As expected, I received numerous calls and emails asking me to address and explain the article by first Newsweek. That of course was followed by the rush to judgement by the rest of the mainstream media which irresponsibly jumped to conclusions about trying to claim that President Trump reveled the status of a SEAL Team member in Iraq, during his visit on December 26th. First off, the claim about “the covert Navy SEAL is bullshit in fact and terminology or it being an operational security concern.
Most have by now seen the media report titled; “Donald Trump’s Twitter Account Video Reveals Covert U.S. Navy SEAL Deployment During Iraq Visit” – in an article by Newsweek reporter James LaPorta in which he indicated that footage taken during President Trump’s meeting with U.S. service members and posted on his Twitter account is said to appear to show the President with members of SEAL Team 5.
Unfortunately, the Newsweek article headline and content states the term “covert,” which is what a lot of people have taken issue with. It’s totally incorrect and its obvious Newsweek recklessly chose the title to create controversy and create an erroneous story. It’s been essentially deliberately and intentionally sensationalized for political purposes to embarrass President Trump.
Here is the correct information and facts that addresses the issue and makes the Newsweek story totally bogus and incorrect:
- “Covert” has a very specific definition under Title 50 of the United States Code (USC), which makes it a matter of intelligence authority, focused primarily on the activities of state organizations such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (with a certain degree of input from the DoD).
- This point is a direct contrast to Title 10 of the USC, which deals specifically and solely with military authority. Title 10 “is used in reference to, or to refer to DoD and military operations.”
- While Title 50 “refers to intelligence agencies, intelligence activities, and covert action, activities, and or operations.”
For the most part, the two authorities detailed under Titles 10 and 50 aren’t mutually exclusive, forces operating under Title 10 are explicitly prohibited from carrying out covert operations, and instead are relegated to clandestine activities which involve “the tactical concealment of the activity” and don’t require an explicit notification of Congress, according to an April 2018 Congressional Research Service report.
By comparison, “covert activities” are for the most part characterized as the “strategic concealment of the United States’ sponsorship of activities that aim to effect change in the political, economic, military, or diplomatic behavior of an overseas target.”
Additionally, as it stands, the vast majority missions carried out by U.S. special operations forces are non-statutory clandestine operations under Title 10 rather than explicitly (and legally) covert operations under Title 50; OPSEC, in the case of the former, is usually designed to conceal an operation for tactical purposes rather than fully embrace the level of plausible deniability usually referred to spies.” As a result, to put this in this context; the only true “covert” operation carried out by U.S. special operations forces was the SEAL Team 6 raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011.
FACT: Being assigned to or simply belonging to a SEAL Team doesn’t make a members every movement or action/activity “covert.” The fact, Navy Lt. Lee, the SEAL Team Chaplain, if the team was on a classified mission was attending the visit of the President at the dining hall to get his picture snapped with POTUS, shame on him.
As I said yesterday in a post, if SEAL Team 5 was deployed to Iraq on a covert mission, no one would know they were there and if not on an actual mission would be in isolation. Again, the SEAL chaplain, was identified as a member of ST- 5 overtly in the media pool report and was photographed by foreign media outlet Agence France-Presse. Be it known, no special operations commander or officer on an actual classified mission would ever let that happen, no matter how bad they wanted to get a photo with the commander-in-chief, given the gravity surrounding Title 50 activities; even letting personnel engage with the commander-in-chief in public completely negates the plausible deniability that supposedly comes with covert let along any classified operation. It would have been stopped immediately, let alone ever being allowed to happen.
Unfortunately, while this may seem like a ridiculous and meticulous debate, argument, or even an issue, it is an important one to be addressed, especially for matters that deal with civil-military engagement, activities, operations or missions. Again, let me make this point clear, make no mistake: revealing the identities of special operations force (SOF) personnel and members of specific units is never good, and in fact quite frankly extremely bad – even the members or units are involved in or if they’re not tasked with a real covert or clandestine mission.
Every effort is always taken to ensure every effort even during special operation demonstrations for congressional delegations, war college study, show of force demonstrations, and even for the president or vice president — SOF personnel have their faces covered, concealed or digitally blurred prior to a release of photos to the news media, public affairs that will likely get into the hands of the general public. OPSEC is always a concern, but members of the special operations units are the first line of defense and should use proper and effective judgement with regard to their position, status, location and current situation, especially when deployed overseas in foreign country and specifically a designated war zone.