Obama Loosens Restrictions on Special Forces Operations

At a time when many Americans are as scared as we’ve ever been of the potential consequences of overreaching executive power, President Obama has decided to increase it.

President Obama’s administration is giving the elite Joint Special Operations Command — the organization that helped kill Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid by Navy SEALs — expanded power to track, plan and potentially launch attacks on terrorist cells around the globe

Specifically, SOCOM is getting the ability to act on its own behalf rather than through regional ground commanders, and to coordinate more freely with other intelligence agencies. This move essentially strips a layer of oversight from counterterrorism activities undertaken by special forces, an area where oversight was already extremely limited.

It is unclear, however, whether the Donald Trump administration will keep this and other structures set up by Obama. They include guidelines for counterterrorism operations such as approval by several agencies before a drone strike and “near certainty” that no civilians will be killed — a series of orders known as the “playbook.”

The Playbook is already a joke. The “near certainty” standard ended the lives of between 64 and 116 civilians in the first seven years of the Obama administration, if you believe the administration’s own numbers. Third party observers report hundreds of additional deaths. In that same period of time, Islamic terrorists murdered eighteen American civilians.

Now we’re seeing intelligence services and special forces turned even further loose as a Trump presidency looms. Perhaps already a greater danger to the public than terrorism, what will the power of these organizations look like in Trump’s hands? What abuses will be necessary for us to curtail their activities, where those that have already occurred have been insufficient?