Reprinted with permission from the July 2008 issue of ARMY.
The current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have greatly tested the Armyis manpower and equipment. The Army has responded to the constantly changing threat environment by researching new technologies and by better equipping soldiers with the latest gear in order to increase the survivability and lethality of deployed units.
But the emphasis in adapting to new threats posed by the enemy is not strictly limited to technological advances or equipment. The military has augmented units with additional enablers, such as specialized nonmilitary teams. One example is the much publicized and controversial human terrain team. Other enablers in Iraq, however, such as law-enforcement professionals (LEPs), have embedded with units and are currently influencing the operational picture within Army units. These contracted former law-enforcement individuals have assisted military units in numerous capacities, from instructing soldiers to hone their tactical questioning techniques to aiding platoons with sensitive sight exploitation (SSE) after raids.
Figure 6-1. Law-enforcement professionals (LEPs) embedded with 4th Brigade,
The LEP program resulted from the Armyis awareness that too much actionable and incriminating evidence was being lost because of soldiersi lack of police skills. Soldiers inadvertently committed several basic law enforcement mistakes while on patrols. These mistakes ranged from failing to gather up properly all available evidence from a scene and soldiers inadvertently placing their fingertips on captured equipment, to failing to follow a logical course of questioning when interrogating a suspect. In essence, the Army realized that in counterinsurgency, soldiers on the ground needed additional assistance with collecting, refining, data mining and extrapolating intelligence as the result of a raid or from a cache. This collected intelligence, which might have otherwise been lost because of hastiness, could then potentially lead to the capture and defeat of remaining insurgent cell leaders. The solution to the Armyis predicament of how to better equip units with the skill sets necessary to capture insurgents and criminals was to hire former law-enforcement professionals. These LEPs would assist military units in further reducing the loop between actionable intelligence and operations.
Figure 6-2. LEP Donnie Young with an Afghan narcotics police officer.
The LEP program is the brainchild of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). The LEP objective is to provide "the capability to conduct criminal-enterprise analysis in order to facilitate methods to identify, monitor, penetrate, interdict and suppress criminal networks in support of the C-IED [counter-improvised explosive device] mission."; According to the JIEDDO web site, LEPsi "insights into the techniques and patterns of gangs and organized crime have significantly improved commandersi efforts to target IED networks.";
LEPs are contracted civilians, all of whom have at least secret-level security clearances. There are currently around 95 LEPs in Iraq and 30 in Afghanistan. The LEP program is divided into those who serve at the brigade level (LEP 1) and those embedded to battalions (LEP 2). LEP 1 individuals focus on criminal analysis, including targeting and tracking insurgents. The majority of these individuals have backgrounds in federal law enforcement and include FBI agents, Drug Enforcement Agency agents, Secret Service agents and even retired border-patrol agents. LEP 2 individuals are seasoned law-enforcement policemen who have worked with various urban police departments across the United States, including New York City, Chicago, St. Louis and Los Angeles. Many LEP 2 individuals have worked as undercover operatives, have expertise in cases relating to street gangs and large-scale criminal enterprises, and have often been involved in federal task forces.
Figure 6-3. A LEP and soldiers of 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment,
Before deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan, LEPs train in Virginia for roughly two months, focusing on IED defeat in terms of targeting and researching common enemy tactics, techniques and procedures that deployed soldiers encounter. LEPs have an initial one-year contract but can opt to extend it. The LEP program initially had LEPs embedded with a unit six months prior to deployment, but this was found to be too time-consuming for LEPs who would end up being separated from their families for up to 18 months at a time.
Some soldiers are guarded when first introduced to LEPs. Soldiers occasionally incorrectly assess LEPs as possible criminal-investigative detectives who are sent in by superiors to analyze and question soldiersi actions while on patrols. This wariness quickly dissolves after LEPs join the soldiers in numerous combat patrols.
When LEPs approach a site, they are often more circumspect, patient and attuned to the details than the average soldier. For the soldier, the capture of the detainee has typically been viewed as the end of the tactical operation. After a raid, a soldieris adrenaline subsides, fatigue begins to creep in and subordinates are anxious to head back to base for a warm meal. Although tactical victory has been achieved with the capture of a detainee, victory can be fleeting if soldiers on the ground do not properly catalogue evidence and ask probing tactical questions. Only when a detainee and a site are properly exploited can the tactical victory translate to operations of strategic value. LEPs, in sharp contrast to soldiers, view the capture of the detainee as the beginning of the operation. To LEPs, this is when work must be done immediately in order to collect additional intelligence, refine detainee packets or conduct link analysis between previous sites and current operations.
Military units now use the number of captured detainees as a rubric for success. What body counts were to the Vietnam era, detainee numbers are to todayis Soldiers. What separates good military units from average ones is their ability to see that captured insurgents are tracked after the point of detention. A detainee released immediately after being captured essentially nulls the unitis actions in detaining the individual in the first place. Detainees are often released by higher headquarters several days after being captured because of weak detainee packets. Roughly more than one out of 10 detainees captured is eventually released. In certain units, one out of five Iraqis detained is eventually released for multiple reasons including poor evidence handling and lack of incriminating information.
Compounding the militaryis problem of capturing and detaining violent insurgents is the fact that many insurgents have become immunized to American military police methods and interrogation techniques. After five years of American presence, many hard-core insurgents have become schooled in the U.S. militaryis operating procedures concerning detainees. Insurgents simply clam up, or worse, they spread dissension and lies in order to further obfuscate our intelligence. Captured Iraqis have sown further confusion into U.S. military intelligence by seeding spurious reports. It is often impossible to comprehend what exactly is happening in a specific locale by simply reading intelligence summaries. Different detainees will spout different stories concerning who is working against Coalition forces. In essence, in some areas of Iraq and Afghanistan, the war has devolved into a pseudo-gangland setting where each sect or cell competes against the other by seeking to portray the other sect or group as guilty.
LEPs have assisted military units by cutting through this fog of insurgency. They heavily scrutinize detainee packets before packets are passed on to higher commands. Military units have found LEPs to be most effective as intermediaries between their intelligence section and their staff judge advocate section. LEPs are best positioned to review detainee packets because they understand exactly what information is needed in order to put away a detainee, while also providing a link to intelligence sections by highlighting certain trends that could possibly be analyzed to facilitate operations and intelligence briefs.
The success of LEPs is also unit driven. Certain units have had success with LEPs because they acknowledge inherent weaknesses within their intelligence sections and tactical human intelligence teams. On the other hand, some units still see LEPs as merely an encumbrance, with little to contribute.
The skills that LEPs possess are not beyond the means of the typical infantry soldier. Nonetheless, these are skills that must be learned through continual practice. SSE requires rigorous discipline and a calm, analytical mental state. Such attributes are difficult to achieve immediately after a direct-fire engagement or while a detaineeis wife or children are crying in the courtyard. Still, soldiers with the aid of LEPs have greatly improved their police and investigative skills. Todayis soldiers are versatile and understand the importance of biometrics, fingerprints, tactical questioning, and detailed descriptions concerning raids and captured insurgents. These skills, complemented by cultural understanding, are greatly contributing to the success of the American military at the ground level.
Embedded LEPs have also served as instructors in the units to which they are assigned. They have heightened the awareness of both leaders and soldiers of the detective-like approach the military must use when approaching sensitive areas such as an IED blast site, discovered cache or mass gravesite. Traditionally, combat infantry units have developed internal standard operating procedures that have emplaced organic enemy prisoner of war (EPW) teams within each platoon. The EPW team is modeled and best designed for conventional wars. Infantry platoons need to go further than having EPW teams - they also need to develop organic SSE teams. Units preparing to deploy to Iraq should emphasize the need to develop these teams at the platoon level in order to incorporate skills relating to law-enforcement personnel that are used on a daily basis in the Armyis present conflicts.
The current LEP program has succeeded in accomplishing its stated mission. As a result, the program managers are escalating the program so that more LEPs are introduced and embedded into military units. The success of the LEPs is evident on a daily basis. Soldiers no longer carelessly handle captured weapons; instead, they carry captured weapons only by the tip of the barrel and the buttstock. Soldiers are careful not to mix their fingerprints with those on captured insurgent equipment so that further fingerprint analysis can be done on it. Another added component LEPs have provided is the mental approach and the paradigm of having a longer time horizon. LEPs temper the soldierly instinct to desire instant results. Instead, soldiers now understand that sometimes catching criminals and insurgents requires a longer time horizon. The conflicts today in Iraq and Afghanistan require soldiers to have a Dick Tracy skill set. Infantry soldiers must not only close with and destroy the enemy - they also need to ensure that evidence collection and detainee packets are thorough and detailed.
Figure 6-4. LEP Young trains Afghan police and soldiers in marksmanship.
Last Reviewed: May 18, 2012