US Pentagon’s ‘secret army’ of clandestine operatives dwarfs CIA spy force: report


THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT of Defense maintains a “secret army” of over 60,000 operatives, many of whom work across the world in a clandestine capacity, with fake identities and manufactured backgrounds, according to a new report. Newsweek, which published the report on Monday, said that the Pentagon force is “more than ten times the size” of the clandestine wing of the Central Intelligence Agency, which is commonly associated with carrying out covert operations abroad.

According to William Arkin, author of the Newsweek report, the Pentagon’s secret operatives are part of a wider US government effort known as “signature reduction”. The program provides undercover government operatives the ability to operate domestically and around the world without the fear of having their links to spy agencies or the military discovered by online sleuths. Some of these operatives carry out clandestine tasks under their real names, claims Arkin, but without having any formal connections with the US government, or even their country of citizenship.

Others operate under manufactured identifies, which, according to the report, are created by the Pentagon’s Operational Planning and Travel Intelligence Center. Its purpose is to alter databases of US government agencies, such as the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, or the Customs and Border Protection agency, so as to protect the manufactured identities of covert operatives. Such operatives are also provided with technologies that allow them to evade face-recognition and other biometric identification measures, including fingerprint scanners, according to Newsweek.

Another part of the “signature reduction” program, according to the report, consists of private-sector enterprises that work with the Pentagon to provide its clandestine operatives with contractual covers. These allow the operatives to work abroad under civilian cover and without any official connection to US embassies or military bases, according to Newsweek.

The report claims that the largest component of the Pentagon’s “signature reduction” program consists of members of Special Operations Forces. The remaining components of the program are made up of military intelligence and counterintelligence specialists with a variety of skills, including linguistics specialists and cyber operations. The latter form “the fastest growing” group within the program, and are tasked with collecting information about targets online, as well as engaging in influence campaigns utilizing social media platforms around the world.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 19 May 2021 | Permalink

5 Responses to US Pentagon’s ‘secret army’ of clandestine operatives dwarfs CIA spy force: report

  1. Michael Mahoney says:

    Considering the background of the author of the article, the fact that ALL Chinese citizens are required to spy for the Chinese Communist Party, the continued assaults on the USA from various groups and governments, and the track record of Newsweek magazine, I am surprised this merits a report on this website.
    God Bless the folks involved in this stressful work on our behalf.

  2. Nicholas Dujmovic says:

    Operatives, schmoperatives. Such Hollywood terminology obscures the problem with this piece, namely, that it’s never made clear what these intelligence officers are actually doing. Referring to clandestine tasks or covert operations (there is a difference) doesn’t reveal whether they are conducting covert action (a legal term under Title 50 of the US Code) or HUMINT (especially that particular subset of HUMINT, espionage). Covert action and espionage are two different things. Are these Pentagon people doing both? More of one than the other? What’s going on?

  3. Alex says:

    Who can explain to me, why did Newsweek feel they could, or should have published this? Which is clearly a military secret..

  4. Rob says:

    The Newsweek article does discuss the difference between covert and clandestine. I quote from the article: “signature reduction exists in a ‘twilight’ between covert and undercover. The former, defined in law, is subject to presidential approval and officially belongs to the CIA’s National Clandestine Service.” And if you actually read the article, it makes the point that this secretive program lacks oversight and should be of concern to policy makers. Secrecy DOES NOT trump accountability.

  5. Alex says:

    we all understand the need for accountability. But if there is indeed an issue in need of fixing, Newsweek people could – and should – have talked to a senator. There are other proper channels as well. Broadcasting this to the World isn’t one of them. Newsweek wasn’t moved by their concern for the country but rather by their concern for the ratings.

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