CIA hit teams terminated, then resurrected

As CIA director in 2004, George Tenet terminated a secret program to develop hit teams to kill al-Qaida leaders, but his successors resurrected the plan, according to former intelligence officials.

Tenet ended the program because the agency could not work out its practical details, the officials told The Associated Press. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the classified program.

Porter Goss, who replaced Tenet in 2005, restarted the program, the former officials said. By the time Michael Hayden succeeded Goss as CIA chief in 2006 the effort was again flagging because of practical challenges.

CIA Director Leon Panetta drove the final stake into the effort in June after learning about the program. He called an emergency meeting with the House and Senate Intelligence committees the next day, informing lawmakers about the program and saying that as vice president Dick Cheney had directed the CIA not to inform Congress about the operation.

The CIA declined to comment on the officials’ comments.

One former senior intelligence official said Wednesday that the idea never quite died because it was a capability — the details of which remain classified — that the CIA wanted in its arsenal. But as time wore on, the official said, its need became less urgent.

Another former official said that the CIA’s reliance on foreign intelligence services and on drone-launched missile strikes proved over time to be less risky yet effective in targeting al-Qaida chiefs for death or capture. President George W. Bush authorized the killing of al-Qaida leaders in 2001.

According to one congressional official, the agency spent more than $1 million over the eight years that the CIA considered launching the hit teams. The official would not detail the exact amount or how it was spent.

The House Intelligence Committee is laying the groundwork for a possible investigation of the program and its concealment from Congress. In late June it asked the CIA to provide documents about the now-canceled program to kill al-Qaida leaders.

Agency officials say it is complying with the request. Panetta has at the same time ordered a thorough internal review of the program.

The committee will likely focus on how much was spent on the effort, whether any training was conducted and whether any officials traveled in association with the program, a congressional official said. Those factors would determine whether the program had progressed enough to require congressional notification.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, is expected to decide as early as this week whether to press ahead with a full investigation.


Associated Press writer Pamela Hess reported from Washington and Adam Goldman reported from New York.


  1. Stratocaster

    Cheney in charge of a hit team, what a scarry thought. Politcal and business rivals, lawyers, anyone that knows anything about his cabal, damn, no one is safe.

  2. AustinRanter

    And the moral to this story is…”nada, kaput, so what”.

    So many Congressional members from both factions of the same mob say what they are getting from Leon Panetta is a clear depiction of laws broken.

    So for the Intelligence Committee to sit and ponder if an investigation is something to “consider”…then we can also clearly see the reluctance by our Congressional members to take on the CIA, Cheney all others possibly involved in “ALLEDGED CRIMES”…because in the process, what other improprieties will reveal themselves that calls for implementing sound responsible actions to make a Washington government offical accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

    Congress or the like don’t like opening up cans (and their are untold numbers of them) of improprieties that make them vulnerable to public scrutiny (although most of the time the public forgives and forgets), much less some type of legal action.

  3. bogofree

    Looks like the hit teams are about as successful as Congress and the President.

    Should have jobbed it out to the mob.

  4. Stratocaster

    What makes you think the CIA isn’t the mob. Ask JFK and MLK about how successful they are. The stated target is diversion from the actual target. Investigative commissions are always appointed to cover up the facts.

  5. woody188

    Rumor is that this was not set up to assassinate al-Qaida leaders because by this time the military was already authorized to do so.

    Something certainly smells funny.

    R U Main Core?

  6. Thumper

    To add to Stratocaster’s thoughts, remember that George Herbert Walker Bush was in the CIA from the time he left the service after WWII and was the Director of the CIA under President Ford. The Bush Crime family has long and deep ties to clandestine activities.

  7. barak

    The “mob” is not the CIA and the CIA is not the mob. I realize that Stratocaster was posing this as a question, but I know this for a fact. If I tell you how I will have to kill me. Also, I am not quite paranoid enough to believe that all investigative commissions cover up all the facts.

    As regards Woody88 noticing a malignant odor emanating from the Langley and DC area, I can only wonder why he did not notice the stink before, when Bush and the Criminal Dick were running for election in term #1.

    I also wonder what is stopping Obama and the good old boys (maybe THAT is the answer–Good Ole Boys always cover the asses of the other GOBs) from prosecuting Bush and Cheney and the rest of the gang of traitors and criminals. Opening cans of worms is always a good way to generate publicity if you are sitting on the “asking” side of the microphone. Speculating, I can only say that it appears that ALL of the Senators and Representatives in Congress might have too much dirty laundry in their backgrounds to want to open anything but a new bank account, and Bush and Cheney certainly stole enough money to pay off every congress person in the Capitol Building and its surrounds.

    They all make me sick.

  8. woody188

    LOL, I did not vote for Bush/Cheney in 2000 or 2004. Was not a fan of Clinton, but ya know I was able to see a speech of his. You see back in the old days the President used to come out and talk to us common folk.

    Honestly the 2 wars based on lies is what made me pay more attention. I was born post Vietnam so this was all new to me. The more I looked, the less I liked, and the more I saw how what I was raised to believe in has been perverted into something entirely different.

  9. Stratocaster

    The CIA has always had ties to the mob. There are always rogue operations going on. Evan the CIA doesn’t know what the CIA is doing. Where do you think all of the drugs went from from the C130’s that were flying drugs into the country. Do your reseach. Start with Mena and Barry Seal. If the Kerry and Warren Commissions weren’t cover ups, what were they? The CIA trained a team to asassinate Castro. Castro is still walking around but JFK got blown away. Look into where George H.W.
    Bush was during the asassination. Have a good puke.

  10. RichardKanePA

    Somehow I am far more worried about the many who died and the hundreds of thousands that had to move in threat of death in Iraq, then that the CIA was actually trying to directly kill a few al Qaeda leaders.

    Maybe no one should ever be killed, but this is the last not first thing to complain about.

    By the way the US government began working with the Mafia against Hitler during World War II. If we review the early connections that made sense, then we might get a handle on the senseless continuation of working with organized crime on later dates.


  11. Stratocaster

    The CIA is working with the mob. JFK is trying to eliminate organized crime. Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.