- The Pentagon has turned a secret terrorist-hunting unit into a nearly self-contained command of more than 1,000 men and women who collect intelligence and track and capture America’s most–wanted enemies.
The most significant boost for U.S. Joint Special Operations Command came last year in an unpublicized move. The Pentagon took a super-secret spy unit at Fort Belvoir, Va., from the Army and put it under the JSOC’s control.
The unit, code–named Task Force Orange, specializes in infiltrating foreign countries, tailing people and intercepting communications. Operatives have dug up fiber-optic telephone lines overseas and attached a listening device for the National Security Agency.
The task force features veteran warriors, intelligence officers and technical wizards who use electronic devices in innovative ways. It maintains its own fleet of airplanes at a Washington-area airport.
Information for this article came from two sources involved in the special operations community. They requested anonymity because of fear of reprisal for talking to a reporter.
The JSOC has not found its two most-wanted targets, Osama bin Laden and his second-in-command, Ayman Zawahiri. Intelligence officials this week told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the two are in Pakistan’s ungoverned badlands. Pakistan is officially off-limits to U.S. combat troops.
The JSOC’s successes are normally not publicized. But when it tracked a cleric to the doorstep of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the notorious leader of al–Qaida in Iraq, and the Air Force killed him in an air strike last June, President Bush publicly praised the commando group.