFREP we make a concerted effort to get the best and most accurate information about the Special Operations community to our readers. Careful considerations are given to Operational Security as we have no interest in compromising operations or endangering soldier’s lives, so balancing these two can be tricky at times. We also engage in some watchdog operations when we see the media just blatantly getting it wrong.

The Command

Recently we called out the Durango Herald for a laughably bad piece about an alleged Delta Force Soldier who could have been outed with just a little fact checking. In the case of The Command there isn’t a need to call anyone out. Marc Ambinder and D.B. Grady make a serious effort to dig through the layers of classification that deliberately obscure the highly sensitive activities of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which is the umbrella under which Delta Force and SEAL Team Six exist.

In doing this they turn up some amazing information on previously undisclosed operations and activities. However, they also slip up more than once. This critique is intended as professional rather than personal criticism, but it is needed criticism. Because of OPSEC, not every incorrect statement made in The Command can be corrected.

This may sound like a cop out and maybe it is. It is also certain that the following is not a full critique as the author is not aware of every program and mission mentioned in Ambinder and Grady’s work and can’t comment on it one way or the other.

Some of the mistakes in The Command could be corrected with a careful reading of open source materials such as Mark Bowden’s Killing Pablo. Take for instance the statement that Delta Force was “…in Panama where it allegedly pursued Pablo Escobar.” Pablo Escobar was allegedly pursued by Delta Force in Pablo’s home country of Colombia. However, Delta Force did participate in the 1989 invasion of Panama.

Other elements of The Command take some careful scrutiny to recognize as being somewhat off target. The authors detail Admiral McRaven’s approach to the Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq and how JSOC had to adapt to the new Iraqi legal system. Ambinder and Grady make it out as if JSOC intelligence analysts, Delta Force operators, and SEAL Team Six members routinely provided testimony to Iraqi judges in order to secure warrants for High Value Targets.

Delta Force in China? Not likely
Delta Force in China? Not likely.

In reality, this was a very rare event. More often, a member of Iraqi Counter-Terrorist forces would provide the testimony on behalf of JSOC. This is one way that JSOC was able to mitigate the Status of Forces Agreement.

It is also necessary to subject the sources used in The Command to closer scrutiny. For example, the New Yorker article Getting Bin Laden by Nicholas Schmidle is cited extensively as a source of information.