CIA: SAD and SOG operations from 1975-2002
- CIA: SAD and SOG operations from WWII through Viet Nam
- CIA: SAD and SOG operations from 1973-2002
- CIA: SAD and SOG operations in Afghanistan since 2001
- CIA: SAD and SOG operations in Iraq since 2003
- CIA: SAD and SOG operations in Pakistan
- CIA: SAD and SOG operations worldwide since 2001
The Special Activities Division (SAD) is a division of the United States Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) National Clandestine Service (NCS) responsible for covert operations, black operations and other "special activities". These include covert political action and paramilitary special operations. Within SAD there are two separate groups, one for paramilitary operations and another for political action. The Political Action Group within SAD is responsible for covert activities related to political influence, psychological and economic warfare. The rapid development of technology has added cyberwarfare to their mission. A large covert operation usually has components that involve many, or all, of these categories, as well as paramilitary operations.
 Argentina 1976
- See also: Dirty War#US involvement
The democratically-elected government of Argentina headed by Isabel Martínez de Perón was successfully overthrown by a military putsch in March 1976. Eight days before the coup, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera, Chief of the Argentine Navy and a major coup plotter, turned to Ambassador Robert Hill, U.S. ambassador to Argentina, for help in getting a recommendation for a U.S. public relations firm that would manage the Argentine coup leaders' propaganda operation for the coup and the crackdown against democracy and human rights activists that was to follow. Ambassador Hill stated that the United Stated government cannot interfere in such affairs and provided Admiral Massera with a list of reputable public relations firms maintained by the Embassy. More than two months before the coup, senior coup plotters consulted with American officials in Argentina about the coup, and Ambassador Hill reported to Washington that he was encouraged that the military coup plotters were "aware of the problem" that their killings might cause and "are already focusing on ways to avoid letting human rights issues become an irritant in US-Argentine relations" by being pro-active with the preparation of the public relations operation.U.S. planners were aware that the coup could not likely succeed without murderous repression. Two days after the coup, Assistant Secretary for Latin America, William Rogers advised Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that "we ought not at this moment rush out and embrace this new regime" because he expects significant repression to follow the coup.
"I think also we've got to expect a fair amount of repression, probably a good deal of blood, in Argentina before too long. I think they're going to have to come down very hard not only on the terrorists but on the dissidents of trade unions and their parties."
But Kissinger made his preferences clear: "Whatever chance they have, they will need a little encouragement… because I do want to encourage them. I don't want to give the sense that they're harassed by the United States."  For years the government-backed death squads supported by groups the such as the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance (AAA), and the Argentina intelligence unit Battalion 601 initiated a murderous campaign to oppress those who they perceived as hostile leftist "subversives" as part of Operation Condor.
 Iran 1980
Investigative journalist Robert Parry reports that in a secret 1981 memo summing up a trip to the Middle East, then-Secretary of State Alexander Haig wrote: "It was also interesting to confirm that President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through Prince Fahd" of Jordan."  Z Magazine reports that in June 1980, students in Iran revealed a 1980 memorandum from U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance recommending the "destabilization" of the Iranian government by using Iran's neighbors. The U.S. has denied that it gave Iraq a "green light" for its September 22 1980 invasion of Iran. Five months before Iraq's invasion, on April 14 1980, Zbigniew Brzezinski, signaled the U.S.'s willingness to work with Iraq: "We see no fundamental incompatibility of interests between the United States and Iraq... we do not feel that American- Iraqi relations need to be frozen in antagonisms." According to Iran's president at the time, Abolhassan Banisadr, Brzezinski met directly with Saddam Hussein in Jordan two months before the Iraqi assault. Bani-Sadr wrote, "Brzezinski had assured Saddam Hussein that the United States would not oppose the separation of Khuzestan [in southwest Iran] from Iran."  The Financial Times reported that the U.S. passed satellite intelligence to the regime of Saddam Hussein via third countries, leading Iraq to believe Iranian forces would quickly collapse if attacked. Z magazine therefore argues that it is likely therefore that the U.S. helped push Saddam Hussein to attack Iran, causing a long and bloody war.
The meeting between Brzezinski and Saddam Hussein is also supported by other independent sources. Author Kenneth R. Timmerman and former Iranian President Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr separately stated that Brzezinski met with Hussein in July 1980 in Amman, Jordan, to discuss joint efforts to oppose Iran. According to Hussein biographer Said Aburish however, at the Amman meeting Saddam Hussein met with three CIA agents, not Brzezinski personally. Former Carter official Gary Sick denies that Washington directly encouraged Iraq's attack, but instead let "Saddam assume there was a U.S. green light because there was no explicit red light."
A review of thousands of declassified government documents and interviews with former U.S. policymakers shows that U.S. intelligence and logistical support played a crucial role in arming Iraq, although the total. The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush authorized the sale to Iraq of numerous dual use items that had both military and civilian applications, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, such as anthrax and bubonic plague. Opinions differ among Middle East experts and former government officials about the pre-Iraqi tilt, and whether Washington could have done more to stop the flow to Baghdad of technology for building weapons of mass destruction. "Fundamentally, the policy was justified," argues David Newton, a former U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, who runs an anti-Hussein radio station in Prague. "We were concerned that Iraq should not lose the war with Iran, because that would have threatened Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf. Our long-term hope was that Hussein's government would become less repressive and more responsible." Although U.S. arms manufacturers were not as deeply involved as German or British companies in selling weaponry to Iraq, the Reagan administration effectively turned a blind eye to the export of "dual use" items such as chemical precursors and steel tubes that can have military and civilian applications. According to several former officials, the State and Commerce departments promoted trade in such items as a way to boost U.S. exports and acquire political leverage over Hussein. "Everybody was wrong in their assessment of Saddam," said Joe Wilson, Glaspie's former deputy at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and the last U.S. official to meet with Hussein. "Everybody in the Arab world told us that the best way to deal with Saddam was to develop a set of economic and commercial relationships that would have the effect of moderating his behavior. History will demonstrate that this was a miscalculation."
According to reports of the U.S. Senate's Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, the U.S., under the successive presidential administrations sold materials including anthrax, VX nerve gas, West Nile fever and botulism to Iraq right up until March 1992. The chairman of the Senate committee, Don Riegle, said: "The executive branch of our government approved 771 different export licences for sale of dual-use technology to Iraq. I think its a devastating record."
The U.S. also claimed to have provided critical battle planning assistance at a time when U.S. intelligence agencies knew that Iraqi commanders would employ chemical weapons in waging the war, according to senior military officers with direct knowledge of the program. The U.S. claimed to have carried out the covert program at a time when Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Secretary of Defense Frank C. Carlucci and National Security Adviser General Colin L. Powell were publicly condemning Iraq for its use of poison gas, especially after Iraq attacked Kurdish villagers in Halabja in March 1988. U.S. officials publicly condemned Iraq's employment of mustard gas, sarin, VX and other poisonous agents, but sixty Defense Intelligence Agency officers were secretly providing detailed information on Iranian deployments, tactical planning for battles, plans for airstrikes and bomb-damage assessments for Iraq. It has long been known that the U.S. provided intelligence assistance, such as satellite photography, to Saddam's regime. Carlucci said: "My understanding is that what was provided" to Iraq "was general order of battle information, not operational intelligence." "I certainly have no knowledge of U.S. participation in preparing battle and strike packages," he said, "and doubt strongly that that occurred." "I did agree that Iraq should not lose the war, but I certainly had no foreknowledge of their use of chemical weapons." Secretary of State Powell, through a spokesman, said the officers' description of the program was "dead wrong," but declined to discuss it. His deputy, Richard L. Armitage, a senior defense official at the time, used an expletive relayed through a spokesman to indicate his denial that the United States acquiesced in the use of chemical weapons.
Others have instead claimed U.S. intelligence agencies manipulated both sides in the Iran-Iraq war, providing each country with "deliberately distorted or inaccurate intelligence data". One method mentioned was altering satellite photos. In "Veil," his study of CIA covert operations in the 1980s, Bob Woodward found that some CIA officials were "doling out tactical data to both sides" to engineer a stalemate.
 Turkey 1980
The right-wing coup of 1980 was supported by the United States.
 Nicaragua 1981-1990
1981-90: CIA directs Contra revolution, plants harbor mines and sinks civilian ships to overthrow the revolutionary Sandinista government of Nicaragua. After the Boland Amendment was enacted, it became illegal under U.S. law to fund the Contras; National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, Deputy National Security Adviser Admiral John Poindexter, National Security Council staffer Col. Oliver North and others continued an illegal operation to fund the Contras, leading to the Iran-Contra scandal. The U.S argued that:
The United States initially provided substantial economic assistance to the Sandinista-dominated regime. We were largely instrumental in the OAS action delegitimizing the Somoza regime and laying the groundwork for installation for the new junta. Later, when the Sandinista role in the Salvadoran conflict became clear, we sought through a combination of private diplomatic contacts and suspension of assistance to convince Nicaragua to halt its subversion. Later still, economic measures and further diplomatic efforts were employed to try to effect changes in Sandinista behavior.
Nicaragua's neighbors have asked for assistance against Nicaraguan aggression, and the United States has responded. Those countries have repeatedly and publicly made clear that they consider themselves to be the victims of aggression from Nicaragua, and that they desire United States assistance in meeting both subversive attacks and the conventional threat posed by the relatively immense Nicaraguan Armed Forces.
 Yemen 2002
On November 5, 2002, a missile launched from a CIA-controlled Predator drone killed al-Qaeda members traveling in a remote area in Yemen. SAD/SOG paramilitary teams had been on the ground tracking their movements for months and called in this air strike. One of those in the car was Al-Haitham al-Yemeni, al-Qaeda's chief operative in Yemen and a suspect in the October 2000 bombing of the destroyer Template:USS. Five other people, believed to be low-level al-Qaeda members, were also killed to include an American named Kamal Derwish. Former Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz called it "a very successful tactical operation" and said "such strikes are useful not only in killing terrorists but in forcing al-Qa'ida to change its tactics".
Haitham, a native of Yemen known for his bomb-making skills, had been tracked in the hope that he would help lead the United States to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. However, with the May 2005 capture in northwest Pakistan of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, thought to be al-Qaeda's No. 3 man, CIA officials worried Haitham would soon go into hiding, and decided to kill him. "It's an important step that has been taken in that it has eliminated another level of experienced leadership from al-Qa'ida," said Vince Cannistraro, former head of counter-terrorism for the CIA and current ABC News consultant. "It will help weaken the organization and make it much less effective." Haitham was on the run, pursued by several security forces who were looking for him and Muhammad Hamdi al-Ahdal, another suspect in the USS Cole bombing case.
In 2009, the Obama administration authorized continued lethal operations in Yemen by the CIA. As a result, the SAD/SOG and JSOC have joined together to aggressively target al-Qaeda operatives in that country, both through leading Yemenese special forces and intelligence driven drone strikes. A major target of these operations is Imam Anwar al-Aulaqi, an American citizen with ties to both Nidal Hassan, the alleged Fort Hood attacker, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas 2009 attempted bomber of Northwest Airline flight 253.
 Nicaragua 1979
In 1979, the U.S.-backed Anastasio Somoza Debayle dictatorship in Nicaragua fell to the socialist Sandinistas. Once in power, the Sandinistas disbanded the Nicaraguan National Guard, who had committed many human rights abuses, and arrested and executed some of its members. Other former National Guard members helped to form the backbone of the Nicaraguan Counterrevolution or Contra. SAD/SOG paramilitary teams were deployed to train and lead these forces against the Sandinista government. These paramilitary activities were based in Honduras and Costa Rica. Direct military aid by the United States was eventually forbidden by the Boland Amendment of the Defense Appropriations Act of 1983. The Boland Amendment was extended in October 1984 to forbid action by not only the Defense Department, but also to include the Central Intelligence Agency.
The Boland Amendment was a compromise because the U.S. Democratic Party did not have enough votes for a comprehensive ban on military aid. It covered only appropriated funds spent by intelligence agencies. Some of Reagan's national security officials used non-appropriated money of the National Security Council (NSC) to circumvent the Amendment. NSC officials sought to arrange funding by third-parties. These efforts resulted in the Iran-Contra Affair of 1987, which concerned Contra funding through the proceeds of arms sales to the Islamic Republic of Iran. No court ever made a determination whether Boland covered the NSC and on the grounds that it was a prohibition rather than a criminal statute, no one was indicted for violating it. Congress later resumed aid to the Contras, totaling over $300 million. The Contra war ended when the Sandinistas were voted out of power by a war-weary populace in 1990. Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega was re-elected as President of Nicaragua in 2006 and took office again on January 10, 2007.
 El Salvador
CIA personnel were also involved in the Salvadoran civil war. Unable to stop the leftist insurgency, CIA paramilitary teams and U.S. Army Special Forces set up and trained counterinsurgency units (some commentators contend these were patterned after the "Phoenix Program" in Vietnam; see Death Squad) to combat FMLN members and sympathizers. Some allege that the techniques used to interrogate prisoners in El Salvador foreshadowed those later used in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, when a similar counter-insurgency program was proposed in Iraq, it was referred to as "the Salvador Option".
 Somalia 1992
SAD sent in teams of Paramilitary Operations Officers into Somalia prior to the U.S. intervention in 1993. On December 23, 1992, Paramilitary Officer Larry Freedman became the first casualty of the conflict in Somalia. Freedman was a former Army Delta Force operator and Special Forces soldier who had served in every conflict that the U.S. was involved in, both officially and unofficially, since Vietnam. Freedman was killed while conducting special reconnaissance in advance of the entry of U.S. military forces. His mission was completely voluntary, as it required entry into a very hostile area without any support. Freedman was awarded the Intelligence Star on January 5, 1993 for his "extraordinary heroism".
SAD/SOG teams were key in working with JSOC and tracking high value targets (HVT), known as "Tier One Personalities". Their efforts, working under extremely dangerous conditions with little to no support, led to several very successful joint JSOC/CIA operations. In one specific operation, a Paramilitary Operations Officer codenamed "Condor", working with a CIA Technical Operations Officer from the Directorate of Science and Technology, managed to get a cane with a beacon in it to Osman Ato, a wealthy businessman, arms importer, and Mohammed Aideed, a money man whose name was right below Mohamed Farrah Aidid’s on the Tier One list. Once Condor confirmed that Ato was in a vehicle, JSOC's Delta Force launched a capture operation.
- "a Little Bird helicopter dropped out of the sky and a sniper leaned out and fired three shots into the car’s engine block. The car ground to a halt as commandos roped down from hovering Blackhawks [sic], surrounded the car and handcuffed Ato. It was the first known helicopter takedown of suspects in a moving car. The next time Jones saw the magic cane, an hour later, Garrison had it in his hand. “I like this cane,” Jones remembers the general exclaiming, a big grin on his face. “Let’s use this again.” Finally, a tier one personality was in custody." President Bill Clinton withdrew U.S. forces on May 4, 1993.
In June 2006, the Islamic Courts Union seized control of southern Somalia, including the country's capital Mogadishu, prompting the Ethiopian government to send in troops to try to protect the transitional government. In December, the Islamic Courts warned Ethiopia they would declare war if Ethiopia did not remove all its troops from Somalia. Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, leader of the Islamic Courts, called for a jihad, or holy war, against Ethiopia and encouraged foreign Muslim fighters to come to Somalia. At that time, the United States accused the group of being controlled by al-Qaeda, but the Islamic Courts denied that charge.
In 2009, U.S. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) reported that al-Qaeda had been training terrorists in Somalia for years. Until December 2006, Somalia's government had no power outside of the town of Baidoa, 150 miles from the capital. The countryside and the capital were run by warlords and militia groups who could be paid to protect terrorist groups.
CIA officers kept close tabs on the country and paid a group of Somali warlords to help hunt down members of al-Qaeda according to the New York Times. Meanwhile, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, issued a message calling for all Muslims to go to Somalia. On January 9, 2007, a U.S. official said that ten militants were killed in one airstrike.
On September 14, 2009, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a senior al-Qaeda leader in East Africa as well as a senior leader in Shabaab, al Qaeda's surrogate in Somalia, was killed by elements of U.S. Special Operations. According to a witness, at least two AH-6 Little Bird attack helicopters strafed a two-car convoy. Navy SEALs then seized the body of Nabhan and took two other wounded fighters captive. JSOC and the CIA had been trying to kill Nabhan for some time including back in January 2007, when an AC-130 Gunship was called in on one attempt. A U.S. intelligence source stated that CIA paramilitary teams are directly embedded with Ethiopian forces in Somalia, allowing for the tactical intelligence to launch these operations. Nabhan was wanted for his involvement in the 1998 United States embassy bombings, as well as leading the cell behind the 2002 Mombasa attacks.
 See Also and References