Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Origins of the CIA’s Assassination Program: Who Proposed It, What Its Code Name Was

The programme was first mentioned in Dana Priest’s groundbreaking article that highlighted the existence of the CIA’s network of black sites,CIA Holds Terror Subjects in Secret Prisons ,which was published in November 2005. Priest wrote of the programme:


The CTC’s chief of operations argued for creating hit teams of case officers and CIA paramilitaries that would covertly infiltrate countries in the Middle East, Africa and even Europe to assassinate people on the list, one by one.

But many CIA officers believed that the al-Qaeda leaders would be worth keeping alive to interrogate about their network and other plots. Some officers worried that the CIA would not be very adept at assassination.

“We’d probably shoot ourselves,” another former senior CIA official said.

This section of the article was ignored at the time in the storm that grew over the CIA’s rendition programme and complicity in it by US allies.

The team was also mentioned by the New York Times’ James Risen in his 2006 book State of War:

In the intense atmosphere after the September 11 attacks, even more radical and questionable operations were considered and planned. One such secret activity was code-named Box Top. In 2002, according to CIA sources, the agency created a covert paramilitary unit whose mission was to go around the world to target terrorists. Whether the Box Top unit would have had the mandate to kill terrorists anywhere in the world or simply to capture them and bring them back through the rendition process is unclear. But after the unit was set up and began training, it was disbanded, and Box Top never went into effect. CIA sources suggested that the agency’s top management got cold feet over the prospect of turning the paramilitary unit loose.

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