tv Annie Jacobsen Surprise Kill Vanish CSPAN August 21, 2019 1:57am-2:54am EDT
surprise, killed, vanish. >> good evening on behalf of staff and before we begin please silence your cell phones you don't want to be the person whose phone rings in the middle of a talk but doing q&a please ask your question into the microphone books are available fore purchase at the registers to be the investigative journalist from area 51 and that uncensored history of darpa.
and that act espnti psychokinesis also the paramilitary operators. that has a page turning narrative on the covert actions abroad. with a well sourced and well paid full of surprises. please help me to welcome annie jacobson to politics and prose at the wharf. [applause] >> how is my sound? first of all thank you for having me. and thank you for coming i am here to talk about surprise, kill, vanish about the military capacity which is something that many people are not even aware it exists. so how i get ideas for our my
books this began in 2009 so i had a source visiting me in my house. he was on his way back from the mideast and brought back with him a challenge point. . department of state. and my source has nothing to do diplomacy. he is weapons trained so i had an idea while he couldn't say what he was doing in the middle east, it was clear to me that it was some kind of an intelligent organization.
they said listen, if it's okay with your mom and dad i will show you a weapon. now i know he is a safety instructor, so i said that was fine. and he opened up this case and in spite of that he puts together this rifle with a scope and i was up in hollywood in a canyon and he set it up in a dining room table and through that, i could see across the canyon and i could see the veins on a leash and i thought now i know what he does in afghanist afghanistan. the balloons went off and there was another case. i was very curious about it.
i am a journalist. so when we were alone i said what is in that case. sometimes a job requires quiet. why i wanted to write this book is not as much with operators do overseas, but as much about my reaction to it. in other words, i could accept anyone with this clinical idea that the idea of using a knife slitting someone's throat or sticking it in their ribs gave me pause and i was interested in the idea. why do we as citizens
differentiate between. a very specialized wing of the cia's special activities division which is called grand branch, and almost no one knows about it for talks about it and it took me a long time as a journalist to find the sources that were willing to speak with me about grand branch and the special activities division. since world war ii, the motto,
which is the precursor organization to the cia was surprised, kill, vanish. they would land on the ground and team up with indigenous force partners so they work in france and would team up with their partners and surprise their way in. they would kill nazis with a knife. he had a specialized knife to do so. and then they would vanish. so that became their motto. this became interesting to me. but the book ithe book is abouts ththat mortgage encomiums game. if one must do the dirty as they call it in world war ii the most
dastardly things possible. we find it easier to imagine for splitting because they are nazis but if you move forward to today, we asked ourselves why is it that we are making those judgments. there was a guy called billy ball an and he is the longest-serving cia operative in its history that is known, so there may be someone that is longer but we don't know about it. and this story is interesting because he was a young soldier in the korean war, and he will send infantrymen and was dreadfully boring. and then after that, he learned about the secret unit inside of
the army that was being started and that would become the green berets. throw through this story most of the operators in this world they are called operators, not soldiers. they are military trained, so they become what are called tier one operators, green beret and they retire and go over it worked for the agency. so, many of the individuals that work in this world are older and i found that very interesting, and i'm jumping ahead to the end of the book because i write history, i write chronology so i take in the different wars and transformations of the paramilitary army, but when i landed in the present day i
found it fascinating, and i want you to think about this particularly when we have a discussion about this in the second half, which is the most coming i've also interviewed soldiers who are working for the military, and they are much younger and so there is the idea that when it comes to morality and what is at stake and why we are doing what we are doing i was constantly confronted with the idea that young soldiers are getting into waheading into warn not knowing what they are in for. the operators at the agency were working for the special activities division are veterans of decades and they are the ones who are saying in essence, send me. and they are willing to surprise, killing and vanish. what we are talking about with this the military capacity means
third option. up until after world war ii, the president had two options, there was diplomacy as the first option trying to work things out with our foreign partners or adversaries from a diplomatic standpoint, and the second option is when that doesn't work, war. so the third option is to cia. and that idea is once diplomacy has failed, you rely upon the third option. it's also called the presidency to enhance. everything that is done by the cia paramilitary is meant to be plausibly denied. it is also called covert action. for this reason, we asked the
citizenryearned a lot about the cia mistakes because they become public. and so, one of the extraordinary things for me as a journalist and as an author is piecing together what is on the record. for example, many people in this room may know about guatemala and iran and the bay of pigs and operation, but what you don't know is the obligations that were successful because they were meant to be plausibly denied. i write about those operations in public as i weave together this story of how and why the presidents of guerrilla warfare came to be. a fascinating thing happen during vietnam. and that is the pentagon
operates under title x and there are rules of engagement for soldiers must adhereo. the cia operates under title 50. both of these are elements of the national security code that came out of the creation of the pentagon and the national security apparatus in 1947. the title 50 and title x are very, very different. and what i learned looking through the archives was not the bay of pigs impacted the president so gracefully, greate was humiliated his first 100 days as president after having one of election on a very specific position that, you know, communism must be defeated in for cuba and vietnam were at the top of his target list. to have that failure at the bay
ofigs infuriated president kennedy. and he did something, which in my opinion hasn't really been looked at or reported before. and what he did was he switched the authority of the covert operations from the cia working under title 5 52 defense department working under title x. and it got very messy in terms of these covert paramilitary operations that were happening in the very early days of the vietnam long before the war was declared by president johnson i will say do you see that same thing today, and of course i let the readers decide when i try to let the readers decide who comes to their own conclusions about these sweeping issues that affect all of us as citizens to.
after the vietnam war, any kind of force was so looked down upon the special forces was gutted, the cia paramilitary was reduced, the church committee took the cia almost down, and the idea was no one wants anything to do with guerrilla warfare, paramilitary, it is dark, ugly, it isn't a gentleman's game. and the citizens of the united d states didn't want anything to do with the war, period but it was important in the cia history because you have a whole bunch of operators without work and i write about tha that end up in s
moment where they are not needed and there is this wall in the activity until reagan takes office. i'm going to interrupt myself for a minute to tell you you often hear the expression the tip of the spear, while the tip of the spear is the ultimate guerrilla warfare capacity that the cia has, and it has existed since 1947. lots of mythology around it. i explained very clearly through declassified documents and first interviews with sources about how this has evolved over time, but to give you an indication of how specific it is, president
eisenhower called his assassination capacity but health alteration committee. i've located documents in the archives that refer to the mission for the alteration committee. president kennedy called executive action. jumping forward to reagan, he called it preemptive neutralization. bush called it illegal direct action, and obama called it targeted killing. so, going back now to after the vietnam war, you had president reagan developing a capacity for the preemptive neutralization, and this is because we saw the rise of terrorism. what i also found interesting, i interviewed a gentleman named
lewis for this book and he was a 19th director of the secret service. it's kind of the flip sid flipse quakes of the executive capacity or neutralization capacity if you will and then as richard helms so famously said if you have the capacity to take out someone else's leaders, why wouldn't they take out yours. you begin to understand how serious this. presidents reagan develops the neutralization.
you have individuals running the show, not the cia in particular as an organization run by individuals as opposed to the pentagon as an organization that functions like a bureaucracy. we explain in this book a very interesting and largely unreported organization called the counter assault team. what i found fascinating about this largely on known is that starting after president reagan was told by a killed by an assan 1981, the team began to shatter the president 24/7 and they
still do. all of those operators are tier one trained so they would go over to the military and like billy wall, he was a green beret in vietnam and went on to work to protect the president and the wall moving forward working with the offensive operations for the cia. the period of time i also found interesting as citizens we tend to think that republican presidents act one way and democratic presidents act another way, and i found in reporting this book but that was not true. the cia paramilitary army worked at the president's behest, so there is no such thing as a rogue cia operation as far as i
know they are directed. therthere's one exception and tt this presidenwas president cline executive action. whenever they would request that an individual be preemptively neutralize them it would go up the chain of command for the president and president clinton did a good reject that. why i found this interesting is one's own morality going back to the initial spark that made me want to write this book because
my main character was targeting for the cia and was osama bin laden and this was in 1992 and there's a couple different versions that i report in the book. i took the very first surveillance photographs of bin laden and requested this went to the chain of command to clinton who was against preemptive neutralization. it makes you really think about these different consequences that come out of this shadow world of hidden hand operation. in conclusion, sort of as i get to the end of the book, what
sets things off into a completely different direction knowing this history after 9/11, the military capacity of the cia had been reduced dramatically in the clinton era and in the bush administration on september 17 there was a famous memorandum, parts of which are now declassified. i spoke to the lawyer that wrote the memorandum, and it gave the cia capacity like it never had before. and this is where we are now. the special activities division has transformed from a smaller element of the agency with a lot of people who they themselves called knuckle draggers to now
what is being called a special l activity center which is an interdisciplinary center, and it's bigger than it has ever been. we operate as far as i understand the cia paramilitary capacity operates in 134 countries around the globe. the hallmark of that guerrilla warfare capacity is the ability to work with the indigenous force partners. it's what we did as the as he tn the beginning we did with the oss in france and vietnam all over the globe. so, that is a primary driver working with partners and as i report in the book come into this is where it gets very dark and disturbing is the part is that we have in the current war in iraq and afghanistan are very difficult and troublesome partners.
while i expected to see a lot of darkness and complexity in the early years where i'd really found it was in the latter because i really found a sense from some of these operators that are working multiple tours for the agency this sense that they almost no longer can work with their partners. i get into the details in the book but it has to do with fundamentally different ways of life and drug abuse by for example the afghan partners. this becomes incredibly complex for the cia paramilitary operators who are highly trained. one of the thing everyone i interviewed coming and i interviewed 24 guys for the special activities division who are working to prevent war and you know, one of the things they
must do is take a polygraph test regularly. they cannot fly and they must maintain a physical capacity where they can do things like halo jump into behind enemy lines of the war theater, pay low being high altitude low opening, that's the surprise. they must kill and then they must vanish, they must exfiltrate without being caught. the degree of training that they have up against the degree of training and the commitments that our indigenous force partners have is a great paradox and not even is a difficult conundrum. i'm going to leave you with this last thought. the first time the source came to me in 2009 and basil that's nice to me this piece of -- and
ice all that nice, it made me ask myself is this uncomfortable, do i think it is right or wrong. what if left me with is a desire to know is it necessary. and for that reason, i traveled with my main source who is throughout the whole narrative to the tune of the last communist countries of the world because this all began during the cold war. the president guerrilla warfare, but paramilitary army was created to beat back the russians and defend against communism so we traveled to cuba and the mom and the reason we went to both of those places was in cuba we met with the son of che guevara and i don't know if it is well known, but the cia it
was the cia mission so it was the rangers actually killed him, but the officer on the ground, felix rodriguez i interviewed for the book and that was 1967, 50 years ago. so, there we were. sitting in the club with photographs on the wall plotting the downfall of the united states, talking about the war, talking about guerrilla warfare, and it made me one for boss is it right or wrong, but is if necessary. and again i had tha the same feg when we traveled to vietnam to meet with the sun of general who
was the commander of the north vietnamese army from so many people lost their lives and it was a turning point in american history and in the paramilitary army and there was billy and i meeting. we have been specifically designehad been specificallydesm the air that killed the general. they failed and he died a few years ago at the age of 103. we sat there, and then had been assigned to kill billy and his colleagues in the garden of this home owned by the general, and again i ask myself know if this is right or wrong, but is it necessary. so i will leave you with that thought and open up for
questions and i look forward to what you have to say. you so much. [applause] .. i read the entire book about air branch without even knowing it and without even know what it was called called area 51, the u2 and the oxcart. and i interviewed 75 men from the agency airport pilots, not knowing it was called air
branch. so behind all of this is jealously guarded. i really look forward to the person who can write about maritime branch. under the few operations that are just stunning that took place in the water, on the water and to answer your question, this book deals with ground branch, the guys on the ground. but there are other books to be written and i look forward to reading them. >> there something in the paper that you are going to be here and was taken back to the fact that were in the ways of court of law system wherefrom charged
with a crime i get my day in court, a lawyer, i'm innocent until proven guilty. these people are outlaws. these people are criminals. they should bring in somebody who they think is the murder or the criminal and charge them. and on the other side in vietnam and cuba, indonesia they will put people like kinzinger on trial for crimes committed in the country. some looking forward to reading your book but i still maintain that the outlaw are out of anybody's control and you might know about john the whistleblower for the cia spoke to us regionally about venezuela and he said the venezuela idea came up with one person who said we need to invade venezuela and go after the mineral and oil so
they went to the department of justice and he signed off on it and now we have this one on -- >> i'm going to interrupt you and answer your question about the letter of the law. what i write in the book is every operation i write about, no matter how shocking is legal in the house -- sorry missed the beginning of the talk but has to do with the fact that the cia is rking under title 50. that gives the cia the authority to do what it does. and while i think about the important, has to do with the real citizens. people often ask, how to get these guys to talk to you. and i work for the eyes and her principal and i talk about that with all my sources, it is well-known that eisenhower's farewell speech he spoke of the military-industrial complex and he warned against it. but what is less well known, he also said the way to balance the
military-industrial complex is an alert and knowledgeable citizen. i really believe the information is what we all need to be good citizens. and that's what ever the books that i write. so when me annie jacobsen, learns what i did writing this book, it was amazing for me too learn that this is the capacity that is allowable by the president to have the cia function this way. and there's a copy at that you could say -- and i understand your position about outlaws. whenever assassination comes up, it's reported in the press. that is not really accurate if you read and willing to read the version that i explain in the book which is an executive ord
order, congress never passed a law against such nation. they had an opportunity to do so in 1975 during the committee hearing. they did not. so the executive order can be overridden by another president's executive order and guess what, it has and it continues to be. and that is why we have what we have in presidential finding called a memorandum for that. these guys are not outlaws. one may not like what they do and that's a very important position but it's not illegal. >> the central piece of the book, it says you are looking at how it's conducted and executed. but from your interactions, the people themselves and people
behind the actions, how do they see their role in the grand scheme, how do they see the role as executor, you hear about o'neill and he talked about all the people behind me were there to be the final stroke in the process. how do they see what the role is and how do they see their action within the grand scheme of our politics and the geopolitics. how do they serve their role? >> a great question. to clarify first, our role that those guys were sealed, that was not a defense department, that was a cia mission because it needed to function under title 50. and to be able to kill someone and practicing a sovereign nation with who we are not at work that has to happen under
title 50 authority. if you look at any of the photographs this, their only their very rear and you will notice a few of them are not wearing defense department insignia because they were made cia operators for the night. so that's a key. and function as a team. but in the world of central operations, special operators in the cia, he was almost always alone, some of them work in a small unit in some work as a team, we have them functioning as a small army and that's because they might be for cia guys and 100 afghan partners.
and they all have a very different take on what they do and how they do it and why they do. what you are talking about is a trigger pull her. most of them do not see themselves as trigger pullers. you see themselves as executing the mission and they do have, they were closely with the operations officer to craft the mission into the mission and comes off of a high-value target list because they're always going after high-value target. what i thought was interesting is a situation where you have guys going as a team to get a target and they don't say why don't these are drawn, because the president wants them here. and they will go in this incredibly dangerous, lose a guy or two, not to get the target,
go back to the base be called into her room and watch the drone tried to take the guy out. [inaudible question] >> when you say that everything in the cia does is legal, up to court he to american law not ternional law. the present situation is why the groups that we have targeted killings against like al qaeda, does not respond or has not responded in kind. can you give us to why that's a case? >> that is a question i'm continually asking and believe -- i don't get into this
in the book but i believe homeland security with fbi and pentagon mpi away works very hard through biometrics to keep individuals out of this country. >> u.s. to question, a horrible question, is it necessary, wasn't successful in the long-range way about how it would be viewed and how other people view us in the blowback in the wipeout as a result of the assassination. is that a successful assassination? others methods, do they fail more often than
they succeed? >> that is a question that i think is in my book. you come to your own conclusion you can never look beyond the idea of consequences or unintended consequent this. what i do know, i am not the one making those decisions and i'm very grateful for that. i write history. i'm a national security reporter, that does not have the same psychological or moral based road that people in positions of decision-making have to bear or the trigger pullers, the people on the ground.
and we are democracy, you could go to plato and everybody has a different role, the teacher, priest, the electrician, firefighter, president. so i think that is the beauty of reading. because i must ask myself these questions to be a citizen into live in this world with meaning and purpose. >> what about the bin laden operation. in the black bag operation in the foreign country? i am not sure how to advise the cia. it is our job, u.s. ambassador has to inform the house government, so they have all this actionable intelligence. but tell the investor don't do that. he is taken -- if we inform pakistanis were going to get them, guess what we would've never got them but i give them a lot of credit for that. it was a gutsy call on his part.
>> something that you are able to do, talk to these dozens of people. they live in a secret world and they manage to reach them is a testament to your historian. i worked in law and will pull the once was quarter, he talked about the oppositions that are linked. he said in a case of law, students is success, how do you measure success. too many people are estimated to have been killed in the war. they were not people targeted by the cia on an individual basis. they were killed mostly by bombing, and taken out in terms
of ordinance. also, about osama bin laden, he was on dialysis before he was killed. how did he live in a cave with dialysis for 11 years? >> the first part of the question and i will give you this to think about. just the other night at a discussion people were asking that i was condoning cia military operations, i'm not up for them or against them i'm just reporting the news. but as a thought, i did mention that last year alone, and afghanistan, the pentagon dropped more than 7000 bombs,
the cia missions have a very footprint maybe a hellfire missile but a pentagon 500 bomb does a lot more damage. we dropped more than 7000 of them. and it's about to get even harder to find out what the defense department is doing because the inspector general who has looked at those numbers on afghanistan and this administration just took that job away. it was called sagar. we will no longer have those numbers. >> i was struck by the decline in youth and is him over the course of presidential history from neutralization to targeted killing. and specifically, you think you
would have something to do with the decline in the value of truth? versus diplomatic deniability. that in which we know to be true and that which we can say with a straight face in front of a microphone which is true. what were your thoughts on this and what does that speak to the truth in this world but up to that point. >> i think you said it perfectly. >> on the upside it says we are becoming a more informed citizen because no one -- if they called the drone strike in program health alteration committee there be outrage. so it's called what it is, targeted killing. and i think in the world in which we live today sometimes
people argue we're too much information and not enough good, i think more information is better than less. >> so you situated with these tears, just kind of curious is any way to generalize any research with the reaction of the first two overtime toward the fact that there was action taken. what does that show or elitist to believe about the reaction, these things are not silent but the jumble of our engagement in the world and what you might've learned regarding that.
>> it is exactly that, competition. rivalry. i think the state department gets left out of the issue because of diplomacy. but once you move into the other realm, the pentagon and the cia always had these conflicts with one another over who goes and we see that in the most tragic way right after 9/11 and one of the most concealed ways. i was reading somewhere with the history of afghanistan war to date and they were talking about how the war began on october 6. the war did not begin on october 9/11 when the cia went to president bush and said we cia military and special activity division are the best guys in to do this work.
and they went with 115 specialized officers and operators and one was 72 by the way. and their forces were all demented by 2000 special operations forces. those guys were there killing al qaeda in the weeks leading up to october 6 when the campaign started in the war began. >> this is an operational question. in terms of loss of life on the operator side, were you able to get a clear picture of what that would look like commission to commission year-to-year. and also do you think that this
is necessary? >> down to the first part of the question, the cia wall stars a number of people but that is not everyone. many, many of guys on ground, a majority of them are not blue badgers. so there health insurance is not with the cia. they are independent contractors. they are not contractors but independent contracted by the cia which means they have entirely different situations in the event and you will never hear about them. i read about a couple of guys that were colleagues of some of my sources who died there working for the cia and the
deaths are not reported as such. in the second question, is it necessary. that's a loaded question that somebody said in the back, having written about world war ii and the operation paperclip about how we brought nazis signed here. and pulling them out sometimes that idea is necessary and never anything i answer dead on not because i'm being poised but because it's a rapidly changing situation. just when you think one thing, history reveals itself in a different way and i think the flexibility of the mind is important for all of us. >> one more question. >> i would like an explanation from why we went to executive action of targeted killing to the executive action that the cia probably got the right guy nine times out of ten. today when you drop a bomb over
10000 feet and you think the target is in, perhaps killing him his wife, family dog -- how many wedding parties have been bombed, school buses and whatnot. i think that gives us a allusion that we get only the men we wa want. >> you raise an interesting point and that is where and because were in a situation very much like vietnam were refining the military war at the same time that we are fighting a traditional war. but one of the things that i found astonishing about the ground bridge guys. a lot of times they're going in at great risk to actually identify someone. so yes a lot of the press reports they targeted killings
were the wrong half is targeted. but i have stories of guys going in to dangerous situations to take photographs of people, maybe even get biometrics, fingerprint touch dna to confirm that they are who they are and then they are killed that way. so maybe one more question and then i would love to sign books. >> you reference an office of un- gentlemanly warfare. there is a book that i read and they mentioned that they have come up with a bomb would activate when you sat down on the toilet and i just -- i was horrified by it and i remember what you said about the knife.
i wonder if that is what that's about as a human being and they don't seem phased in some to get shot by a long-distance weapon but if there blown up in the toilet or stabbed, we don't have a positive reaction to. >> the absolutely was called that because true children were right to conducted on warfare and much of his colleagues. and that's where we get the cia. there is a story i report in the book that is never been reported before and it was a top terrorist who is most wanted man in america before bed long. and he is responsible for the bombing of the asian building in
beirut and the marine barracks in beirut. and that's where began for him. he was sought after in the cia and when he was killed in 2008 with a car bomb, we know now that it was a joint cia operation and that validly in car bomb is considered a weapon to the enemy. but what i was very intrigued by, my main source in the law was sent in to a very dangerous place called saudi arabia to take photographs to certify that it was in fact him. that is how much they want to make sure if we're going to do the operation. the president needed to be absolutely certain it was him himself was being killed and not