The U.S. Navy began the operation March 19 with 12 ships in the Mediterranean. As of April 1, nine remained: the submarines USS Florida and USS Scranton; destroyers USS Stout and USS Barry; amphibious warships USS Kearsarge and USS Ponce; the command ship USS Mount Whitney; and two supply ships, USNS Robert E. Peary and USNS Kanawha.
The subs and the destroyers are armed with Tomahawks. Marine Harrier attack planes launch from aboard the Kearsarge, and the Mount Whitney had served as a floating command post for the American admiral who was the on-scene commander until NATO took control March 31.
The Mount Whitney remains assigned to the mission but the new operational commander, Canadian Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, is working ashore at his NATO headquarters in Naples, Italy. The U.S. Navy is likely to peel more ships away from the mission in coming days, including some of those with Tomahawks. The U.S. military will continue providing a range of support, including aerial refueling, aerial surveillance and reconnaissance and electronic jammers.
President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. President Obama signed the order, known as a presidential "finding", within the last two or three weeks. Such findings are a principal form of presidential directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central Intelligence Agency. In order for specific operations to be carried out under the provisions of such a broad authorization -- for example the delivery of cash or weapons to anti-Gaddafi forces -- the White House also would have to give additional "permission" allowing such activities to proceed. Former officials say these follow-up authorizations are known in the intelligence world as "'Mother may I' findings." a covert action is "any U.S. government effort to change the economic, military, or political situation overseas in a hidden way."
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