The NYT article about SEAL Team 6 a few weeks ago sparked yet another media frenzy on the military’s accountability and their involvement in shadow wars around the globe. For obvious reasons, writing about sexy spy missions or covert military operations behind enemy lines always attracts a lot of attention. However, just as Frumentarius suggested in his recent article, don’t believe everything you read, and especially not if almost all of these sexy stories happen to come from the same group of authors.

Having said that, Jack’s recent article on the Omega Program, and especially the points made in the comments section, led me to write this piece on the legitimacy of such joint programs, bringing forward a discrepancy between the limitations imposed on the civilian intelligence community (CIA) and the lack thereof in its military counterpart (JSOC).

To fully comprehend the restrictions imposed on the U.S. government for conducting such deniable actions, a clear understanding of covert operations is required. Unlike clandestine operations, which are sponsored or conducted by government departments in such a way as to assure secrecy or concealment, covert action is defined as an activity or activities to influence political, economic, or military conditions abroad, where it is intended that the role of the sponsoring government will not be apparent or acknowledged publicly.

Clearly, the integral part of covert actions is the plausible deniability factor. Understandably, due to the secrecy surrounding such activities, covert operations often “involve things like front organizations, disinformation, deception, counterfeit documents, cover-ups, high-tech gadgets, and conspiracies galore” (O’Connor, Covert Action). It makes sense therefore that there are far more stringent legal restrictions for covert actions compared to clandestine actions.