CIA: We Don’t Target Americans – JSOC Does

JSOCRemember that report from a few weeks back that President Obama was targeting American citizens accused of terrorism for assassination by U.S. intelligence and special operators?  Well, it’s  not quite true.

Steve Aftergood:

“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 know I feel better.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, Law and the Courts, Military Affairs, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steve Verdon says:

    Yay for government!

  2. Highlander says:

    I agree with you James,that the very concept of a government “goon”, “buffoon” or computer having the right to target an American Citizen is more than a little unsettling. After all who gets to decide the right and wrong of it all? And when and what are the right reasons? Can we citizens ever be sure that just a “tinsey winsey” bit of politics aren’t involved?

    On the other hand what is to be done, when the government knows an American renegade is about to set in motion,a plot to disburse a genetically engineered combination of Ebola and Smallpox virus in downtown DC?

    We live in interesting times.

  3. Wayne says:

    I have no problem with targeting U.S. citizens or anyone conducting terrorist activities overseas when done right. If there is a group that is about ready to attack the U.S. and there is a U.S. citizen with them, are we suppose to say “oh no we can’t attack”? If there a U.S. citizen supplying intelligence for that attack is he off limit?

    As for who decides, it is responsibility of the President or one of his duly appointees. He has to decide if the payoffs are worth the consequences. Like some decision of the Commander in Chief, some things are best done by one ultimate decision maker.

    Re “Can we citizens ever be sure that just a “tinsey winsey” bit of politics aren’t involved?”

    There are no sure bets in life but the President using SOF,C.I.A., etc for targeting a political opponent for assassination is very slim. The current establishments wouldn’t go for it. Therefore the President would have to go outside such establishments and create his own hit squads. Better option would be for one of his minions to hire a freelance hit man. All of which would not be stop by doing away with this policy or by passing a law against it.

  4. Bill H says:

    We don’t target people for free speech,” he said. “We target them for taking action that threatens Americans.”

    “We don’t have to actually prove beyond reasonable doubt, before a jury of their peers that they took that action,” he went on. “We don’t have to provide them with any kind of opportunity to assert their innocence or to confront their accusers. We don’t have to prove that the alledged action actually did threaten Americans.”

    Okay, I made that up.

    So if I tell my American neighbor I’m going to kill him, I’m okay because that’s a threat, but it’s not an action; it’s speech and they don’t kill me for that. But if I get out a rifle and, without loading it, carry it out in the front yard, the government can then shoot me dead because that is a threatening action; I threatened an American and am therefor subject to summary execution.

    “Threatening Americans” is not only a capital crime, it is so heinous a crime that we don’t even provide arrest and trial. We just execute you on sight.