Intelligence: December 1, 2003

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Most of the 30,000 CIA employees are analysts, geeks, clerks or bureaucrats. But the 5,000 employees of the Special Activities Division (SAD) include people who engage in various types of dirty tricks and life threatening mayhem. Only a small number of the SAD personnel go to foreign countries and deal with dangerous situations. Those that do are in the Special Operations Group (SOG), which hires a lot of former military personnel (Special Forces, SEALs, marines and so on). These operatives are often referred to as paramilitaries, as they often get to use their military skills while working for the CIA. But in addition to SOG, there are several other operations in SAD that do less dangerous work. There is is the Foreign Training Group, which provides training for police and intelligence personnel of allied nations. The Propaganda and Political Action Group works on ways to plant deceptive information that will further the goals of the United States. The Computer Operations Group handles network security and cyberwar. The Proprietary Management Staff sets up and manages phony companies here and abroad to support CIA activities. All of these activities (except for the computer oriented ones), got their start during World War II when OSS (Office of Special Services) was created to do the work that would later be taken over by the CIA. The OSS  stepped on a lot of toes in Washington during World War II, and was disbanded less than a year after World War II ended. But two years later, it was realized that something like the OSS was still needed, and the CIA was created. But in the time between the OSS shutting down, and the CIA starting up, a lot of OSS veterans went on to work for the U.S. Army, State Department and other government agencies. This was the beginning of a network of people outside the CIA who were ready and willing to work with the CIA on special projects. Many of the founders of the U.S. Army Special Forces were OSS veterans, and it was considered natural that the Special Forces should be working with the CIA overseas. In the early 1960s, the Special Forces and CIA jointly ran a number of operations in Vietnam and neighboring countries. That kind of cooperation has continued to this day, but is kept quiet. Many of these operations are intelligence related, sometimes in friendly countries (without official, or even unofficial permission.) During the 1990s, there were several counter-terrorism operations in nations hostile to the United States, some involving Special Forces, but many were purely SOG missions. And some of these SOG operations used foreign personnel. Some of these men were mercenaries, others were foreign intelligence agents working with the United States. Since September 11, 2001, hundreds of former Special Forces, SEALs and other former military personnel with exceptional records, have been put on SOGs payroll. At least four of these men have been killed in action during the last two years, and many more "local hires" (mercenaries) have been lost as well. This is the sort of stuff that adventure novels and movies use for raw material. However, unlike the fiction or Hollywood versions, the real SOG operations tend to be murky, tedious and often have unhappy, or at least inconclusive, endings. 

 


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