Aug 302011

The News Observer recently interviewed former-CIA Director Michael Hayden about the hunt for Bin Laden. If you are interested in CIA covert action, HUMINT, NSA and Al Qaeda, it would be well worth reading. Although retired, he continues to teach, lecture, and give interviews.

I was fortunate to chat with him a couple of years ago just after he retired as Director of the CIA. He was very frank with his experiences and opinions – a total professional who spoke his mind, a man I respect.

Some judge Hayden harshly for his views, one idea in particular.  He argues that ongoing global counter-terrorism operations still need to be classified as ‘war’. Why? Simple, so we can justify the nature of operations required to combat terrorists. Operations that include the targeted killing of terrorist leaders and high risk capture missions.

I for one think the man’s on the money. The threat from extremist elements is not decreasing, and some of the methods required to counter this threat are not easily justified outside of war.

Sounds ruthless? That’s because it is. I know this might sound harsh to some, but it is the cold reality of the world we live in. The threat groups out there are fighting a war without rules. They’re willing to murder women and children, and torture innocents. To bring justice to these men we need to wage war!

You can find the transcript of the interview here.

Til next time,


Aug 262011

The first rule of intelligence is always to ask “So what?”. This great piece of information has landed on my desk… but so what? What does this information mean? What does it tell me? Why is it relevant to the current problem?

When I recently stumbled across a piece of investigative journalism by The Washington Post titled ‘Top Secret America‘ I was left thinking exactly this… So What?

To tell you the truth, at first I was intrigued, a two year long investigation by a dozen journalists into the massive expansion of US Top Secret security infrastructure since 9/11, who wouldn’t be? I mean spies n shit, always very cool. The website looks great, interactive databases and snazzy videos. But what is it really? I mean So What?

The Washington Post has compiled a mass of unclassified information about Top Secret organizations and made some pretty base-level deductions. The key theme; the number of Top Secret organizations has dramatically increased since 9/11.

No shit hey. A team of terrorists drive a couple of jets into a structure that represents everything American and kills nearly 3000 people and the US government pours a massive load of money into intelligence capabilities. Seems a fair enough response to me. But I digress.

Top Secret America argues that all this new capability lacks a single controlling master, resulting in significant overlap and wasted capability. Then it tries to draw a link from this wastage to intelligence failings, citing the failure to identify the bomb on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 bound for Detroit as evidence.

On one hand it criticizes, and then it apologizes for the inability to provide in-depth analysis due to the Top Secret nature of the organizations, adding that some officials argue that the overlap in jurisdiction and capability is a result of differing intelligence needs. If this sounds a bit confusing and lacking in substance, it is. Top Secret America isn’t much more than pretty databases full of readily available information.

I have to admit I didn’t get much out of this investigation, it lacked any sort of ‘So What’. It is plainly obvious to me that the US security infrastructure is huge. And of course there is some inevitable wastage and overlap. These are the challenges inherent to any large-scale organization. Apart from the lack of investigation and analysis, what pissed me off is that Top Secret America doesn’t acknowledge the many successes the US counter-terrorism machine has achieved.

Success in the intelligence world is not a public affair. Yes wins like the Bin Laden raid are made public, but many, many others are not. The Washington post does not have Top Secret clearance, and there are numerous incidents of which the public remain blissfully unaware.

While the intelligence effort is widespread across thousands of agencies, it can also be highly focused. The Bin Laden raid is a good example of what can be achieved when the US allows a small highly specialized team access to the resources of its 4000 odd CT intelligence entities.

This is exactly how PRIMAL operates; a small team of highly trained specialists covertly accessing intelligence feeds from the world’s top agencies. Want to know more? Then check out PRIMAL Origin for an intro to the team. For more detailed insight you’re going to have to wait for the full length novel PRIMAL Unleashed – due out in Nov 2011.

Till next I blog,


Aug 182011

New Zealand is without a doubt the Adventure Sports capital of the world. Pristine rivers with pumping rapids, imposing mountains, black diamond ski runs and ancient glaciers. It attracts adrenalin junkies from all over the world, oh and a few Lord of the Rings fanatics as well. Including, it would seem, the adventure sport loving one-ring chasing covert elements of the Mossad.

Sounds sinister? Not at first, I mean it sounds pretty cool, Mossad agents heading down to the land of the long white cloud to carve up some slopes and get a bit of experience in alpine ops.  The truth is just a little more sinister.

It would seem that Mossad agents have a bit of a history getting busted in NZ doing a little more than hitting Queenstown bars and chasing snow bunnies. A quick search on Google reveals that in 2004 two Israeli ‘Agents’ were deported for spying. What exactly they were spying on is harder to identify, let’s face it NZ hardly contains any threats to Israel. Millions of sheep and a bunch of adventure sport junkies are probably not as high on their list as Iran’s nuclear program.

Where it really gets interesting is in the latest round of reports tying Israeli tourists, killed in the February quakes in Christchurch, to the Mossad. Reporters claim that one of the men was found with five passports in his possession and that other teams were trying to gain access to the quake site to steal information from national databases.

So what would this all be in aid of? What would Mossad operatives want with a New Zealand identity?

Access! When was the last time a New Zealander was denied a visa to a Middle Eastern country? Never. Kiwis, as they are fondly called the world over, are welcome in every country. Vivacious travelers, you can find New Zealand tourists in any bar, hotel or venue the world over. Often held in contempt for being drunk and a little insane, but never under suspicion of espionage. These are the attributes that a Mossad operative could only dream of concocting. Attributes that come ready packaged in that little black Kiwi passport.

For more espionage and general skullduggery check out my latest novella PRIMAL Origin.

Till I next blog,



Aug 072011

Vice Admiral William McRaven is a bit of a legend in the Special Ops world. The current head of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has been leading, planning and directing SEAL Team Ops since Jesus was playing fullback for Nazareth.

Word on the street is he played a pretty key role in the death of Bin Laden. He may not have pulled the trigger but it was his command that planned and executed the Op. Panetta, former head of the CIA, is said to have handed Operation Neptune’s Spear over to McRaven and his team of Counter Terrorism specialists.

Most of those within the Special Operations community would recognize his name from the seminal book, Spec Ops: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare: Theory and Practice, so I thought I’d have another look over it and do up a review.

Spec Ops was published in 1995, when McRaven was commanding a SEAL Team. It’s basically a historical look at ‘Direct Action’ missions from 1940 through to 1976. Direct Action (DA) is a term used in the Special Ops world to describe a short offensive action against a target (person or building), usually behind enemy lines. DAs are known for their precision and violence.

McRaven’s book is well researched and referenced, and his subject matter expertise is evident throughout. In fact it has become a bit of a ‘bible’ for Special Operations theory. The Admiral convincingly argues his theory of ‘Relative Superiority’ and his six principles of Special Operations. Worth the read just to pull out these little gems.

So who should read it? Well, the book’s a must for any serious student of military history or  any Special Ops buff. It’s the definitive academic reference on Special Operations theory for Direct Action on heavily fortified targets. The lessons and theory drawn out of it remain relevant for current day operations, as evidenced in the success of Neptune’s Spear.

However, it does have some  limitations. This book isn’t an up-to-date classified tactics and procedures manual. Special Ops have advanced leaps and bounds since the 70’s, particularly in the fields of intelligence, air support, cyber warfare and insertion techniques. In short, Spec Ops is a well-researched history on DAs. If you’re after something more entertaining with a bit more bang, grab a PRIMAL book.

Till next I blog,