The SEALs are just part of the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command, known by the acronym JSOC, which has grown from a rarely used hostage rescue team into America’s secret army. When members of this elite force killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May, JSOC leaders celebrated not just the success of the mission but also how few people knew their command ... even existed.This kind of elite force is not easy to create. But, once one is created, the hardest task of a democracy is to keep it restrained to uses against our enemies. Once the impossible doesn't take long at all to do, it's easy for politicians to turn elite military units into instruments of personal power instead of their intended use as instruments of national defense.
Under President George W. Bush, JSOC’s operations were rarely briefed to Congress in advance — and usually not afterward, either — because government lawyers considered them to be “traditional military activities” not requiring such notification. President Obama has taken the same legal view, but he has insisted that JSOC’s sensitive missions be briefed to select congressional leaders.No surprise that a Democrat is better than a Republican. Also no surprise that he's not that much better.
JSOC has made brilliant use of sigint to locate targets.
The Iraqi insurgency’s reliance on modern technology also gave tech-savvy JSOC and its partners, particularly the National Security Agency, an advantage. The NSA learned to locate all electronic signals in Iraq. “We just had a field day,” said a senior JSOC commander, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe secret operations.This is more than likely part of what Bob Woodward likened to the Manhattan Project three years ago.
Still, some of that technology has been in use in American cities for a decade or more. Our cell phones track our movements. Acoustic listening posts triangulate gunshots origins in high-crime areas. We seize and do forensics on alleged criminals' electronic devices (rightly so with a warrant).
It's only a matter of time before JSOC innovations get used domestically. How likely is it in the modern American surveillance state that there will be Constitutional controls? And I really don't have enough of a neo-Confederate sense of humor to laugh at one of JSOC's nicknames, "the Secret Army of Northern Virginia."