The mercenary squads who carry out targeted assassinations in Yemen on behalf of the autocratic rulers of the UAE are composed of US veterans from elite units like the Green Berets, Navy SEALs, CIA "ground branch" and the special forces of the Maryland Army National Guard, working for the US-based mercenary company Spear Operations Group. Some of the mercenaries are reportedly still US military reservists, others have US top secret clearance.
The owner of Spear cheerfully admits that he pays his employees to assassinate people on behalf of the UAE government and says that the USA should have its own mercenary assassination squads.
The CIA said it had no information about the mercenary assassination program, and the Navy's Special Warfare Command declined to comment. A former CIA official who has worked in the UAE initially told BuzzFeed News there was no way that Americans would be allowed to participate in such a program. But after checking, he called back: "There were guys that were basically doing what you said." He was astonished, he said, by what he learned: "What vetting procedures are there to make sure the guy you just smoked is really a bad guy?" The mercenaries, he said, were "almost like a murder squad."
Whether Spear's mercenary operation violates US law is surprisingly unclear. On the one hand, US law makes it illegal to "conspire to kill, kidnap, maim" someone in another country. Companies that provide military services to foreign nations are supposed to be regulated by the State Department, which says it has never granted any company the authority to supply combat troops or mercenaries to another country.
Yet, as BuzzFeed News has previously reported, the US doesn't ban mercenaries. And with some exceptions, it is perfectly legal to serve in foreign militaries, whether one is motivated by idealism or money. With no legal consequences, Americans have served in the Israel Defense Forces, the French Foreign Legion, and even a militia fighting ISIS in Syria. Spear Operations Group, according to three sources, arranged for the UAE to give military rank to the Americans involved in the mission, which might provide them legal cover.
(Image: Abraham Golan)