The Pentagon is in charge of the 60,000-strong secret army of undercover agents

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The Pentagon wields United States power through a shadowy army of 60,000 soldiers, civilians, and contractors who work under supposed identities and carry out top-secret domestic and foreign missions, according to a Newsweek research.

The force includes NSA agents, cybersecurity experts and special forces operating behind hostile enemy lines in places like North Korea and Iran, and is operated by about 130 private companies and supported by dozens of secret government agencies for an annual cost of $ 900 million. according to the report.

The “military” operates in an amorphous new combat zone known as “signature reduction,” which exists in the “twilight between covert and undercover,” said a senior intelligence officer.

A Defense Department spokesperson told Newsweek that ‘signature reduction’ is not an official term ‘and is used to describe’ measures taken to protect operations’.

The Defense Intelligence Agency says signature reduction can be described as “ operational security measures (OPSEC) for a variety of activities and operations. ”

The true extent of the force of undercover agents, which is completely unregulated and has never been the subject of Congressional scrutiny, is not known, it is said.

However, after a two-year investigation, Newsweek says it is ten times the size of the CIA’s clandestine forces and has grown significantly over the past decade.

Its 60,000 members include cyber fighters who use fake personas online to search for ‘high value targets’.

The Pentagon leads a clandestine army of 60,000 clandestine agents operating under a loose definition known as 'signature reduction'

The Pentagon leads a clandestine army of 60,000 clandestine agents operating under a loose definition known as ‘signature reduction’

While reported sign-reduction agents are extremely rare, intelligence agents point to the 2013 arrest of US 'diplomat' Ryan Fogle in Moscow.

While reported sign-reduction agents are extremely rare, intelligence agents point to the 2013 arrest of US ‘diplomat’ Ryan Fogle in Moscow.

Fogle was arrested by the Russian FSB while attempting to recruit a Russian double agent, and was found wearing wigs, glasses and other disguises, leading to ridicule and comparisons to Get Smart

Fogle was arrested by the Russian FSB while attempting to recruit a Russian double agent, and was found wearing wigs, glasses and other disguises, leading to ridicule and comparisons to Get Smart

But an expert in the field said Fogle may have been working in the field of signature reduction, in which people change their identities and appearance to go unnoticed and operate in hostile areas.

But an expert in the field said Fogle may have been working in the field of signature reduction, in which people change their identities and appearance to go unnoticed and operate in hostile areas.

What is signature reduction?

Signature reduction, also referred to as “measurement and signature intelligence,” is an area of ​​intelligence gathering that is not easily defined.

A simple Google search will return job openings for military contractors who need a “ high-level security clearance. ”

A former military intelligence officer says signature reduction exists in a “twilight” between covert and undercover.

Newsweek reported that concealment is defined in law as subject to Presidential approval and officially belongs to the CIA’s National Clandestine Service. Officially, ‘Undercover’ may only be used by law enforcement efforts of those with badges.

The Defense Intelligence Agency says signature reduction can be described as “ operational security measures (OPSEC) for a variety of activities and operations. ”

A Defense Department spokesman told Newsweek “ it pertains to HUMINT operations, ” which means human intelligence. They said signature reduction is “not an official term” and is used to describe “measures taken to protect operations.”

Newsweek said a handful of cases had been reported where agents operating in this dark world had been tracked down.

One such case was in 2013 when US “diplomat” Ryan C. Fogle was arrested in Russia while allegedly attempting to recruit a double agent.

Fogle carried two wigs, one blonde and one dark, four sunglasses, a map of Moscow and a compass, earning comparisons to the spy-spoof show Get Smart from the 1960s.

However, an intelligence expert familiar with signature reduction operations says the seemingly amateur paraphernalia, such as the Nokia blue phone, would have hidden secret communications.

The same intelligence expert pointed to the case of former US military intelligence officer Kevin Patrick Mallory, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for conspiring to sell secrets to China in 2018.

Mallory was caught wearing fake wigs and mustaches and appeared to be playing the role of a cartoon spy.

However, Mallory had a special communication device disguised as a regular cell phone that was so sophisticated that the FBI didn’t find a hidden partition to store secrets until Mallory showed it to them.

Other tools of the signature reduction trade include an RFID shield, a radio frequency identification blocking pouch that prevents electronic tracking.

Then there are the transmitters and receivers hidden in fake rocks, like the one discovered by Russian intelligence in Moscow in 2006 and later confirmed to be a British spy device.

Particularly sensitive signature reduction missions involving agents infiltrating places like Pakistan and Yemen must be personally approved by the Secretary of Defense.

The Newsweek article reported on a company in rural North Carolina that ran a clandestine workshop and training facility where they taught agents how to make advanced listening equipment.

The company also teaches workers mold and molding techniques so they can change their appearance in the field.

They teach employees to change their age, change their gender or come up with disguises.

The company is also showing agents how to hide their identity by using a silicone cover that can alter their fingerprints without being detected.

After ISIS released a kill list of US military targets in 2015, the Pentagon said it suspected Russian hackers were behind attempts to expose and threaten military members.

They realized that the private data of military personnel was being compromised through exercise machines and ancestral websites.

The Newsweek report said at least 30,000 of the United States’ “ signature reduction ” forces were special forces operating in war zones around the world, from Pakistan to West Africa.

These ‘shadow fighters’ also operated in unrecognized conflicts such as North Korea and Iran.

The ability to conduct covert field operations is becoming a top priority for the United States’ elite special forces.

This month, the leadership of the US Special Operation Forces raised the alarm that their stealth missions are increasingly threatened by advances in sensors used by their opponents.

American Kevin Patrick Mallory, 62, was convicted of espionage for the Chinese in 2018.  Mallory had a special device disguised as a regular cell phone that was so sophisticated that the FBI didn't find a hidden partition to store secrets until Mallory showed it to them.

American Kevin Patrick Mallory, 62, was convicted of espionage for the Chinese in 2018. Mallory had a special device disguised as a regular cell phone that was so sophisticated that the FBI didn’t find a hidden partition to store secrets until Mallory showed it to them.

Virtual Special Operations Forces Industrial Conference, Vice Admiral Collin Green, Commander, Navy Special Warfare Command, cited the need for Navy Seals to “ reduce their signature ” while operating in the field to counter these advances.

It said opponents such as terrorists and insurgents were now “using small unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with optical and infrared sensors.” Seapower Magazine reported.

Green said the Navy was “developing and expanding our submarine capability” to maintain its maritime advantage.

Daniel Yoo, commander, Marine Corps Special Operations Command, said his force was using emerging technology on uniforms and digital material, but told the magazine that “ true full-spectrum signature reduction ” is needed “ in the information environment we’re going to use fight in. ”

The second largest component of the signature reduction forces are military intelligence services, such as counterintelligence agents, operating under presumed identities abroad.

The third largest group consists of cyber fighters who operate around the world, leaving their digital tracks while pursuing ‘high-quality’ goals for US intelligence.

Much of the digital effort has been to provide cover for agents in the field – ‘scrubbing’ the internet for traces that could reveal their true identities.

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