Illegal OSAC Spy Group Operates in Afghanistan
State Department program violates U.S. law
Wednesday 1 August 2012, by
A rogue U.S. intelligence agency operates in more than 140 countries including Afghanistan. It is deceptively called “OSAC,” which stands for the “Overseas Security Advisory Council.” The Director of OSAC is Scott P. Bultrowicz, who is also the director of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. OSAC was established in 1985. It is a partnership between U.S. intelligence and security agencies, and U.S. corporations, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and faith-based organizations. Its Board of Directors (called the “Alumni Committee”) includes representatives from such diverse groups as ConocoPhilips Petroleum, USAID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Save the Children, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Its “advisors” include representatives from the FBI, U.S. Customs and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The structure of OSAC is somewhat murky. It operates as part of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, with an unknown number of operatives in Washington, D.C. Within each of the 140 countries overseas, OSAC has a “Steering Committee” based within the U.S. embassy, which is overseen by the RSO (Regional Security Officer). Executive management of OSAC within each country is managed by the OSAC “Coordinator” and OSAC has more than 4,000 organizations, companies and groups as members. The official total and the list of members appear to be classified. The budget for OSAC is buried within the multi-billion budget for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
OSAC was illegally formed and operates illegally because its very existence is contrary to American law. Officially, OSAC is simply one of numerous advisory councils established pursuant to the Federal Advisory Council Act of 1972 (FACA). In fact, with more than 4,000 members, it might be the largest council ever formed. Congress enacted FACA so that private citizens would be able to provide direct input into Federal decision-making. The goal was to establish committees on key legislative and executive issues in order to bring together private and public expertise to solve problems. Section 2 of FACA (Public Law 92-463) sets out the intent of Congress that these committees would provide “useful and beneficial” advice to Executive Branch officials. Congress, when it enacted FACA, did not authorize the creation of a 140-country government/business/NGO security network.
Section 10 of FACA mandates that all of the records of each committee shall be open to public inspection and subject to the Sunshine Act. Instead, most OSAC daily reports, country reports and records are only available to OSAC members who are approved by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Not only are the records classified, but even the membership of OSAC is apparently classified. This is yet another instance where the U.S. Government is blatantly violating the law, and it is doing so with the tacit approval of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. None of these parties seem to understand that once they affirm the propriety of breaking the law, then the door is pushed open to breaking the law in other situations. They also do not seem to understand that each of their officials took an oath to protect the Constitution and obey the law.
The U.S. Government spends billions of dollars each year on international governance,
democracy and anti-corruption efforts. Much of that is wasted because of Obama Administration hipocracy. Every year it awards billions of dollars in foreign aid contracts to politically-connected consultants and NGOs. Up to one third of U.S. Ambassador posts are for sale and can be purchased by making large campaign contributions to the President. The U.S. operates illegal and secret prisons with names like “the Kabul Pit”. It conducts illegal bombing raids daily into Pakistan. It rejects the authority of the International Criminal Court over U.S. citizens, but endorses the ICC’s authority over everyone else. It operates illegal intelligence councils. The list goes on and on. Within U.S. foreign policy, there is inconsistent adherence to the rule of law and to basic concepts of accountability.
The moral drift within the Obama Administration is reflected in the June 2012 Pew Global Attitudes Project poll. It revealed a dramatic decline in world opinion about the United States. Pew reports that the drop is due to a loss in confidence in President Obama due to missteps, unpopular policies and indefensible practices around the world. This moral drift ultimately harms the war on terror and increases international support for anti-American groups.
There certainly is a legitimate need for the U.S. Government to provide threat information to American groups and companies that may be targeted by terrorists or criminals, but it cannot use OSAC as a cover for that task, nor should there be a formal Government/NGO intelligence organization.
Another crucial problem with OSAC is that American NGOs need to function separately from the U.S. Government, otherwise they will be seen as simply an extension of that government and a legitimate target of anti-American group. OSAC is therefore counterproductive. One of the issues unanswered with OSAC is whether the briefings are a two-way street. Are American NGOs and faith-based organizations providing intelligence to the U.S. Government in each of these 140 countries, or are they simply receiving threat information from the U.S. Government? The placement of non-government security officers on OSAC’s Board and on its in-country steering committees suggests the former. This would be a dangerous development. It also raises the question, “Are NGOs an increasing target of terrorists because they are American in origin or because they are increasingly seen as being partnered with the U.S. Government?” If the latter, then OSAC is doing more harm than good.
Finally, there are many unanswered questions about OSAC. There apparently is an OSAC committee on Iran, even thought there is no U.S. diplomatic presence in the country. What is the mission of that committee? If the U.S. Department of State, through its Bureau of Diplomatic Security, wants to compete with the CIA by establishing its own intelligence service around the world, partnered with over 4,000 U.S. businesses and NGOs, it should return to Congress and seek authorization for such a massive and duplicative effort.
In conclusion, OSAC is unlawful, it is counter-productive in its current form, and the contempt that the State Department shows for the laws of Congress should disturb members of Congress who routinely rubber-stamp the State Department’s annual $50 billion budget. Finally, the last thing the people of Afghanistan need is another spy agency operating within their borders.