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 be overtly associated. As such, unit members, called Paramilitary Operations Officers and Specialized Skills Officers, do not typically wear uniform.
If they are compromised during a mission, the U.S. government may deny all knowledge. SOG is considered the most secretive special operations force with fewer than one hundred operatives. The group often selects former personnel from the U.S. special operations forces such as the Delta Force, Green Berets, Rangers, Force Reconnaissance, Raiders, SEALs, STOs, CCTs, PJs, and other military branches.
SOG Paramilitary Operations Officers account for a majority of Distinguished Intelligence Cross and Intelligence Star recipients during conflicts or incidents which 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. The motto of SAC is Tertia Optio, which means “Third Option”, as covert action represents a third option within the realm of national security when diplomacy and military action are not feasible.
The Political Action Group (PAG) is responsible for covert activities related to political influence, psychological operations, economic warfare, and cyberwarfare. Tactical units within SAC are also capable of carrying 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 unfavourable impression of the United States in many countries, in such cases covert assistance allows the US to assist without damaging the reputation of its beneficiaries.
As the action arm of the CIA‘s Directorate of Operations, SAC/SOG conducts direct action missions such as raids, ambushes, sabotage, targeted killings and unconventional warfare (e.g., training and leading guerrilla and military units of other countries in combat). SAC/SOG also conducts special reconnaissance that can be either military or intelligence driven and is carried out by Paramilitary Officers (also called Paramilitary Operatives or Paramilitary Operations Officers) when in “non-permissive environments”. Paramilitary Operations Officers are also fully trained case officers (i.e., “spy handlers”) and as such conduct clandestine human intelligence (HUMINT) operations throughout the world.
Propaganda includes leaflets, newspapers, magazines, books, radio, and television, all of which are geared to convey the U.S. message appropriate to the region. These techniques have expanded to cover the internet as well. They may employ officers to work as journalists, recruit agents of influence, operate media platforms, plant certain stories or information in places it is hoped it will come to public attention, or seek to deny and/or discredit information that is public knowledge. In all such propaganda efforts, “black” operations denote those in which the audience is to be kept ignorant of the source; “white” efforts are those in which the originator openly acknowledges themselves, and “gray” operations are those in which the source is partly but not fully acknowledged.