Special Activities Center

Special Activities Center
Directorate of Operations Seal.jpg
Directorate of Operations Seal
Active2016 – Present (as Special Activities Center)
Unknown/1957 – 2016 (as Special Activities Division)
Country United States of America
BranchCentral Intelligence Agency
TypeParamilitary force
RoleBlack Operations
Close quarters combat
Counter Terrorism
Covert Operations
Direct Action
High-value target
Hostage rescue
Targeted killing
Special Operations
Unconventional Warfare
SizeHighly Classified
Part ofDirectorate of Operations
Garrison/HQGeorge Bush Center for Intelligence
Langley, Virginia, U.S.
Motto(s)Tertia Optio
Bay of Pigs Invasion
Vietnam War
Operation Condor
Operation Cyclone
Operation Restore Hope
Operation Eagle Claw

Deputy Director of CIA for Operations David Marlowe
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency William Joseph Burns
President of the United States Joe Biden

The Special Activities Center (SAC) is a division of the Central Intelligence Agency responsible for covert operations and paramilitary operations. The unit was named Special Activities Division (SAD) prior to 2015.[1] Within SAC there are two separate groups: SAC/SOG (Special Operations Group) for tactical paramilitary operations and SAC/PAG (Political Action Group) for covert political action.[2]

The Special Operations Group (SOG) is a department within SAC responsible for operations that include clandestine or covert operations with which the U.S. government does not want to be overtly associated.[3] As such, unit members, called Paramilitary Operations Officers and Specialized Skills Officers, do not typically wear uniforms.[4]

If they are compromised during a mission, the U.S. government may deny all knowledge.[5] SOG is considered the most secretive special operations force within the United States, with fewer than 100 operators.[6] The group often recruits personnel from special mission units within the U.S. Special Operations community.[7]

SOG Paramilitary Operations Officers account for a majority of Distinguished Intelligence Cross and Intelligence Star recipients during conflicts or incidents that elicited CIA involvement. These are the highest and second-highest valor awards within the CIA in recognition of distinguished valor and excellence in the line of duty. SAC/SOG operatives also account for the majority of the stars displayed on the Memorial Wall at CIA headquarters, indicating that the officer died while on active duty.[8] The Latin motto of SAC is Tertia Optio, which means "Third Option," as covert action represents the third option within the realm of national security when diplomacy and military action are not feasible.[9]

The Political Action Group (PAG) is responsible for covert activities related to political influence, psychological operations, economic warfare, and cyberwarfare. Tactical units within SAC can also carry out covert political action while deployed in hostile and austere environments. A large covert operation typically has components that involve many or all of these categories as well as paramilitary operations. Political and "influence" covert operations are used to support U.S. foreign policy. As overt support for one element of an insurgency can be counterproductive due to the unfavorable impression of the United States in many countries, in such cases, covert assistance allows the U.S. to assist without damaging the reputation of its beneficiaries.[10]

  1. ^ "First Complete Look at the CIA's National Clandestine Service Org Chart". October 27, 2015. Archived from the original on May 30, 2019. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  2. ^ Daugherty (2004)
  3. ^ Robberson, Tod (October 27, 2002). "CIA commandos remain covert". Dallas Morning News. Archived from the original on December 24, 2007. Retrieved December 2, 2007.
  4. ^ Woodward, Bob (November 18, 2001). "Secret CIA Units Playing Central Combat Role". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 14, 2011. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  5. ^ "Special Operations Forces (SOF) and CIA Paramilitary Operations: Issues for Congress, CRS-2" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on January 8, 2016.
  6. ^ "The most secretive unit in United States". February 15, 2020.
  7. ^ Waller, Douglas (February 3, 2003). "The CIA's Secret Army: The CIA's Secret Army". Time. Archived from the original on April 27, 2018. Retrieved January 28, 2018 – via content.Time.com.
  8. ^ Gup, Ted (2000). The Book of Honor: Covert Lives and Classified Deaths at the CIA.
  9. ^ "About". Archived from the original on January 15, 2018. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  10. ^ Shimer, David (August 18, 2020). "When the CIA Interferes in Foreign Elections". {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)

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