Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Great Article on Getting bin Laden

Shortly after eleven o’clock on the night of May 1st, two MH-60 Blackhawk helicopters lifted off from Jalalabad Air Field, in eastern Afghanistan, and embarked on a covert mission into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. Inside the aircraft were twenty-three Navy SEALs from Team 6, which is officially known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU. A Pakistani-American translator, whom I will call Ahmed, and a dog named Cairo – a Belgian Malinois – were also aboard. It was a moonless evening, and the helicopters’ pilots, wearing night-vision goggles, flew without lights over mountains that straddled the border with Pakistan. Radio communications were kept to a minimum, and an eerie calm settled inside the aircraft (Source; The New Yorker)

So begins probably the best story I’ve read of how a Navy SEAL team executed the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. The story at the link (provided by Sister Toldjah) is a riveting (and long) account of the planning, preparations, execution of the raid that killed bin Laden. Read the full account here.

I know there have been a few in the right-side blogosphere who have criticized President Obama for the execution of this mission and there have been some on the left-side who have joined the narrative. But I really do tip my hat to Obama for approving this mission. It did take some guts to make the call that would set in motions the events to essentially invade a sovereign nation and to kill the world’s most wanted man.

Despite the helicopter crash, the raid was conducted nearly flawlessly. The SEAL team was well trained, which was evident when the SEALs kept the mission together even though one helo was down. They adapted and they overcame.

But there was one little thing about the mission, and it had nothing to do with the SEAL team, that bugged me. As is the case with many military operations that involves civilian input whether it be presidential advisors or Congress-critters, Operational Security (OPSEC) could have been the end of the mission before it even got started.

During my years of service, I went through an untold number of security briefings and courses. One of the areas discussed frequently was OPSEC, with a subset called Essential Elements of Friendly Information (EEFI). Part of EEFI was to not show your enemy what was being planned and that you were planning. This could be anything ranging from leaving out or discussion classified documents (a HUGE no-no) to cancelling leaves. These things, and a whole lot of other things in between, are considered indicators. Indicators, when taken alone don’t really show the enemy much, but when someone with experience at espionage puts all the pieces together, a picture of the operation can come into focus. One thing in the article stood out, and I am not nit-picking the Obama Administration, was:

…White House officials cancelled scheduled visits, ordered sandwich platters from Costco… (Source: The New Yorker)

These items would be considered great indicators that something was up. It is fortunate that while we face a very deadly and elusive enemy, their intelligence apparatus is most likely not robust enough to pick up on these indicators.

Again, my hats off to President Obama for making this call a few months back and I salute the members of the SEAL team that put the plan into action and got bin Laden.

1 comment:

  1. Righty
    Read the article earlier today and the same OPSEC question jumped out ... then it occurred to me that there probably wasn't anyone that had been read in that had any experience with a real world military op. It was so closely held that only high rollers had access and we all know they just pencil whip training.
    Keep up the good work. Read your stuff daily.
    Anon in Boise