'I Am Here To Protect, Serve And Support'
September 11, 2009
- "USASMDC/ARSTRAT is at the tip of the spear in the nation's strategic mission."
- "I feel my work is protecting this command and the people in this command by providing them with good security guidance."
- "We can help them with problem solving and with deciding what should be done in the best interest of the command and the U.S."
- "I lost 40 friends and co-workers in the attack (in the 9/11 attack). Forty people are a lot to lose."
Joe DiNoto is committed to working at the tip of the spear.
This former third-generation New York City cop has lived through the destruction of Sept. 11, 2001, worked undercover to break up a trans-national group involved in providing material support to a terrorist organization and, most recently, served as the sole designated disclosure authority for classified information released to foreign forces through the Army's Special Operations Command's Security Operations Division.
Six months ago, he brought his expertise as a command foreign disclosure officer to the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, where he works as a subject matter expert in the area of international security, export control and international technology transfer.
"I like the leadership here. I like the mission. We're the Army's strategic command," DiNoto said. "USASMDC/ARSTRAT is at the tip of the spear in the nation's strategic mission. Being a part of this organization is humbling for me."
As the command's foreign disclosure officer, DiNoto's duties involve making decisions for the release of classified military information, sensitive military technology, and sensitive weapons systems to foreign forces and international organizations.
"In my heart, I feel my work is protecting this command and the people in this command by providing them with good security guidance," DiNoto said. "Part of my job is to protect the employees from being exploited or possibly from being put in a vulnerable position.
"I want to put people at ease and make them understand that they can come to the G-2 (Intelligence and Security Directorate) because we can help them with problem solving and with deciding what should be done in the best interest of the command and the United States."
DiNoto has a long history of providing protection for U.S. citizens. He attended the New York State Police Academy in 1996, graduating valedictorian of his class and going to work as a criminal investigator for New York City. In 1999, he was promoted to senior criminal investigator and became the commander of a specialized undercover squad of investigators focused primarily on trans-national organized crime groups. The group worked closely with the NYPD's Terrorism Interdiction Unit and the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.
That mission came to an abrupt end on 9/11, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, destroying the unit's offices located on the 87th floor of 2 World Trade Center.
"I lost 40 friends and co-workers in the attack," said DiNoto, who was not in the office at the time of the attack. "Forty people are a lot to lose. It's hard for me to even think about.
"After 9/11, we tried to pick up the pieces. We created Task Force Phoenix, which was symbolic for reconstituting the unit out of the ashes of the trade center."
DiNoto was promoted to supervising criminal investigator for the state of New York.
"I was the unit commander of a quasi-intelligence division, and one of our duties was the infiltration and exploitation of trans-national crime groups and terrorist groups. Our duty station was New York City. We were put on loan very frequently to support the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security and several joint terrorism task force organizations," he said.
He also oversaw Operation Phoenix, a counterterrorism undercover assignment that involved about 50 criminal investigators from Task Force Phoenix, and agents from Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the U.S. Secret Service.
"We worked undercover to investigate terrorists who were providing material support to Hezbollah (a Shiite Islamic political and paramilitary organization based in Lebanon) and for criminal activities in the United States," DiNoto said. "We linked groups to it that were operating out of New York City, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Latin America and Lebanon."
As part of the operation, DiNoto worked undercover as a terrorist dressed in Middle Eastern attire to infiltrate the group.
"At the end of the operation, I had to maintain my cover until we could debrief and arraign everyone that had been captured. So I got arrested with them by the feds," he said. "I was in shackles and I was brought into court with all the bad guys for the arraignment. As we were getting ready to plead guilty or not guilty, my handcuffs were removed, I took my police shield out and showed it to the court, and then I went to sit with my friends. Several of the bad guys pled guilty right then and there."
The operation changed DiNoto's life. It made him realize he wanted to be even more involved in stopping terrorism and protecting U.S. interests. In 2003, he applied for a position through a program managed by the Army's G-2.
"I realized there was more for me to do," he said. "I had a good career. I was a supervising criminal investigator at the age of 30. But I gave up that career for the opportunity to support U.S. Special Operations. I went to Fort Bragg (N.C.) to work at the tip of the spear in support of the Global War on Terrorism."
As chief of foreign disclosure and technology protection for the Army's Special Operations Command's Special Operations Division, DiNoto worked with the Army Special Forces, 75th Ranger Regiment, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, 4th Psychological Operations Groups and the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade.
"I did a lot of good there. I felt I made a very good contribution to that command and to the war fighter," DiNoto said. "One of my responsibilities was to train Special Forces (Green Berets) to prepare them for deployments where they were working with Afghanis, local tribal groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Iraqi Special Forces."
During his five years in the uptempo environment at Fort Bragg, DiNoto was honored with the 2007 Kenneth C. Raymer Memorial Award, which annually recognizes the knowledge, proficiency and sense of duty required of intelligence and security professionals to provide commanders with precise foreign disclosure support. He received the Army Foreign Disclosure Officer of the Year Award in March 2008.
In late 2008, DiNoto was presented with the opportunity to provide even greater support to the Global War on Terrorism as the foreign disclosure officer for SMDC/ARSTRAT.
"As time progressed, I saw a paradigm shift and strategic missions were where I could provide additional support. I felt ready to make a contribution to the strategic mission," he said. "It's a very dynamic environment because as our strategic and technical relationships evolve, the security requirements have to evolve with it.
"The goal is to protect the commander's equities and to integrate security operations into a combined mission environment. The intent is to provide security support to assist partner countries and allies in obtaining information and/or technology that will enhance the national security objectives of the U.S. government while also protecting the commanding general's equities."
DiNoto said the SMDC/ARSTRAT G-2 security team is "one of the best" under the leadership of the G-2's Col. Tom Wolff and deputy director Steve Eldredge, and command security manager Kathy Simmons. The G-2 also includes Mich Gussie, a security specialist, and John "Dutch" Davis, a counterintelligence officer.
"We want to be proactive in integrating security operations within the command's functional areas as much as possible," he said.
A tattoo on DiNoto's arm symbolizes his commitment to the nation's security operations. It is a drawing of a Templar, an ancient warrior monk, and the words "Eternal Vigilance - To Be Always Vigilant, Always Watchful."
In his work, DiNoto is much like the shield a Templar used to protect villagers from attackers.
"This command is filled with heroes," he said. "Anybody who makes it a point to support this country, whether a civilian or a green suiter, is a hero. They are the reason I'm here. Whenever I make an introduction, I say 'I'm your foreign disclosure officer' with an emphasis on 'your.' I want the employees of USASMDC/ARSTRAT to understand I am here to protect, serve and support them."