Their cover story for the 2008 mission was that a client in Japan had bought the vessel, and the crew had been hired to transport it there from Malaysia. They had paperwork and documentation to back up the story if questioned.From a thread about the article:
Their actual target was a small piece of land to the north of Luzon, the Philippines’ largest island. The CIA believed the Chinese military was occupying this small island in an area that has been hotly disputed.
There were to be no U.S. government fingerprints on any of their activities. Deployed from the small ship, the two divers would emplace a “pod” disguised as a rock and stuffed with classified technology just beneath the surface of the waves. It would then passively monitor electronic signals of Chinese naval ships.
The CIA’s Maritime Branch was essentially in competition with the Navy, and this mission would help prove its worth.
“Maritime Branch was trying to become relevant again in SOG and SAD,” a former CIA officer said, “because mostly it was just a place for former SEALs to hang out with between Ground Branch tours.”
Before I sign off on this, one anecdote not in the story. When the families of the deceased were brought to CIA headquarters, after meeting with reps from the 7th floor they walked passed the agency's gift shop. They asked if they could go in and get something.— Jack Murphy (@JackMurphyRGR) September 19, 2020
The Agency folks with them were hesitant. All of this was supposed to be kept super secret, but here were family members with sons and father's who are now anonymous stars on the wall. It was hard to say no. They came out with CIA sweatshirts and other paraphernalia.— Jack Murphy (@JackMurphyRGR) September 19, 2020