Reprinted from Free Association Blog
"While fighting grinding wars of attrition in Afghanistan and Iraq, Team 6 performed missions elsewhere that blurred the traditional lines between soldier and spy. The team's sniper unit was remade to carry out clandestine intelligence operations, and the SEALs joined Central Intelligence Agency operatives in an initiative called the Omega Program, which offered greater latitude in hunting adversaries.
"Team 6 has successfully carried out thousands of dangerous raids that military leaders credit with weakening militant networks, but its activities have also spurred recurring concerns about excessive killing and civilian deaths.
"Afghan villagers and a British commander accused SEALs of indiscriminately killing men in one hamlet; in 2009, team members joined C.I.A. and Afghan paramilitary forces in a raid that left a group of youths dead and inflamed tensions between Afghan and NATO officials. Even an American hostage freed in a dramatic rescue has questioned why the SEALs killed all his captors."
We are expected to trust the government that those operations kill bad guys only. But why should we, when it has done so much to earn our distrust? It has long downplayed the civilian deaths inflicted by drones, bombers, and ground operations.
The Times writes...
"When suspicions have been raised about misconduct, outside oversight has been limited. Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees SEAL Team 6 missions, conducted its own inquiries into more than a half-dozen episodes, but seldom referred them to Navy investigators. 'JSOC investigates JSOC, and that's part of the problem,' said one former senior military officer experienced in special operations, who like many others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity because Team 6's activities are classified.
"Even the military's civilian overseers do not regularly examine the unit's operations. 'This is an area where Congress notoriously doesn't want to know too much,' said Harold Koh, the State Department's former top legal adviser, who provided guidance to the Obama administration on clandestine war."
Here we have a super-secretive unit of killers that is protected from accountability by its own. William C. Banks, a Syracuse University expert on national-security law, told the Times, "If you're unacknowledged on the battlefield, you're not accountable."