The Origins of Cheney's CIA Assassination Ring


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The Origins of the CIA’s Assassination Program: Who Proposed It, What Its Code Name Was
911Blogger, By Kevin Fenton - Wed, 07/15/2009 - 1:19am

The CIA assassination program that was recently in the media was actually first partially revealed by the Washington Post in 2005, when details enabling his originator to be identified were published. The program made news in the last few days as CIA Director Leon Panetta admitted that the agency withheld information about it from Congress, although the CIA never actually used it to assassinate anybody. Nevertheless, the program’s “duties” seem to have been taken over by something journalist Seymour Hersh called an “executive assassination wing” that was run out of the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney, and this grouping did go on missions and kill people.

The program 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 program:

"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 program 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."

That’s on page 35 of my copy (emphasis added).

Interestingly, Risen also mentioned the OVP/Pentagon teams that supplanted Box Top:

"... Unlike the clandestine service of the CIA, Rumsfeld’s new covert units—given the benign-sounding name “operational support elements”—didn’t fall under the government’s existing rules governing covert action, rules that required explicit presidential authorization and congressional notification. In fact, the Defense Department didn’t seem to believe its special teams needed to tell anyone else in the government what they were doing, let alone coordinate their activities with the American ambassadors and CIA station chiefs in the countries in which they were planning to operate. Rumsfeld was creating his own private spy service, buried deep within the Pentagon’s vast black budget, with little or no accountability.

"Before long, the State Department and CIA began to hear reports from ambassadors and station chiefs that special covert military teams were operating in Africa and elsewhere in the third world. In some cases, the embassies discovered their activities only by accident or at second hand. Whenever CIA officials complained to the Pentagon, they were told that the failure to notify them of the operations was an oversight and that the teams were simply conducting reconnaissance.

"The new cowboys at the Pentagon were clearly asking for trouble. In early 2005, trouble came: members of an operational support element team working in Latin America killed a man outside a bar. The American personnel then failed to report the incident to the US embassy for several days. The incident has never been made public, but several officials familiar with the matter say it raises serious questions about the degree to which the Pentagon’s new secret teams are being properly managed."

I found that on pages 70-71. Risen therefore described both the programs back in 2006, although he did not make the link between the non-implementation of the CIA program and the implementation of the OVP/Pentagon version.

Although the CIA certainly does not have lists of its office holders, certainly not Counterterrorist Center (CTC) chiefs of operations, we have a pretty good idea who the chief of operations at the time was and what else he is responsible for (9/11, Osama bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora, rendition to torture--see the timeline link below).

In January 2007, Harper’s journalist Ken Silverstein wrote an article about a CIA officer he called “James,” giving a resume that indicated he was the CTC’s chief of operations on and shortly after 9/11. Given marked similarities in the biography of James and a CIA officer who goes by a variety of aliases (Rich/Rich B/Richard)—they both served in Algeria, were close to CIA manager Cofer Black, headed the CIA’s bin Laden unit, then had another managerial position at the CTC, became station chief in Kabul after 9/11 and got involved in the rendition of Ibn Sheikh al-Libi to Egypt—it appears that they are one and the same person. Therefore, it seems that Rich B was the officer who championed Box Top.

See here for a timeline of Rich B’s activities. Don’t miss his involvement in hiding information about the 9/11 hijackers—apparently including from his own boss—what he knew before 9/11, his part in rendition to torture before and after 9/11 and his responsibility for bin Laden’s escape from Afghanistan.

This is highly intriguing as it gives us an (as-yet indirect) connection between Rich B and Cheney, a connection I’ve been trying to make for some time: when the CIA sat on the program Rich B proposed, it was taken up by Cheney, who also prevented Box Top from being briefed to Congress. Do I think this is a coincidence? No, I don’t. We know that both Rich B and Cheney were involved in the post-9/11 rendition and torture programs - was there any link between them on that issue as well?

Originally posted here with additional links.

Cheney linked to secrecy of CIA program
At the direction of the then-vice president, Congress was not notified of a highly classified counter-terrorism program for eight years, sources say.
LA Times, By Greg Miller - July 12, 2009
The CIA kept a highly classified counter-terrorism program secret from Congress for eight years at the direction of then-Vice President Dick Cheney, according to sources familiar with an account that agency Director Leon E. Panetta provided recently to House and Senate committees. The sources declined to provide any details on the nature of the program, but said that the agency had opened an internal inquiry in recent days into the history of the program and the decisions made by a series of senior officials to withhold information about it from Congress. ...

Cheney Is Linked to Concealment of CIA Project
New York Times, by Scott Shane 071109
The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency's director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday. The report that Mr. Cheney was behind the decision to conceal the still-unidentified program from Congress deepened the mystery surrounding it, suggesting that the Bush administration had put a high priority on the program and its secrecy.

'Something Always Goes Haywire'
New York Times - ‎071409
So now it turns out that Dick Cheney, while he was Vice President, had a private deal going with the CIA And he goes to the CIA — and those guys are pretty ...

Rachel Maddow On Cheney CIA Scandal

Accusations Hit Squad Tied To Bhutto Murder

Official: CIA hit squads’ goal was to put ‘bullets in heads’
RawStory, by Ron Brynaert - Published: July 14, 2009
Officials tell Newsweek the model was Israeli hit squads, Cheney’s involvement may be most ‘politically explosive aspect’; GOP senator wants program resurrected
The goal of the CIA hit squads created by a now canceled secret program was to put ‘bullets in heads,’ an unnamed former intel official tells the Wall Street Journal...

Seymour Hersh: 'Executive Assassination Ring' Reported Directly to Cheney AlterNet 
Hersh: 'Executive assassination ring' reported directly to Cheney Raw Story

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh describes 'executive assassination ring' that reported directly to Dick Cheney
By Eric Black | Published Wed, Mar 11 2009 11:17 am
At a “Great Conversations” event at the University of Minnesota last night, legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh may have made a little more news than he intended by talking about new alleged instances of domestic spying by the CIA, and about an ongoing covert military operation that he called an “executive assassination ring.” ...

Seymour Hersh: 'Executive Assassination Ring' Reported Directly to Cheney AlterNet 
Hersh: 'Executive assassination ring' reported directly to Cheney Raw Story

Howard Fineman comments to Keith Olbermann

John Dean weighs in with Keith Olbermann

Kucinich wants House to investigate assasination claims
Cleveland Congressman Wants Cheney And Bush Investigated
The Plain Dealer - - ‎031609‎
Dennis Kucinich wants the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to investigate allegations by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh that the White House operated an 'executive assassination ring' during the presidency of George W. Bush. ...
Cheney assassination unit claim boosts Truth Commission prospects

Kucinich Calls For Investigation Into Claims Of Government Sanctioned Assassinations
90.3 WCPN ideastream® - ‎031609
Cleveland Congressman Dennis Kucinich is calling for an investigation into alleged assassinations sanctioned by the Bush administration. ...

Who Did Cheney Have Murdered? OpEdNews