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.”


No Responses to “No U.S. Citizens on CIA Hit Lists”

  1. Chris February 16, 2010 at 4:41 PM #


    Is this supposed to make anyone feel better?

  2. EoH February 17, 2010 at 2:14 PM #

    The bald statement that the original Washington Post article’s claims were false goes too far. It would be more accurate to say that the source or sources changed their minds, took away the foundation for the allegations, and required that the allegations be refined or retracted.

    The Post’s retraction seems based on information from someone who could be legally liable if the original allegations were true. That conflicting motivation – between self-preservation and doing one’s public duty – makes the retraction suspect.

    The foregoing process should be part of the story. Retractions of embarrassing claims or those that could lead to criminal liability are a staple of Washington life. Sometimes the original claims are false. Sometimes they are true and are outed to relieve pressure and to spin the disclosure, and are then withdrawn in order to confuse. Sometimes allegations, no matter how true, are retracted because of threats from a Rush Limbaugh or a Rahm Emanuel, or from one’s boss or a higher up in the party.

    Truth and accurate information are among the early casualties of public life in Washington. They remain on life support, but are improving, thanks to the FAS.

  3. Steve May 4, 2010 at 10:17 AM #

    I would hope there are no US citizens on CIA hit lists but my intuition has me reading anything like this with healthy skepticism.