THE SPECIAL OPERATIONS OPSEC EDUCATION FUND & OPERATION NEPTUNE SPEAR: IS OBAMA GETTING “SWIFTBOATED?”

A group of ex-special forces operators and intelligence folks have apparently joined together to create a group that is focused on showcasing the Obama Administration’s supposed use of sensitive operational and intelligence details for political gain. They have raised over a million dollars to start placing television ads in key states, and now that the mainstream knows these guys exist, conservative donations will most likely pour in by the bushel load.

Much of this controversy stems from the aftermath of Neptune Spear, the operation that saw US Army, Navy, Air Force, CIA and other services assets brought to bear to kill Osama Bin Laden in his bunker-like home in a Pakistani suburb. The fact that literally garbage bags full of hard drives, documents and other intel was extracted from the scene yet the Obama Administration chose to disclose that the raid took place only hours after its conclusion was seen by some as totally reckless and a huge missed opportunity. The gobs of actionable intelligence in those bags could have led to foiled plots, lives saved, and terrorists killed as at the time we had no idea what exactly would be found in such a treasure trove. President Obama immediately telling the world that the US not only killed Bin Laden, but how we did it and exactly where we did it alerted every terror contact related directly to the terror mastermind that their cover may have been blown and thus they should change their location, plans, and other important details immediately, which would render the potential intelligence jackpot found in the Bin Laden compound historically significant but for the most part not actionable. This infuriated many in the intelligence community who know damn well what a missed opportunity like this could mean, especially innocent lives lost.

Then there were the actual special forces operators themselves who were involved or associated with the raid, who like to remain nameless and their tactics to kept under a shroud of secrecy as the element of surprise and tactical unpredictability are key ingredients in the successful implementation of their dangerous trade. When you tell the world exactly how many people were involved with such an assault, what units those people come from, what technology they brought to the fight and other operational details it does degrade these units’ capabilities, although to what level is really debatable. Even the Pakistani doctor who the CIA tapped to attempt to retrieve DNA samples from the occupants of the still at the time unidentified mystery compound in Abbottabad paid a very high price for such openness, as he has been sentenced to 33 years by Pakistan courts.

Other leaks and confirmations have also infuriated those in the intelligence trade as of late, such as details about recent cyber warfare attacks on Iran and detailed descriptions pertaining to the existence of the United States’ “kill list,” as well as other security endangering revelations. Still the Administration’s openness about Operation Neptune Spear seems to remain the most bewildering case for many. The upcoming film “Zero Dark Thirty,” by famed “Hurt Locker” director Kathryn Bigelow, for which the Obama Administration and DoD gave special access to intelligence and operational details, will no doubt only inflame this national security and political  controversy, although the movie will be released shortly after the Presidential election cycle ends.

It has long been my opinion that if that stealth Blackhawk had not crashed in Bin Laden’s backyard we would have only heard rumors, if even that, about the Abbottabad raid and the killing of Osama Bin Laden possibly weeks after the event took place, with a formal acknowledgement from the Administration and the DoD coming only after the intelligence taken from the compound had been fully exploited. The fact that a burnt out Blackhawk carcass was left behind, as well as a perfectly intact tail, one of which the world had never seen before, most likely accelerated the timetable for disclosure to warp speed. The seemingly impromptu speech given by the President late that Sunday night was also a tell that such an immediate disclosure was not fully planned in advance. Once the helicopter was deemed written off in place, the choices were limited, either bomb the place to smithereens, which would have basically been a declaration of war by the US against Pakistan, or come clean as the fallout and speculation surrounding such strange circumstances would have been more damaging than the truth.

It is also important to note that the Pakistanis were almost certainly alerted to the operation once the MH-47 spec-ops Chinooks made their way into the Abbottabad valley, as they are loud and detectable. A high-level emergency demand by the DoD made to the Pakistanis not to launch fighter aircraft or to interfere directly in the mission underway without intense repercussions was most likely made. The reality is that those thermite grenades used to destroy the downed stealth Blackhawk helicopter would have probably been used to set the compound of fire as the teams departed if the mission had gone as planned, leaving little evidence behind and allowing the US to have some sort of plausible deniability for enough time to leverage the actionable intelligence gained from the raid. Even if the other compound inhabitants were not shot and burnt in the compound, but were left to live, the Pakistani intelligence folks would have been so embarrassed by the fact that they were Bin Laden’s own nuclear family and members of his inner most circle that they would have most likely classified the truth surrounding the operation as well. It would have all looked like a classic gangland hit, a drug lord and his family dyeing at the hand of their own endeavors, not a top-tier US counter-terrorism operation. This would have also explained the size, design and high security of the compound to locals who undoubtedly had their own suspicions over the years and would have been totally interested once the raid had taken place.

In the end I believe that Obama Administration had no choice but to come clean with the world that the US was responsible for the strange activities in Abbottabad and that they took out Bin Laden down in the process as foreign policy and defense experts and commentators would have known that the use of silver bullet stealth helicopters deep inside Pakistani territory would not have been ordered to take a mid-level terrorist target. Once the Administration began talking they got caught up in the moment and recognized the political and historic significance of the event and proceeded with blabbering much more than they needed to. Literally the story could have been as simple as Bin Laden is dead, we got him at that compound in Abbottabad, we lost a “unique” insertion platform in the process and all our heroes made it out alive. That is all that needed to be said at the time. Over time, specific details would have leaked out and eventually an official account could have been released once all the participating commands and operational security folks have signed off on what details would be included and what details would be omitted for national security purposes.

In the end Operation Neptune Spear and its particulars shot out into the public domain in a geyser like manner within 24 hours after the now infamous raid on Bin Laden’s compound had been completed, and yes the Obama Administration shared more information than they probably should have in the days following the raid. Yet if that stealth helicopter had never crashed in the first place the story of how Bin Laden was sent to hell would have almost certainly been conveyed in a much more vague and security conscious manner and only well after all available intelligence gathered at the compound was disseminated and acted upon to its maximum potential. Doing otherwise would have been almost criminal. I am a little surprised that so many highly trained special forces and intelligence operators, all American heroes in their own right, have not figured this out for themselves.

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18 Responses to THE SPECIAL OPERATIONS OPSEC EDUCATION FUND & OPERATION NEPTUNE SPEAR: IS OBAMA GETTING “SWIFTBOATED?”

  1. Ctrot says:

    I don’t believe the helo crash was the catalyst for all the media attention on the UBL raid; I have no doubt that Obama would have immediately announced the death of UBL if there had been no crash. I can see no relationship between the crash and the release of details of the raid and the access given to film makers, that there was a crash gives no additional impetus to those things happening afterward.

    But the retired Seals are not just complaining about the UBL raid, they’ve also brought up the leaks on the penetration by a spy of al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate and the origins of the Stuxnet virus. Which are in no way related to the UBL raid helo crash.

    • aviationintel.com says:

      How do you have “no doubt” that Obama would have disclosed the mission immedietly had the helicopter not been lost? That is a much larger assumption than the logical one I am making in this piece. I am keeping personal politics out of this piece, and like I said sure maybe they said too much once they began talking, but by and large the timing of the disclosure, the key argument in this video, was not made out of haste it was made because the super helicopter left in a Pakistani Neighborhood and associated bloodbath within that house had to be explained as reporters, responders and curious folks were descending directly on the area. The fact that it was Bin Laden lessened the impact of such a breach in sovereignty of an “allie.”

      Yes I do mention those other issues, but that is not the focus of this piece, see the title. Nor is it the focus of this group’s video. I mean they even have an operator saying Obama “gave away” the fact that we have stealth helicopters for such missions, um no he did not give this away, the helicopter did when it was left behind after the raid! Were we really going to leave a stealth helicopter tail sitting on that wall, a burnt out Blackhawk fuse in the yard, dead people everywhere and kids tied up without saying anything? Give me a break. Re-read the piece.

    • aviationintel.com says:

      http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/17/opinion/bergen-obama-swift-boat/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

      Apparently I am not the only one with this view, one that I have had for almost a year now. Please go back through the old posts, this is not a new aviationintel development.

  2. Mark says:

    You can’t claim to be taking the politics out of it and link to an opinion piece by a guy who’s a director of a seriously left wing think tank.

    With that said I agree with much of what you said, with the crash of the chopper something had to be said.

    However I to think the president and his minions would have leaked the whole thing regardless. My logic is we have a president with an ego the size of the the sun and followers with a blind devotion only rivaled by the North Koreans for their “Dear Leader”. A WH who has Obama’s name and “accomplishments” wedged into files and documents pertaining to Lincoln,FDR and others to piggy back on their greatness.

    A quickly approaching election, no positive foriegn policy accomplishments and being attacked for it from both the left and right. The economy in freefall and things looking worse by the minute. I see absolutely nothing in the man’s past and present behavior or those under him that would make be give him the benefit of the doubt.

    In regards to the movie being filmed about the event, it was originally, conveniently scheduled to be released just before the election. Is there any doubt why he gave them special access to info about the event? Thankfully after enough complaints they pushed it’s release until after the election but I’d bet 100 dollars we’ll being seeing ads for it appear in the weeks close to the election.

    He should have simply made a statement saying what occured and leave it at that, a president with class and a smaller ego wouldn’t have attempted to take personal credit for it.

    As for the above political ad, when the prez and his supporters have been accusing his opponent of murder, wanting to bring back slavery, kill old people and not caring about the sick……well, I really find it hard to get too worked up about whether it’s 100% fair.

  3. Ctrot says:

    “How do you have “no doubt” that Obama would have disclosed the mission immedietly had the helicopter not been lost? That is a much larger assumption than the logical one I am making in this piece.”

    Because Obama is a self promoting narcissist. Ignoring that fact makes your assumption that he would not announce the killing of Americas number one enemy of the previous 10 years on his watch not only illogical but borderline delusional. The man has never missed an opportunity, real or imagined, to self promote.

    “Were we really going to leave a stealth helicopter tail sitting on that wall, a burnt out Blackhawk fuse in the yard, dead people everywhere and kids tied up without saying anything? Give me a break. Re-read the piece.”

    Give me a break, I never said anything about ignoring the helo.

    We were not going to “not say anything” regardless, that is my point. Helo crash or not, Obama was going to yell to the rooftops that “I got Usama!”. It is his nature to do so, anyone who has observed him for the past 4 years should understand that.

  4. Dave says:

    Since this conversation was bound to devolve into partisan politics, it would probably be worth noting that any sane living person that is in the White House would want to scream from the rooftops about how they ordered the killing of public enemy #1, a mass-murderer who ordered the killing of 3,000 people. Had he been killed under President Bush it would have taken 3 aircraft carriers to hold the “Mission Accomplished” banner his administration would have made, as he landed on the deck in a spec ops helo.

    Some of our best trained men but a bullet in Osama’s forehead, and probably another 2 in the chest for good measure. Osama didn’t target liberal or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans, he targeted Americans. These stupid partisan arguments are just that, stupid. Why can we not just be happy with the fact that Osama sleeps with the fishes and move on?

    And Ctrot, all politicians self-promote, that is how they got the job. Name one that does not and I will no longer consider you an ideologue that would rather focus on the man than the mission.

  5. Ctrot says:

    Dave, you’re right, any other president would also have announced UBL’s death. But what other presidents would have done is meaningless, Obama was/is president and his actions, his administrations actions and the reactions of others (Seals for instance) to those actions are the subject of this post.

    And please, don’t pretend like I’m the only one whose ever noticed Obama’s narcissistic tendency’s, I’m not even the first to note them in the comments on this post.

    Here’s a test; you name me another president who wrote 2 autobiographies before his 50th birthday.

  6. Todd Frohwirth says:

    May I propose a “no politics” rule for the comment section? It never adds value, you’ll just get people like ctrot regurgitating stupid talking points.

  7. Mark says:

    Having a “no politics” rule in the comments section about a post that was about politics?

  8. Ctrot says:

    Exactly Mark, exactly.

    As for my “regurgitating stupid talking points” Mr Frohwirth, I would be more than happy to debate those talking points with you were you to point them out rather than to make foolish, hyperbolic, condescending personal attacks directed at me. That is if you actually have a point to make/debate. Which I most sincerely doubt.

  9. aviationintel.com says:

    As for the forum and banning political statements, I say let people say what they like as long as it is thoughtful in some way, politics or none. I like to hear readers thoughts, I really do. Sometimes I agree sometimes I seriously do not, but often it is not across the board for a single poster as I think everyone who posts here is pretty dang respectful and intelligent. Maybe some readers will say, “hey I think Ty hit the nail on the head on this one” and others will take away a totally different view. This is how we learn and become smarter thinkers on these complex topics. I personally try very hard to keep my own politics out of this website. It is not easy but I think I do a pretty good job at it. If you knew me personally I think you would not believe that I am able to do so to the degree that I do haha.

    Back to the discussion- Just saying Obama is an egomaniac therefore he would disclose such a raid just hours after it concluded regardless of the facts on the ground is nonsense. Trust me, the thought that he could fully blow intelligence that could feasible save hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of lives because he wants the credit that day is not feasible in my opinion. There is simply way more to lose politically by doing so. Its a no brainer really. It is not like Obama could not gloat about it a few weeks after the raid to an even greater degree, once the intelligence has been at least summarily examined and acted upon. Further, he could announce all the other terrorist and financiers that were killed as a result of the Bin Laden operation and the leveraging of intelligence gleaned in the compound. In fact the political capital would be more valuable the closer toward the 10 year 9/11 anniversary and the election and the White House could have better planned and leveraged such a historic event than rushing it in front of the world late in the evening on a SUNDAY for goodness sake. Further, it is not like the there is no plan for disclosing the raid before it occurs and press contingencies if things go wrong. Like the SecDef or DCI would just be okay with blowing the biggest avalanche of intel in a decade just because. Its not that simple and the POTUS is not that powerful, especially after the 9/11 Commission. Politicians know their careers are done if they blow intel that could save American’s just for vanity’s sake, and considering this was the motherload from the terror kingpin’s own computers Obama and his team would never be stupid enough to risk their own legacy and even the freedom by doing so.

    I get it, some of you really dislike the President for one reason or many, I have NOT been easy on this administration on this site as you well know, but when it comes to the timing of disclosure about the raid and the omission that a stealth insertion platform was used I think you have to look through your disdain and game this thing out to see the obvious truth: The announcement was pushed by the downed helicopter and the sensitivity of its location. I honestly think just saying that Obama had to have it that day underestimates the man’s political cunning (which you may detest) and the actual situation as it existed at the time. Did they go on and probably say to much and what not after the raid? Yeah probably, but really, what was released that was so damning to OPSEC here that a massive amount of military defense writers and commentators would not have figured out on their own?

  10. Ctrot says:

    “Just saying Obama is an egomaniac therefore he would disclose such a raid just hours after it concluded regardless of the facts on the ground is nonsense. Trust me, the thought that he could fully blow intelligence that could feasible save hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of lives because he wants the credit that day is not feasible in my opinion.”

    Announcing that UBL is dead and blowing intelligence is not the same thing, you can have the former without the latter. As has been stated, ANY President would have announced the death of America’s number 1 enemy. That could easily be done without giving away sensitive information. One could even lie about some of the specifics to plant false information.

    What not just any President would do is to allow the release of intimate details about the mission and allow film makers unprecedented access to sensitive information afterward. We know this happened and we know the intelligence community, and not just the retired Seals in the video, isn’t happy about it.

    The crash of the helo during Neptune may have forced the authorities to disclose more or different information than they otherwise would have but there is no evidence at all to support the supposition that without the crash there would have been no disclosure at all that UBL had been killed.

    • aviationintel.com says:

      So you honestly think something like this was even an option: “Hey world we killed Osama Bin Laden, we have his body to confirm it (clearly a raid), that is all.” Then the reports about a house in a suburb of Islamabad turned into a horror scene, a burnt out blackhawk in the yard and a stealth helicopter tail hanging over the wall, and nobody would have put the two together? The international incident that would follow would have been much more intense as the US would be clearly lying to Pakistan that just had their sovereignty raped without explanation (and yes we still need Pakistan to conduct many of the other counter terror operations in the area whether you like it or not, we do have allies in that government). No way, the speculation and accusations would have ran rampant. I get it you don’t dig Obama, trust me I get it, but you are wrong on this. And this piece says that they said to much after the fact and yes there have been leaks but every administration has leaks. These guys are claiming the blown intel was Obama’s fault primarily amongst other lesser claims, that is what I am attacking here.

  11. RBBailey says:

    I’m on board with Ty to a degree. Yes, the crash was a big reason it went “live” so quickly. However, we also know that this administration has been leaking for political purposes long before the OBL raid. I also have to wonder about the overall coverage of the raid from the White House — the photos, the access during the raid, etc… it is a pretty sure thing that they were planning on using it for political purposes even if they didn’t feel the need to release the info so quickly.

    The bottom line is, if it comes down to trusting what Obama says v. what the men in our Special Forces community say… …who would you believe?

    And Ty, your last statement in the article, wondering why they hadn’t figured it out — that’s the point — they have. About 3.5 years ago. They just needed a reason to come out and speak about it. This election and the way the raid went gave them that reason. The fact is, they had a lot of crap from Clinton (especially when it came to the hunt for OBL) and felt like they were being used wrongly, and maybe have just had enough.

  12. Ctrot says:

    “So you honestly think something like this was even an option: “Hey world we killed Osama Bin Laden, we have his body to confirm it (clearly a raid), that is all.””

    No, you are taking a simplistic, mocking view of my position with your strawman comments instead of reading and trying to comprehend what I have actually written. It could have been announced that UBL had been killed during a raid into Pakistan which resulted in the loss of a US helicopter, period. No need to tell what units were involved or how UAV’s were involved or the timing or the training or any of a few dozen other details that were shared needlessly.

    “Then the reports about a house in a suburb of Islamabad turned into a horror scene, a burnt out blackhawk in the yard and a stealth helicopter tail hanging over the wall, and nobody would have put the two together?”

    As I already stated and you are, again, evidently intentionally ignoring: “The crash of the helo during Neptune may have forced the authorities to disclose more or different information than they otherwise would have…”

    The helicopter crash did not in any way force the release of the amount of or type of detailed information that the Obama administration has released concerning the UBL raid or other intelligence matters. The idea that anyone involved would think “Oh well since we lost this chopper, we might as well lay all our cards out for everyone to see” is ludicrous.

    “.. every administration has leaks.”

    That is the weakest defense I’ve yet seen. I am not aware of any administration in my lifetime that has had national security leaks of the type and number that have occurred in the last 12 months from the Obama White House; numerous leaks relating to current, ongoing activities against an active enemy. And you can’t really call the UBL raid details leaks, the detail that was released there was intentional and directed from high levels. That isn’t leaking; that is coordinated, intentional intelligence sharing with the world.

    “These guys are claiming the blown intel was Obama’s fault …..”

    And they are 100% correct.

  13. aviationintel.com says:

    Ctrot, your first comment: …”I have no doubt that Obama would have immediately announced the death of UBL if there had been no crash.” Then you go onto say “Helo crash or not, Obama was going to yell to the rooftops that “I got Usama!”. It is his nature to do so, anyone who has observed him for the past 4 years should understand that.” Now its about the other issues witch I acknowledge in this piece as well as them saying to much after the fact. I wrote this about the disclosure of the raid before the intel was exploited. Now its a different story on your end. You said you have no doubt he would have announced this immedietly regardless of the helo crash. Let’s just get this one fact straight: Crash or no crash, as you stated, you know that Obama would have announced the death of UBL immediately as your opening statement so clearly highlights?

  14. Ctrot says:

    “Let’s just get this one fact straight: Crash or no crash, as you stated, you know that Obama would have announced the death of UBL immediately as your opening statement so clearly highlights?”

    Do I “know”? No, I do not “know” he would have announced UBL’s death any more than you “know” he would not have.

    Nor did I claim that I knew; what I “so clearly” stated and what you quoted above was: “I have NO DOUBT that Obama would have immediately announced the death of UBL”.

    “Having no doubt” is not the same thing as knowing. I was stating an opinion, just as you were stating your opinion that sans crash the UBL mission and UBL’s death would have remained secret.

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