Discover more from The Secrets Machine from William Arkin and Marc Ambinder
JSOC’s Lethal Force Multiplier: The JIB
"Illuminate The Enemy"
FROM WILLIAM ARKIN AND MARC AMBINDER
Secrecy obscures how and why targets are chosen for lethal Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) missions.
Secrecy surrounds who selects, vets, and validates them.
Secrecy frustrates the legion of lawyers who sign off on the target packages.
Secrecy distorts how the intelligence is being used; in Syria, for example, by the JSOC expeditionary task force, Task Force 9, for targeting decisions that are later found to be in error — and for which there is no mechanism of accountability outside of internal procedures which are, according to exhaustive investigative journalism from the New York Times, full of flaws.
In a world where “everything” about JSOC is relentlessly kept secret, so much – including accomplishments and failures – remain hidden from view. What does surface is often incomplete, a product of lies of omission. A side effect is that media reporting can unwittingly distort what’s happening, much to the frustration of people who work these jobs and try to do things honorably.
We continue our effort to shed some light on how the command is organized and how its roles and missions have evolved.
JSOC’s growth spurt during the war on terror, their expansion of its task forces beyond Afghanistan and Iraq into Syria, Yemen, and then Africa; and the proliferation of more and more user-friendly collection, processing, and analysis technologies, combined to create a huge demand for a organic intelligence apparatus supporting the command’s global operations.
On 9/11, JSOC had its headquarters intelligence directorate, but the provision of intelligence support (HUMINT, ISR or SIGINT, etc.) largely depended on external agencies, special cells dedicated to the national mission, or units seconded to the command.
JSOC’s operations directorate was principally an ad hoc confederation of classified special mission units such as “Delta Force” and “SEAL Team Six” (and as we previously wrote, the Intelligence Support Activity, now the 1st CIG). Each of these units had organic intelligence personnel to receive information, and to collect some. Given the pace of JSOC activity, even in Afghanistan, the external support system worked. With Iraq, the system began to show signs of strain, and as the country descended into a full fledged insurgency, there weren’t enough assets to go around.
Gen. Mike Flynn (ret). – yes, that one - told one of us a few years ago that “the good thing was, since we were JSOC, people would give us what we asked for. The bad thing was, it pissed off everyone else.” So it was natural, bureaucratically, that with growth and more and more demand for real-time support, that JSOC developed its own JSOC Intelligence Brigade (JIB).
Close-in SIGINT, drones and aircraft; tracking, tagging and locating devices became intrinsic to almost every mission profile. Both Delta and SEAL Team Six were given first dibs on (and subsequently integrated into their chain of command), many of these technologies. Long-range UAVs and ISR aircraft were borrowed, but over time, with bigger budgets, JSOC bought and paid for its own assets.
The integration of operations and intelligence also matured at about this time, coming to a head during the Sunni counter-insurgency and the subsequent coalition troop surge, where the pace of JSOC task force activity increased even more. Hunting high value targets and then follow-on operations were dependent on the rapid exploitation of intelligence. What happened next has been well chronicled – the effort by JSOC commanders Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Adm. William McRavin to fuse intelligence and operations together.
The JSOC-level JIB was first organized in 2008. All the military will say publicly about the JIB is that it “prepares assigned, attached, and augmentation forces, and when directed, provides intelligence support to special operations conducted againts [sic] threats to protect the Homeland and U.S. interests abroad.” (See below for its two YouTube recruiting ads.)
But here’s what we know. The JIB has grown; about 800-1000 personnel are assigned. It has at least three directorates; one for intelligence and targeting, one for operations, and one for support.
The operations section has several sub-units – some of them designated as “special missions units” on their own. They include the Joint Processing Exploitation and Dissemination Squadron (JPED), the straight analytic arm; the Joint Targeting Squadron; and the Joint Exploitation Squadron (JES). Each of those squadrons has subordinate troops and cells. And there are additional units – the Analytic Innovation Troop, JSOC Strategic Intelligence Cell, Joint Operations Support Element (JOSE) – that are either directly subordinate to the Brigade or its Directorates. Within the Intelligence and Targeting directorate, Fast Track program, where JSOC intelligence analysts and augmentees learn to collect and process technical intelligence derived from foreign materiel exploitation.
The Joint Exploitation Squadron manages JIB human source operations; its roughly 85 members deploy with JSOC task forces to, among other tasks, to debrief and interrogate detainees (through an Interrogation and Exploitation Troop). In the field, the JES operates Tactical Screening Facilities (TSF), collecting biometric data from detainees and potential targets. (There is also a Joint Support Activity (JSA) that may be a HUMINT element.)
The Joint Targeting Squadron (JTS) conducts the basic work of high value targeting – identifying, tracking and conducting pattern of life analysis.Within the JTS, a Joint SIGINT Targeting and Exploitation Troop (JSTET) processes the data collected by close-in SIGINT and collection through fixed sensors, including special tracking, tagging and locating devices. A Joint Publicly Available Information (PAI) Troop, which focuses on open-source intelligence, social media and commercial digital data mining.
GEOINT – really good, up to the minute, data-enriched maps and imagery – is particularly important to JSOC operations; the Joint GEOINT Squadron processes and analyze full-motion video from UAVs, imagery and geospatial data from satellite and airborne systems, fusing it, often, with the tactical HUMINT provided by other units, and creating the graphics needed for operations.
The JIB’s support directorate also includes a classified contracting office, called the Resource Management and Project Management Office.
So where does the actual SIGINT and collection through fixed and mobile sensors take place? And where are the computer network exploitation and offensive cyber operations? The former is likely conducted by the JSOC Task Forces themselves; that is, by the operational special mission units.
Clandestine close-in SIGINT, clandestine HUMINT, sensitive target exploitation / SIGINT enabling operations and computer network exploitation in support of compartmentalized military operations are now the province of at least three separate entities with three chains of commands: the 1st CIG, the Army Technical Support Squadron, and JSOC.
You might notice we haven’t mentioned the NSA, which has its own dedicated operational unit for (basically) these same missions - its Special Deployments Division, the MUSKETEERS, or the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has a large clandestine intelligence collection footprint.
Or the CIA’s CLANSIG effort. We’ll get to them soon.
Who does what, and when, and the definition of what constitutes “significant anticipated intelligence activities” or “intelligence failures” that require Congressional notification is in flux.
Does this all sound confusing? It’s supposed to be. We’ve done our best to try to piece together the organization, and we await further insight from readers and sources, but overall, and we’ve said it before, there’s no real justification to keep the organization of the JSOC Intelligence Brigade secret.
(It has, after all, its own advertising!)