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Special Forces Secrecy


Yard Ape

JTF2 rules left all but Eggleton out of loop
Tuesday, February 19
Globe and Mail

Ottawa — A secret document written last November named Defence Minister Art Eggleton as the only civilian eligible for regular briefings on the actions of Canada‘s special military forces in Afghanistan, a senior source has told The Globe and Mail.

The document also gave Mr. Eggleton the right to relay information on the actions of the Joint Task Force 2 to the Prime Minister only when Mr. Eggleton deemed it relevant.

The note was signed by the Defence Minister, his deputy minister and the top military officer in the country shortly before the commando team left Canada late last year to join the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, the source said.

The document highlights the level of secrecy surrounding the operations of the JTF2 in Afghanistan. It also helps explain why Mr. Eggleton did not inform Prime Minister Jean Chrétien for eight days after the crack troops had captured three prisoners at a time when the treatment of prisoners from the conflict was the subject of much debate.

But it also raises questions about who at the top levels of the federal government is being told about Canada‘s military actions.

Opposition critics say that Ottawa releases only dribs of information on the JTF2 when it suits its public-relations needs, and hides any information that would be damaging.

"Sometimes, secrecy becomes deceit," Canadian Alliance MP Brian Pallister said.

Procedures have not changed since the memo was written.

The Privy Council Office, which includes some of the top security experts in the government, receives briefings on the operations of Canada‘s 2,500 regular troops in and around Afghanistan, but not on the JTF2‘s more sensitive and dangerous mission in the area.

Canadian Commodore Jean-Pierre Thiffault, who oversees Operation Apollo, Canada‘s military contribution to the war, out of coalition headquarters in Florida, is not regularly briefed on the JTF2 either, a source said.

Mr. Chrétien was embarrassed last month when it was revealed that he had been kept in the dark about the fact that JTF2 members had captured prisoners and handed them over to U.S. forces.

... Continued
SAS secrecy under review
Monday, 18 February, 2002, 08:42 GMT

The Ministry of Defence is looking at ways of lifting the veil of secrecy surrounding Britain‘s special forces, the BBC has learned.

The MoD currently refuses to discuss the size, equipment or operations of either the Special Air Service (SAS) or its even more secretive sister force, the Marine‘s Special Boat Service (SBS).

No serving member ever speaks publicly or is named, and their faces are usually disguised in photographs.

But BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme has learned that now some, including the Commons Defence Committee, have questioned whether such blanket secrecy can be sustained.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has ordered a senior MoD civil servant to investigate which aspects of the forces‘ work can be revealed, and how.

Former SAS sergeant Andy McNab told the programme he thought a certain amount of openness would be a "good idea".

"The MoD spends so much money and time and effort keeping everything a secret.

"You can‘t actually stop this huge barrage of information coming out into the public domain, because it comes from so many other different avenues. It‘s a system of managing the information."

He pointed to confusion over British special forces‘ presence in Afghanistan as a case in point.

"Last November, we had the Ministry of Defence saying there‘s no special forces activity in Afghanistan, then if you listened to America‘s briefing they would say yes, there‘s British special forces there. Certainly that‘s not a secret."


Options under review by the MoD could include having an identifiable spokesman, or giving the media more information about deployments.

The MoD said nothing would be changed without the express permission of both services.

Since their inception during World War II both services have had operations which attracted unwanted publicity.

... Continued
In the second article, Andy McNab is quoted saying that on one hand, the British have denied any special operations (actually, I recall them simply saying "we do not discuss special forces"), but on the other hand, having the Americans mention their involvement in cooperative missions with SAS/SBS.

This illustrates perfectly a rule I learned in CSM J D Pendry‘s book "The Three Meter Zone". In chapter three of the book, "Being the Example", Pendry reminds us that we should all "stay in our lane". In other words, NCM‘s shouldn‘t try to do the officer‘s job, officer‘s shouldn‘t try to do the NCM‘s job, etc. This can be expanded to a wider scope -- the Americans shouldn‘t discuss what the Brits do, and the Brits shouldn‘t discuss what the Yanks do, even if they are on cooperative missions, and ESPECIALLY without consulting one another.

There may be a lot screwed up with my employing agency (Canada Customs), but one this we have absolutely right - and which a lot of my fellow officers will disagree with me on - is that we do not make unilateral statements to the media regarding drug seizures. The reason is simple: We don‘t prosecute them, the RCMP do. The RCMP handle everything after we find the drugs. There is no reason for us to make statements to the media without consulting our partner agency, the RCMP.

Similarly, the Americans would do well to shut up about what the British SAS are doing. It is not the business of the DoD to comment on British special forces operations, even when they happen to be in conjunction with their own operations.

It places the British in the embarassing situation described in the previous article. It can compromise operational security. It‘s just plain inappropriate.