Obama authorizes CIA to conduct ‘non-lethal covert action’ in Syria

İncirlik Air Base, TurkeyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
United States President Barack Obama has officially authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to assist anti-government rebels in Syria, according to a new report by the Reuters news agency. That the US Intelligence Community is operating on the side of the Syrian rebels has been known for quite some time. British media reported in as early as June of this year that American and other Western spy agencies were sharing intelligence with the Syrian Free Army. Later in the same month, The New York Times revealed that “a growing team” of CIA operatives was participating in a multinational effort to smuggle Turkish- and Saudi-supplied weapons into Syria for use by anti-government militias. And in July we explained that, according to American media reports, the CIA’s chronic shortage of reliable agents inside Syria had led the Agency to lend its weight to several existing operations led by Turkish, Jordanian, Israeli, and other intelligence organizations in Syria. Now a new report by Reuters claims that the CIA’s activities in support of the Syrian Free Army are part of an executive order handed to the Agency by the US President earlier this year. The order, formalized through what is commonly known as a ‘Presidential Finding’, effectively authorized the CIA —America’s only government agency allowed to engage in covert action— to prioritize and concentrate its resources on the ongoing Syrian uprising. Several other US government agencies are openly backing the Syrian rebels, mostly through financial support in the form of “humanitarian assistance”. But Obama’s Presidential Finding is the first indication that the US government is engaged in covert action in Syria. The Reuters report confirms earlier indications that the ‘nerve center’ of the CIA’s operations in and around Syria is located in the southern Turkish city of Adana, home of the US-run İncirlik NATO Air Base. However, quoting “US sources familiar with the matter”, Reuters insists that Obama’s Presidential Finding falls short of a “Memorandum of Notification” —a more specific executive order that authorizes the CIA to conduct lethal covert action. Consequently, says Reuters, the CIA is so far “stopping short of giving the [Syrian] rebels [US-supplied] lethal weapons” or embedding officers with Syrian Free Army forces. It should be noted, however, that, according to earlier reports, the CIA is allegedly assisting other countries in supplying their own military supplies to Syrian rebel forces. Reuters asked White House spokesman Tommy Vietor to comment on the story, but he refused.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

5 Responses to Obama authorizes CIA to conduct ‘non-lethal covert action’ in Syria

  1. Anonymous says:

    It seems we have a “chronic shortage” of agents in all the places the action is going down #fail

  2. Kidd says:

    wait for the blowback . ironic that the cia and al quada are assisting the rebels .

  3. Anonymous says:

    @Kidd I agree, its Ironic but, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”

  4. atma says:

    i dont believe that the usa has a shortage of spies in syria. there are many syrian expat-dissidents in the west who have friends/family inside syria. i think they are just saying they dont have reliable intelligence inside syria so that they will be able to claim that they didnt know what was going on.
    in a’stan, ‘the enemy of my enemy’ was once the taliban and al qaeda, but they did not turn out to be very good friends.

  5. soumyakambhampati says:

    @atma You seem to have an overly romantic view of the Agency. Simply having large expat groups in the West doesn’t always provide accurate intelligence, and gaining information from expat communities is a CI nightmare, as shown by the Bay of Pigs debacle where Cuban intelligence operatives penetrated the expat communities and thus were able to keep a close eye on Agency operations in Miami. Additionally, the expat community, especially if they are dissidents, as you suggest, might have little reason not to bias the information they give in an attempt to lead to the overthrow of the Syrian regime (similar to CURVEBALL). The reason the NCS lacks agent networks in Syria and the capabilities to build them up is due to both the lack of available case officers in the NCS’s NE Division, and the fact that the traditional NCS base of operations in a country, its covert stations within US embassies and consulates, are now nonexistent in Syria due to the evacuation of the US diplomatic mission to Syria due to the violence. That means any NCS case officers would have to penetrate Syria illegally and at great personal risk to recruit useful agents. Thus, NCS is forced to simply debrief refugees and try to convince some to become agents and re-enter Syria, a hard task.

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