20 Sep 2006

JAG Corps Moving Left

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Jim Dunnigan’s Strategy Page reports the Judge Advocate General Corps’ military lawyers have grown far more numerous and influential, and that far too many of its members are on the wrong side:

Big brawl going on in the Pentagon between the JAGs (Judge Advocate General, the lawyers) and the operators (combat and intelligence types.) JAGs have become more important, decade by decade, over the last sixty years. This has happened in parallel with the growing influence of lawyers in civilian society. However, lawyers doing what they do has brought them into conflict with the operators. For example, the war on terror has created a murky legal area for captured terrorists. Many JAGs want to give the captured terrorists most of the privileges of civilians, or even soldiers, accused of criminal acts. This creates a conflict with the combat and intel officers, who do not want to give the terrorists access to the identity of informants within terrorist organizations, or other information they have on the terrorists, and how they got it. In the civilian world, the prosecution has to let the defense know all this stuff. That’s why there’s a witness protection program, or cases where the government will not prosecute in order to preserve valuable intel. But such procedures don’t work when most of your witnesses are living in a combat zone, and many of your intelligence collection techniques will be worthless if the enemy knows what they are, putting your own troops at greater risk.

On top of all this, the size of the JAG force has grown some ten percent since the end of the Cold War, while everyone else has shrunk by about a third. As a result, the senior JAGs in each service wants to be three star generals, instead of the current two star.

Now the JAGs are aware of the circumstances under which U.S. troops are fighting, and the importance of OPSEC (Operational Security, keeping info about your activities from the enemy). Even so, many JAGs seem to lose their perspective, and advocate strongly for giving the terrorists the information. Operators believe the JAGs are grandstanding, especially by saying one thing to uniformed people, and something else to the media and Congress. The situation has divided the JAG community as well, and it’s getting ugly.


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