The Role of Targeted Killing

by Colonel Peter M. Cullen. Published in Joint Forces Quarterly, Isssue 48.

Targeted killing is “the intentional slaying of a specific individual or group of individuals undertaken with explicit government approval.” In recent years, targeted killing as a tactic in the ongoing campaign against terrorism has generated considerable controversy. Some commentators view it as an indispensable tool and argue for its expanded use, while others question its legality and claim that it is immoral and ultimately ineffective.

While the United States has not explicitly acknowledged pursuing a policy of targeted killing, insights can be gleaned from published national security documents and official statements that shed light on U.S. willingness to employ targeted killing as a tactic in the campaign against terror. Since September 11, 2001, however, the United States has consistently conducted targeted killing operations against terrorist personnel. This article examines the legality, morality, and potential efficacy of a U.S. policy of targeted killing in its campaign against transnational terror. The conclusion is that, in spite of the genuine controversy surrounding this subject, a carefully circumscribed policy of targeted killing can be a legal, moral, and effective tool in a counterterror proper implementation of a U.S. policy of targeted killing are proposed.

Rendition: The Beast and the Man

by Colonel Kevin M. Cieply. Published in Joint Forces Quarterly, Isssue 48.

"Excessive secrecy, duplicity and clandestine skullduggery are simply not our dish—not only because we are incapable of keeping a secret anyway (our commercial media of communication see to that), but, more importantly, because such operations conflict with our own traditional standards and compromise our diplomacy in other areas. . . . One may say that to deny ourselves this species of capability is to accept a serious limitation on our ability to contend with forces now directed against us. Perhaps; but if so, it is a limitation with which we shall have to live." - George F. Keenan

Trial of CIA, Italian agents provides rare look at intelligence work - LA Times

Disrupting Threat Finances: Using Financial Information to Disrupt Terrorist Organizations

by Wesley J.L. Anderson, Joint Special Operations University 08-3

Terrorist financing is a critical issue in the current fight against transnational terrorist networks or groups.

Major Anderson provides an excellent overview of terrorist financing and expands upon how it fits into the broader construct of threat financing. He articulates the significant challenges any government faces in trying to interrupt the terrorist networks use of the global financial system. The sheer immensity of this system provides ample opportunity for terrorists to operate undetected or unhindered. He also highlights that the very international nature of the global economic system presents enormous challenges in trying to coordinate amongst the almost 200 sovereign states that comprise the current world order.


Funds derived from criminal activities

Alternative remittance systems distinguishing sub-systems of ethnic money laundering in INTERPOL member countries on the Asian continent

The hawala alternative remittance system and its role in money laundering

Does President Obama Need a Better CIA Spy Network?

by Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

The U.S. devotes about $50 billion yearly to efforts to assess the capabilities and intentions of other nations. Most of it buys satellite imagery and technology to intercept and decode communications. A big chunk goes to the military for its operational needs, a smaller part to the CIA for analyses and on-the-ground espionage.

President Obama will be looking to find out the answers to big questions such as these: Where is Osama bin Laden? Are Iranian and North Korean leaders determined to pursue nuclear-weapons programs? Will Iraqi leaders be able to govern together in peace? Can the political future of Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai be salvaged?

Over the years, U.S. intelligence has delivered good value on matters such as whether Russia would raise oil prices or on the size of China's military. But on many vital questions, the payoffs were dismal: whether the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 could rally Cubans against Castro and the danger of the Shah of Iran's being overthrown in 1979.

Every President has tried to correct deficiencies. They've hired and fired CIA chiefs. Or they've circumvented the system by getting information directly from their foreign counterparts. Since they've spent their lives sizing up people, many Presidents figure they can do that better than the CIA. They're almost always wrong. Bill Clinton thought he had such a fix on Yasir Arafat that he gambled U.S. prestige on the Palestinian's agreeing to a peace accord with Israel in 2000; Arafat refused to sign. George W. Bush met with Russia's Vladimir Putin in 2001 and said, "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy...I was able to get a sense of his soul."

It seems Bush missed a thing or two in his peek into Putin's soul. President Kennedy used another technique. In 1963, he sent two experts with very different backgrounds to Vietnam to tell him what was happening. Maj. Gen. Victor "Brute" Krulak and career diplomat Joseph Mendenhall came back with such wildly divergent accounts that Kennedy quipped, "You two did visit the same country, didn't you?" The dirty little secret is that it's difficult to deliver the information Presidents want. Why?

First, it is hard to predict political events. Why should intelligence agencies be able to forecast the future abroad when we can't do it here? In addition, great upheavals - like the collapse of the Soviet Union - generally don't announce themselves. They erupt from long-suppressed hatred that transcends the fear of police or military reprisals.

Second, adversaries will zealously guard their positions on critical issues. Experts probably will never stop debating whether North Korea is ready to cash in its nuclear weapons in exchange for bribes. What's going on in foreign leaders' heads is often revealed only after Presidents act and make proposals, which spark reactions and unearth underlying aims. Similarly, adversaries do well at concealing their most important secrets, especially those related to sensitive weapons. In the Cold War, we ringed the Soviet Union with listening posts and satellites and still couldn't track many of its programs. In 1998, we were clueless about India's plans to explode a nuclear device, despite heavy surveillance. Nor did Washington ever have a real fix on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

Finally, pressure on intelligence experts to conform their estimates to Presidential policies is inescapable, and it distorts evaluations. Once the President takes a clear stance, the intelligence community rarely contradicts him - except with anonymous leaks. Intelligence is a major battlefield on which policy battles are fought. Knowledge is power, and every player in Washington fights to define reality for the President. When hawks convinced U.S. leaders that Moscow had military superiority, they won the ability to spend more on defense and to resist negotiating. If hard-liners persuade Obama today that Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is hell-bent on destroying Israel and the U.S., they'll win the debate on taking action to overthrow him.

Every country - not just the U.S. - has problems obtaining good intelligence. Even with the best espionage and analysts, they can't escape the distortions of their culture and politics. Presidents can also take consolation in the fact that as important as good intelligence is to successful policy, there are more important factors. The Soviets had all the intelligence their hearts desired during the Cold War with double agents like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen. These U.S. spies knew our secrets and helped keep Moscow in the power competition against America. We had no comparable agents. Still, the Soviets lost the Cold War hands down. They had better intelligence, but we had a much better country. [Gelb/Parade/8March2009]