Pentagon Intelligence Uses Careful Wording to Avoid Oversight

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Whenever military officials label a secret activity “Operational Preparation of the Environment (OPE),” it prevents lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee from overseeing the clandestine work. The problem is that the Department of Defense (DoD) has increasingly used the OPE label to cut lawmakers out of the loop on a growing number of military intelligence operations, prompting committee members to complain last month in a report.

In the committee’s report on the 2010 intelligence bill, lawmakers wrote, “In categorizing its clandestine activities, DoD frequently labels them as ‘Operational Preparation of the Environment’ (OPE) to distinguish particular operations as traditional military activities and not as intelligence functions. The committee observes, though, that overuse of the term has made the distinction all but meaningless.”
The House Intelligence Committee is entitled to review military operations that involve “traditional” or “human” intelligence collection (read: spying), and the CIA’s top official, General Michael Hayden, even admitted at his 2006 confirmation hearing that “an awful lot of those [OPE] activities… are not, in terms of tradecraft or other aspects, recognizably different than collecting human intelligence for a foreign intelligence purpose.”
In its report on the intelligence bill, the committee warned military officials about continuing to overuse the OPE designation to keep lawmakers from overseeing secret work. “In the future, if DoD does not meet its obligations to inform the committee of intelligence activities, the committee will consider legislative action clarifying the department’s obligation to do so.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Pentagon Intel Ops “Often” Evade Oversight (Secrecy News, Federation of American Scientists)


Leave a comment