For the past two weeks we have been searching for "Who Killed Benazir Bhutto" but haven't found anyone - yet, if we ever will. All we have are theories of endless wiseacres. Along the way we have run into many interesting things, like JSOC or Joint Services Operations Command that, according to Seymour Hersh, has an "assassinations wing" last headed by General Stanley McChrystal, now head of the US forces in Afghanistan. So let us take a look at what JSOC is. Does it really have a wing or unit that assassinates "high value targets" as the Americans call their victims? Our experience of US efficiency in getting "high value targets" is painful. According to America's own admission, its drone attacks on Pakistan have killed only about eight "high value targets" and around 800 innocent civilians. That's a high price to pay for so little, but we forget that what are "innocent civilians" to Pakistanis are "valueless targets" to America - that's the definition of "collateral damage". Far from being hidden in the shadows, JSOC actually has a Wikipedia website. It is part of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and was formed on December 15, 1980 as a reaction to the failure of operation Eagle Claw to free 53 US hostages held in the American embassy in Tehran. American acronyms under acronyms under more acronyms are quite mind-boggling: USSOCOM "is charged to study special operations requirements and techniques to ensure interoperability and equipment standardization, plan and conduct special operations exercises and training, and develop Joint Special Operations Tactics." 'Interoperability'? What the hell is that? One dictionary says that it is the "Ability to work with each other. In the loosely coupled environment of a service-oriented architecture, separate resources don't need to know the details of how they each work, but they need to have enough common ground to reliably exchange messages without error or misunderstanding. Standardized specifications go a long way towards creating this common ground, but differences in implementation may still lead to breakdowns in communication. Interoperability is when services can interact with each other without encountering such problems." Meaning, they work on a need-to-know basis but must understand each other and work in tandem - which the forces in Eagle Claw obviously didn't. JSOC has had 10 commanders so far, the latest being VADM William H. McRaven who replaced Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal in June 2008 when he became commander of US forces in Afghanistan after serving in the post for nearly five years, from September 2003. Here're more acronyms to boggle your mind. There's United States Special Operations Command or SOCOM. Under it are the US army's ARSOC; the US navy's NAVSOC comprising navy SEALs, Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SEAL stands for Sea, Air and Land commandos as everyone who has seen Steven Segal's 'Under Siege' movies knows, Hollywood being the only place where the US military seems to win); MARSOC of the United States Marine Corps; AFSOC of the United States Air Force; and, the Special Missions Units of our friend the JSOC. Wait a minute. What's Special Missions Units? Ah Ha Now we're getting closer to our "assassinations wing". Here's what the website says. The JSOC "also commands and controls the Special Mission Units of USSOCOM." There could be any number of units because, "So far, only three SMUs have been publicly disclosed", which means that obviously there are many more, and some could be doing very nefarious things. The three SMUs are: 1) "the Army's 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment - Delta (Delta Force); 2) "the Navy's SEAL Team 6 or Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU); 3) the Air Force's 24th Special Tactics Squadron" (why doesn't this have an acronym?). Then there's "Intelligence Support Activity (ISA) which often operates under various cover names such as Royal Cape, Granite Rock and Powder Keg were some, Centra Spike and torn Victor. However its most recent cover name was Gray Fox. The army once maintained the Activity, but after September 11 the Pentagon shifted direct control to JSOC at Fort Bragg. If needed, Army Rangers and Night Stalkers can be transferred under the JSOC command. JSOC's primary mission is believed to be identifying and destroying terrorist and terror cells worldwide. USSOCOM/JSOC cannot conduct covert action operations, as the CIA is the only organization that has the authority to conduct these actions. However, USSOCOM has an excellent relationship with the CIA's elite Special Activities Division [and] the two forces often operate together with exceptional results. The CIA's Special Activities Division's Special Operations Group exclusively selects their recruits to become Paramilitary Operations Officers from the ranks of USSOCOM and primarily JSOC tier one units." So what USSOCOM and JSOC cannot 'legally' do under its name it does in CIA garb. As to JSOC operations in Pakistan, "According to The Washington Post, JSOC's commander Lieutenant General Stanley A. McChrystal operates on the understanding with Pakistan that US units will not enter Pakistan except under extreme circumstances, and that Pakistan will deny giving them permission. That scenario happened according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), in January 2006, [when] JSOC troops clandestinely entered the village of Saidgai, Pakistan, to hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Pakistan refused entry." So much for the website. A story by Michael Hirsh and John Barry in Newsweek's June 26, 2006 issue carried this headline: "The Hidden General Exposed." The sub-heading was: "Stan McChrystal runs 'black ops.' Don't pass it on." The article says: "No one would have mentioned his name at all if President George W. Bush hadn't singled him out in public. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, West Point '76, is not someone the Army likes to talk about. He isn't even listed in the directory at Fort Bragg...his home base. That's not because McChrystal has done anything wrong - quite the contrary, he's one of the Army's rising stars - but because he runs the most secretive force in the U.S. military. That is the Joint Special Operations Command, the snake-eating, slit-their-throats 'black ops' guys who captured Saddam Hussein and targeted Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. "JSOC is part of what Vice President Dick Cheney was referring to when he said America would have to 'work the dark side' after 9/11. To many critics, the veep's remark back in 2001 fostered his rep as the Darth Vader of the war on terror and presaged bad things to come, like the interrogation abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantnamo Bay. But America also has its share of Jedi Knights who are fighting in what Cheney calls 'the shadows'. And McChrystal, an affable but tough Army Ranger, and the Delta Force and other elite teams he commands are among them. "After the Zarqawi strike, multinational forces spokesman Gen. Bill Caldwell refused to comment on JSOC's role, saying, 'We don't talk about when special operating forces are involved.' But when Bush revealed to reporters that it was McChrystal's Special Ops teams that had found Zarqawi, Caldwell had to gulp and say (to laughter), 'If the president of the United States said it was, then I'm sure it was.' "...the secrecy surrounding McChrystal's role worries some who note that Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have given clandestine operations the lead in the war on terror - with little public accountability, including in the interrogation room. "Rumsfeld is especially enamored of McChrystal's 'direct action' forces or so-called SMUs - Special Mission Units - whose job is to kill or capture bad guys, say Pentagon sources who would speak about Special Ops only if they were not identified...Experts like former Deputy Defense secretary John Hamre are also concerned that Special Ops now has generic authority to deploy where it wants without case-by-case orders..." "Work the dark side" eh? It gets murkier and murkier, doesn't it? Gareth Porter writing for Inter Press Service on May 12, 2009 says, "[McChrystal's] long specialization in counter-terrorism operations suggests an officer who is likely to have more interest in targeted killings than in the kind of politically sensitive counterinsurgency programmes that the Obama administrations has said it intends to carry out." Seymour Hersh just won't leave us alone. Writing way back on December 15, 2003 he tells us that, "A new Special Forges group, designated Task Force 121, has been assembled from Army Delta Force members, Navy SEALs, and CIA paramilitary operatives, with many additional personnel ordered to report by January. Its highest priority is the neutralization of the Baathist insurgents, by capture or assassination." That was then. This is now. See how far investigating Benazir's murder has brought us? So what the hell is Task Force 121 and does its 'jurisdiction' now extend beyond Iraq? Next week we will talk of our budget. Then we will continue with our search - wild goose chase if you like E-mail: humayun.gauhar@gmail.com