Obama authorizes CIA to conduct ‘non-lethal covert action’ in Syria
August 3, 2012 5 Comments
By 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.