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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.
The Navy has paused proceedings that could strip Eddie Gallagher and three other SEALs of their tridents while the service awaits a written order to formally stand down, a senior Navy official told Task & Purpose on Thursday.
Rear Adm. Collin Green, the head of Naval Special Warfare Command, was expected to decide on the matter after the SEALs appeared before a review board next month. But Trump tweeted on Thursday that Gallagher was in no danger of losing his trident, a sacred symbol of being part of the SEAL community.
"The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher's Trident Pin," the president tweeted. "This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!"
A Corpsman went to a military hospital for a routine shoulder surgery. 4 days later he was dead, and his parents say the Navy is to blame
Jordan Way was living a waking nightmare.
The 23-year-old sailor laid in bed trembling. At times, his body would shake violently as he sobbed. He had recently undergone a routine shoulder surgery on Dec. 12, 2017, and was hoping to recover.
Instead, Jordan couldn't do much of anything other than think about the pain. Simple tasks like showering, dressing himself, or going to the bathroom alone were out of the question, and the excruciating sensation in his shoulder made lying down to sleep feel like torture.
"Imagine being asleep," he called to tell his mother Suzi at one point, "but you can still feel the pain."
To help, military doctors gave Jordan oxycodone, a powerful semi-synthetic opiate they prescribed to dull the sensation in his shoulder. Navy medical records show that he went on to take more than 80 doses of the drug in the days following the surgery, dutifully following doctor's orders to the letter.
Instinctively, Jordan, a Navy corpsman who by day worked at the Twentynine Palms naval hospital where he was now a patient, knew something was wrong. The drugs seemed to have little effect. His parents advised him to seek outside medical advice, but base doctors insisted the drugs just needed more time to work.
"They've got my back," Jordan had told his parents before the surgery, which happened on a Tuesday. By Saturday, he was dead.
Two airmen from Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, were killed on Thursday when two T-38 Talon training aircraft crashed during training mission, according to a message posted on the base's Facebook age.
The two airmen's names are being withheld pending next of kin notification.
A total of four airmen were onboard the aircraft at the time of the incident, base officials had previously announced.
The medical conditions for the other two people involved in the crash was not immediately known.
An investigation will be launched to determine the cause of the crash.
Emergency responders from Vance Air Force Base are at the crash scene to treat casualties and help with recovery efforts.
Read the entire message below:
VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – Two Vance Air Force Base Airmen were killed in an aircraft mishap at approximately 9:10 a.m. today.
At the time of the accident, the aircraft were performing a training mission.
Vance emergency response personnel are on scene to treat casualties and assist in recovery efforts.
Names of the deceased will be withheld pending next of kin notification.
A safety investigation team will investigate the incident.
Additional details will be provided as information becomes available. #VanceUpdates.
This is a breaking news story. It will be updated as more information is released.
The commander of the Marine Corps' Wounded Warrior Regiment has been relieved over a loss of "trust and confidence in his ability to lead" amid an investigation into his conduct, a Corps official told Task & Purpose on Thursday.
Col. Lawrence F. Miller was removed from his post on Thursday morning and replaced with his executive officer, Lt. Col. Larry Coleman, who will serve as interim commander of the Quantico, Virginia based unit.
President Donald Trump has nixed any effort by the Navy to excommunicate Eddie Gallagher from the SEAL community.
"The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher's Trident Pin," the president tweeted on Thursday. "This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!"