There's a little-known, civilian-run Navy office in the Pentagon that's meant to provide "programmatic oversight" of intelligence operations—but as the Washington Post puts it, "some of its activities have fallen into a gray area, crossing into more active involvement with secret missions." According to court documents, the investigation into the somewhat dull-sounding Directorate for Plans, Policy, Oversight, and Integration arose two years ago, after prosecutors say a California auto mechanic conspired with the office to make 349 untraceable automatic-rifle silencers that could be used for "highly secretive military operations." One directorate official even reportedly told an "unnamed witness" that the silencers were bound for SEAL Team 6; a rep for the team says that isn't so.
It's a convoluted case, in part because the accused auto mechanic says the Navy destroyed a hoard of automatic rifles that the silencers were designed for. A source says the rifles were seized overseas, meaning that both they and the unmarked silencers wouldn't trace back to the US. The auto mechanic has a curious tie-in to the directorate: The head of the office is his brother, and the mechanic was reportedly paid $1.6 million for silencers that only cost $10,000 to put together. A former Navy official spoke to the Post on condition of anonymity, labeling the directorate staff as "wanna-be spook-cops" and adding, "I know it sounds goofy, but it was like they were building their own mini law enforcement and intelligence agency." Trials for both the auto mechanic and a Navy official accused of buying the silencers are set to begin later this month. (Read more Pentagon stories.)