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The Activity

 The Special Forces intelligence-driven unit that is so secret it doesn’t even have a name...

Intelligence authority Michael Smith reveals details of an extraordinary covert operation currently in place to track down and eliminate major terrorist figures

Donald Rumsfeld was never a man for diplomatic language. On 1 July 2002, in the early months of the global war on terror, the American defence secretary sent a two-line memo to Doug Feith, his under-secretary for policy, asking: “How do we organise the department for manhunts? We are obviously not well organised at the present time.”

the plot

Rumsfeld was sick of being told that US forces could not go after terrorists because of a lack of “actionable intelligence”. His fury was fuelled by a secret inquiry he had commissioned into America’s failure to “take out” al-Qaida before the attacks of 11 September 2001.

It had found that the US joint chiefs of staff were so opposed to special operations missions, such as seizing Osama Bin Laden, that they insisted on failsafe requirements - principally that nobody should be killed.

Rumsfeld now gave his special operations teams new orders. They were “to capture terrorists for interrogation or, if necessary, to kill them, not arrest them.” He also persuaded President Bush to sign a presidential finding authorising the military “to find and finish” terrorist targets.

Rumsfeld had created a killer elite that has been compared favourably by one its key architects to America’s highly controversial Phoenix programme, which secretly eradicated about 20,000 people without judicial process during the Vietnam war. This new Phoenix programme is now fully operational and a key element of it is British. Members of the Special Air Service (SAS) and the Special Boat Service (SBS) are part of Rumsfeld’s killer elite, working in deadly pursuit of America’s enemies.

Two squadrons of SBS and SAS plus a reservist squadron from 23 SAS Regiment are currently operating on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border helping US special operations troops to pursue Bin Laden and his number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri. A reservist squadron from 23 SAS Regiment is also there. Most members of the public - both here and in the US - are unaware of the extent to which this US-led task force has become Rumsfeld’s Killer Elite. Who controls these British troops? Who sets their goals? Who ensures their activities are legal? And how did this collaboration become so close? To look for the answers one needs to go back more than 40 years.

In the early 1960s an unusual exchange took place across the Atlantic. A Green Beret lieutenant and sergeant, Charlie Beckwith and Dick Meadows, made the journey to Bradbury Lines, the SAS base in Hereford. The visit had lasting effects on them. Meadows even married the daughter of an SAS sergeant major.

At the same time, two SAS men were sent to Fort Bragg, the US army special forces headquarters in North Carolina. This also had a lasting effect. A tough young US special forces lieutenant called Jerry King always remembered the SAS sergeant who “taught me to walk”.    more.....



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