No U.S. Citizens on CIA Hit Lists

It is useful to be reminded from time to time that not every allegation or published report concerning Central Intelligence Agency operations is necessarily true.

A front-page story in the Washington Post on January 27 included the remarkable statement that “Both the CIA and the JSOC [Joint Special Operations Command of the Department of Defense] maintain lists of individuals… whom they seek to kill or capture. The JSOC list includes three Americans, including [Islamist cleric Anwar al-] Aulaqi, whose name was added late last year. As of several months ago, the CIA list included three U.S. citizens, and an intelligence official said that Aulaqi’s name has now been added.”

But at least the part about the CIA list turns out to be unfounded.

“The article referred incorrectly to the presence of U.S. citizens on a CIA list of people the agency seeks to kill or capture,” the Washington Post said in a correction published in the February 12 edition.  “After The Post’s report was published, a source said that a statement the source made about the CIA list was misunderstood. Additional reporting produced no independent confirmation of the original report, and a CIA spokesman said that The Post’s account of the list was incorrect. The military’s Joint Special Operations Command maintains a target list that includes several Americans. In recent weeks, U.S. officials have said that the government is prepared to kill U.S. citizens who are believed to be involved in terrorist activities that threaten Americans.”

The correction has been appended to the online version of the article.

On February 3, Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair testified to his view that U.S. government agencies may use lethal force against U.S. citizens who are involved in terrorist activities.  “We don’t target people for free speech,” he said. “We target them for taking action that threatens Americans.”

“I’m actually a little bit surprised you went this far in open session,” said Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) at the hearing of the House Intelligence Committee.

“The reason I went this far in open session,” replied DNI Blair, “is I just don’t want other Americans who are watching to think that we are careless about endangering — in fact, we’re not careless about endangering lives at all, but we especially are not careless about endangering American lives as we try to carry out the policies to protect most of the country. And I think we ought to go into details in closed session.”