WASHINGTON -- "It's all unfolding just like you said it would." This flattering accolade was proffered by a retired military officer this week as we discussed how units loyal to Moammar Gadhafi were pummeling rebel forces in eastern Libya. My friend is a "contractor" with a company uncharitably referred to around here as a "Beltway bandit." He and his colleagues more accurately are portrayed as "auxiliaries," and they describe themselves as being "quietly engaged" in "peripheral activities supporting our national interests." Nearly all of the younger ones involved in these endeavors are military veterans of the decade-long fights in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It was an auxiliary -- not a U.S. military or government source -- who encouraged me to report that allied air-ground control teams and commandos were already on the ground in Libya providing target data when the first French and British airstrikes took place near Benghazi on March 19. Afterward, I was disparaged for disclosing classified information. The critique is misplaced.
My reports described why these ground control teams were essential to allied aircraft attacks on Gadhafi's armored mechanized units that were about to overrun rebel forces. I noted that these close air support missions preceded U.S. and British missile strikes and airstrikes against Gadhafi's air defense sites and that they had nothing to do with establishing a no-fly zone as we were being told by the Obama administration. The information I relayed was not classified -- but it could not be independently confirmed. Now it is.
On Wednesday this week, Reuters was the first to report that President Barack Obama "signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi." The story, filed from Washington, was sourced to unnamed government officials. Since then, the story has been amplified and embellished by every mainstream media outlet in the U.S. and overseas.
A "secret order" -- properly referred to as a presidential finding -- is required when the commander in chief deems that vital U.S. national interests require the involvement of U.S. intelligence agencies in "covert activities." According to press reports, the finding authorizes a "full range of activities," from "collecting intelligence" on Gadhafi's forces to "gathering information on, training, paying and arming regime opponents."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.