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No, Trump Didn't Reveal A 'Covert' Navy SEAL Team In Iraq
You may have heard that President Donald Trump recently posted a video revealing a "covert" Navy SEAL Team in Iraq, and well, that's kinda bullshit.
In a report titled "Donald Trump Twitter Account Video Reveals Covert U.S. Navy SEAL Deployment During Iraq Visit," Newsweek's James LaPorta noted that footage taken during Trump's confab with service members and published on his Twitter account appeared to show the president chatting with members of SEAL Team 5, whose presence in Iraq was previously unreported.
"After Air Force One left the Iraqi airspace, Trump posted a video to his Twitter account of his time spent with American forces during his visit to Iraq," Newsweek reported. "Lee Greenwood’s 'God Bless the USA,' plays over the video and shows the president and the first lady posing for pictures with service members that appear to be from SEAL Team Five. The special warfare operators are dressed in full battle gear and wearing night vision goggles. ... The video cuts to team members shaking the president’s hand before cutting to other special operations personnel and support troops."
The Newsweek article itself isn't completely off base. The Pentagon hardly posts pictures of SEALs to its official visual imagery portal anymore and rarely talks about special operations units or deployments over operational security concerns.
But the headline on the Newsweek article, with the term "covert," is what many people have taken issue with, and for good reason (it's worth noting here that most news organizations don't let authors choose their headlines, so this may not be LaPorta's fault).
"Is it a secret that these guys are out there in that part of the world? No," a defense official told Task & Purpose on condition of anonymity. "It’s been a little more sensationalized than we would've hoped."
"Covert" has a very specific definition under Title 50 of the United States Code, which makes it a matter of intelligence authority, focused primarily on the activities of state organs like the Central Intelligence Agency (with some input from the DoD); this is a direct contrast to Title 10 of the USC, which deals solely with military authority. Title 10 "is used colloquially to refer to DoD and military operations," as the Harvard National Security Journal puts it, while Title 50 "refers to intelligence agencies, intelligence activities, and covert action."
While the two authorities detailed under Titles 10 and 50 aren't mutually exclusive, forces operating under Title 10 are explicitly prohibited from carrying out covert operations, instead relegated to clandestine activities which involve "the tactical concealment of the activity" and don't require an explicit notification of Congress, according to an April 2018 Congressional Research Service report.
"By comparison, covert activities can be characterized as the strategic concealment of the United States’ sponsorship of activities that aim to effect change in the political, economic, military, or diplomatic behavior of an overseas target."
As it stands, the vast majority missions carried out by U.S. special operations forces are non-statutory clandestine operations under Title 10 rather than explicitly (and legally) covert operations under Title 50; OPSEC, in the case of the former, is usually designed to conceal an operation for tactical purposes rather than fully embrace the level of plausible deniability usually referred to spies. In this context, the only true "covert" operation carried out by U.S. special operations forces was the SEAL Team 6 raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011.
Simply belonging to a SEAL Team doesn't make your every move "covert," especially if you're hanging out in the DFAC during the commander-in-chief's visit.
All of this is to say that if SEAL Team 5 was deployed to Iraq on a covert mission, there's no way in hell anyone, including conventional U.S. forces, would likely know they were there. I mean, Lt. Lee, the SEAL chaplain, was identified as a member of SEAL Team 5 in the public pool report and photographed by Agence France-Presse. No commander on an actual "covert" mission would ever let that happen, no matter how amped they are to hang out with the commander-in-chief, given the gravity surrounding Title 50 activities; even letting personnel engage with the commander-in-chief in public completely negates the plausible deniability that supposedly comes with covert operations.
This may seem like a pedantic argument, but it's an important one, especially for matters of civil-military engagement. But make no mistake: Revealing the identities of SOF personnel is still bad news, even if they're not tasked with a real "covert" mission.
"Even during special operation demonstrations for congressional delegations or for the president or vice president, personnel either have their faces covered or their face is digitally blurred prior to a release to the general public,” as one DoD official told Newsweek. "I don't recall another time where special operation forces had to pose with their faces visible while serving in a war zone."
On the upside, at least nobody left a whiteboard with troop movements sitting in the background.
U.S. Special Operations Command and Naval Special Warfare Command did not respond to requests for comment from Task & Purpose.
Former Marine Commandant tells Trump that pardoning troops accused of war crimes 'relinquishes the moral high ground'
Former Marine Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak has issued a statement urging President Donald Trump and members of Congress to oppose pardons for those accused or convicted of war crimes since, he argued, it would "relinquish the United States' moral high ground."
"If President Trump follows through on reports that he will mark Memorial Day by pardoning individuals accused or convicted of war crimes, he will betray these ideals and undermine decades of precedent in American military justice that has contributed to making our country's fighting forces the envy of the world," said Krulak, who served in the Marine Corps for more than three decades before retiring in 1999 as the 31st Commandant.
Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at Associated Materials. Committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace, Associated Materials Incorporated is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn more here.
Associated Materials, a residential and commercial siding and window manufacturer based in Ohio, employs people from a variety of backgrounds. The company gives them an opportunity to work hard and grow within the organization. For Tim Betsinger, Elizabeth Dennis, and Tanika Carroll, all military veterans with wide-ranging experience, Associated Materials has provided a work environment similar to the military and a company culture that feels more like family than work.
President Donald Trump will nominate Barbara Barrett to serve as the next Air Force secretary, the president announced on Tuesday.
"I am pleased to announce my nomination of Barbara Barrett of Arizona, and former Chairman of the Aerospace Corporation, to be the next Secretary of the Air Force," Trump tweeted. "She will be an outstanding Secretary! #FlyFightWin"
The Trump administration is trying to assure Congress that it does not want to start a war with Iran, but some lawmakers who fought in Iraq are not so sure.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford both briefed Congress on Tuesday about Iran. Shanahan told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the U.S. military buildup in the region has stopped Iran and its proxies from attacking U.S. forces, but the crisis is not yet over.
"We've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans," Shanahan said. "That doesn't mean that the threats that we've previously identified have gone away. Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump warned on Monday Iran would be met with "great force" if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East, and government sources said Washington strongly suspects Shi'ite militias with ties to Tehran were behind a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone.
"I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything," Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Monday evening for an event in Pennsylvania. "If they do something, it will be met with great force but we have no indication that they will."