Overt Ops Part I

8th December 2011

As conflicts destabilise much of the world, amidst the violence we can see a trend towards increasing admissions and advocations of the use of what are usually termed 'covert ops'.  These sorts of actions come in many forms, from false flag terrorism to astroturfed advertising campaigns, but it is their use in paramilitary and military conflict that is of particular concern. 

A few weeks ago, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland made an admission to the House of Commons that the British state security services had colluded with loyalist terrorists in the assassination of lawyer Pat Finucane.  You can read about this in the Collusion section of the document archive.  For over two decades since Finucane's death in 1989, his relatives and truth campaigners have suspected and claimed that the British government had declared him an enemy of the state and enabled or even sanctioned his murder.  With this admission that claim passes from the realm of conspiracy theory to the realm of historical fact. 

A full, independent public inquiry into the assassination has been rejected, intially via a compromise offer of an inquiry held within the limits of the 2005 Inquiries Act.  This legislation, effectively an official cover-up act, makes it almost impossible for any such inquiry to even ask the important questions, let alone find the truthful answers to them.  This offer was rejected by Finucane's family and their supporters.  This led to a stalemate between the government and those seeking the truth, and so the government took the slightly unorthodox step of admitting and apologising for the collusion, and setting up a 'review' of the case. 

It is widely expected to be a bloodless whitewash.  The review will be conducted by Sir Desmond Lorenz de Silva QC, an old hand of the British empire who married royalty, worked for the UN and has defended the indefensible John Terry.  The terms of the letter of his appointment to head the review, available here, say that he is to spend about a year looking over documents from the Stevens inquiry and from various security institutions and he will 'produce a full public account of any involvement by the Army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Security Service or other UK government body in the murder of Patrick Finucane'.  

Of course, 'the Review will not establish criminal or civil liability, nor order financial settlement...  You are consequently not being asked, nor do you have the power, to hold oral hearings.'  This will be a repeat of the Stevens, Cory and other inquiries into collusion in Northern Ireland, and will probably bring nothing new to the public domain apart from the odd document or tidbit of evidence for researchers like myself to pore over.  If that reminds you of the 7/7 inquiries by the Intelligence and Security Committee, and the recent July 7th Inquests then all I can say is 'yes, me too'. 

On the international front we see similarly open admissions of state-sponsored terrorism.  In the recent Republican Presidential nomination debates, there have been calls for covert ops against Syria and Iran, the two main 'rogue states' of today.

This is one of the more absurd claims made in an absurd political process.  Newt Gingrich advocated, 'maximum covert operations to block and disrupt the Iranian program including taking out their scientists, including breaking up their systems. All of it covertly, all of it deniable.'  Exactly how such operations can remain covert when they are being advanced and propagated via a televised public debate is a matter of doublethink.  The audience's response in the above recording is telling.  Even they understood that standing up and calling for sabotage and assassination, and then saying that such actions would be 'deniable', is a bit stupid. 

However, we may have a recent example showing how this is possible.  On 11/11/11 there was an explosion at an Iranian military base, echoed a few weeks later with another blast on the 30th of November.  As you can imagine, there were instant claims of Mossad being responsible.  The difference this time was that the claims were made by the likes of Time magazine and were repeated, e.g. in this Guardian article.  The original 'scoop' was apparently made by one Richard Silverstein and then spread, largely unattributed, through the mainstream media.  What is particularly interesting, and is noted in this article by Silverstein, is that the Israeli media didn't deny the story.  If anything, they were implicitly boastful about the role their spies had played in the attack. 

So what do these three events have in common?  They are are all open admissions of the use of covert operations for political and strategic ends.  One admission from Britain, one from the US, one from Israel.  Of course, many other countries also use such operations, though these three are among the more influential and dastardly governments.  Such admissions, in particular Gingrich's bizarre comments, beg the question - is is even correct to call these 'covert ops', when they are becoming increasingly overt? 

In Part II of this article we will look at the question of whether covert warfare has become increasingly violent and overt, both in doctrine and in practice.