Episode #8 – Counterterrorism and Special Forces with Steven Emerson

    In the aftermath of the disastrous end to Operation Eagle Claw in the Iranian desert, the Pentagon addressed its organizational failures at intelligence gathering and clandestine operations by quickly creating several new special missions units almost overnight. These organizations included Seaspray, Task Force 160, the Intelligence Support Activity, and Yellow Fruit. 

    These units took on secret missions all over the world, including involvement with the recovery of kidnapped US Army General James Dozier in Italy, the bugging of Soviet vehicles in Germany, and transporting Lebanese Christian leader Bashir Gemayel back to Lebanon after secret talks with the Reagan administration. 

    But the enormous amount of secret funding, and the lack of accountability proved to be the downfall of one of these clandestine organizations known as Yellow Fruit. The eventual arrests of Yellow Fruit’s command leadership and their subsequent trial for misuse of Army funding was a public spectacle that effectively destroyed the unit at a time when it was needed the most. 

    For episode #08 of the Spycraft 101 podcast I talked to Steven Emerson, author of Secret Warriors: Inside the Covert Military Operations of the Reagan Era. Steven is a former senior editor with US News & World Report, and now runs the Investigative Project on Terrorism. Steven had incredible access to all of the major players in these organizations and his book is one of my all-time favorite historical accounts from the 1980s. He grew close to Yellow Fruit’s leaders as their trial went forward and discusses the ramifications for them, and for secret operations as a whole, as their compartmentalization and lack of accountability proved to be their downfall. 

    You can find Steven’s book here: Secret Warriors: Inside the Covert Operations of the Reagan Era by Steven Emerson.

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