Pentagon is in charge of 60,000-strong secret army of undercover operatives

The Pentagon is wielding United States' power through a shadowy army of 60,000 soldiers, civilians and contractors working under assumed identities and carrying out top secret domestic and overseas missions, according to a Newsweek investigation.  

The force includes NSA agents, cyber security experts and special forces operating behind hostile enemy lines in places like North Korea and Iran, and is serviced by around 130 private companies, and supported by dozens of secretive Government agencies at an annual cost of $900million, according to the report.

The 'army' operate in an amorphous new area of combat known as 'signature reduction', that exists in the 'twilight between covert and undercover', according to one senior intelligence officer. 

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

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

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The true size of the force of undercover operatives, which is completely unregulated and has never been the subject of Congressional oversight, is unknown, it has been claimed..

However, after a two year investigation, Newsweek says it is ten times the size of the CIA's clandestine forces and has grown substantially in the past decade.

Its 60,000 members include cyber warriors who use false personas online to search for 'high-value targets'. 

The Pentagon is running a clandestine 60,000-strong army of clandestine agents who work under a loose definition known as 'signature reduction'

The Pentagon is running a clandestine 60,000-strong army of clandestine agents who work under a loose definition known as 'signature reduction'

While reported signature reduction operatives are exceedingly rare, intelligence agents point to the 2013 arrest of American 'diplomat' Ryan Fogle in Moscow

While reported signature reduction operatives are exceedingly rare, intelligence agents point to the 2013 arrest of American 'diplomat' Ryan Fogle in Moscow

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

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

But one expert in this area said Fogle may have been working in the signature reduction field, in which people change their identities and appearance to pass undetected and operate in hostile territories

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But one expert in this area said Fogle may have been working in the signature reduction field, in which people change their identities and appearance to pass undetected and operate in hostile territories

What is signature reduction? 

Signature reduction, sometimes referred to as 'measurement and signature intelligence, is an area of intelligence gathering that is not easily defined.  

A basic Google search throws up job adverts for military contractors requiring 'high level security clearance'. 

One former military intelligence officer says signature reduction exists in a 'twilight' between covert and undercover. 

Newsweek reported that covert is defined in law as subject to presidential approval and officially belongs to the CIA's National Clandestine Service. 'Undercover' is officially only allowed to be used by law enforcement efforts undertaken by people with a badge.

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

A Department of Defense  spokesperson told Newsweek 'it relates to HUMINT operations' -meaning human intelligence. They said signature reduction 'is not an official term' and that it is used to describe 'measures taken to protect operations.'

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Newsweek said there had been a handful of reported cases where agents operating in this murky world had been outed.

One such case was in 2013 when American 'diplomat' Ryan C. Fogle was arrested in Russia while allegedly trying to recruit a double agent.

Fogle was carrying two wigs, one blond and one dark, four pairs of sunglasses, a Moscow map and a compass, earning comparisons with the 1960s

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