WaPo Retracts Report that Anwar al-Awlaki on CIA Kill List

As Steven Aftergood reports, the WaPo has issued a correction to Dana Priest’s article claiming that Anwar al-Awlaki was added to the CIA’s assassination list.

The article referred incorrectly to the presence of U.S. citizens on a CIA list of people the agency seeks to kill or capture. 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.

Mind you, no one is disputing that al-Awlaki is on the JSOC list. Just that he’s on the CIA list.

  1. klynn says:

    Did you see my OT post on the last thread?

    I have been wondering if there is any tie-in to this retraction and that story brewing in any way?

    In the last sentence, did you mean, “Just that he’s not on the CIA list?”

    • allan says:

      From the article you link to:

      In Austria, the interior ministry said it had launched an investigation into the suspected use of at least seven mobile phones with pre-paid Austrian chips by Mabhouh’s killers. The killers reportedly never made direct phone calls to each other but dialled into a communications centre in Austria – described by Dubai as the “command centre” for the operation.

      I wonder what NSA has on a hard drive someplace.

      • klynn says:

        One of the reason I thought there might be a tie-in with the retraction is that about a year ago, Imad Mugniyah was killed possibly by Mossad. At the time, articles have come out with reference to the same “people” topping the US as well as the Israeli lists.

        We clearly have a problem to have US citizens on our own intel kill lists. We have an even bigger problem if we are sharing our list with another nation’s intel and assassin squads with US citizens on our list.

        I wonder if this current investigation will reveal a sharing of target lists?

        • klynn says:

          And another thought…

          I was wondering if intel like this would have come out if the AIPAC spy rial had gone forward?

          On the other hand, this kind of intel info could be just the motivation to dismiss such a case…

  2. Jim White says:

    I wonder how many different versions of the list the CIA has? You know, one for Congressional briefings, one for discussions with reporters, one for Panetta, one for operatives, etc.

  3. MadDog says:

    Here’s the key paragraph from the original article:

    …Both the CIA and the JSOC maintain lists of individuals, called “High Value Targets” and “High Value Individuals,” whom they seek to kill or capture. The JSOC list includes three Americans, including 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

    (My Bold)

    I noticed Steven Aftergood’s report yesterday and thought the “retraction” was a pretty strange critter even for the WaPo.

    Such as:

    1. It didn’t deny that there is a CIA list.

    2. It didn’t deny that Americans could be put on a CIA list.

    3. It didn’t deny the process Dana Priest described to put Americans on a CIA list.

    4. It doesn’t describe the “misunderstood statement”.

    5. Lastly, given the terseness of the “retraction”, it sure seems like Dana Priest & Co. heard what they thought they heard, but the source has now backed away from what the source actually said.

    • Mary says:

      It doesn’t even deny as I read what’s excerpted here that he might have been, for a time, on such a list.

      I really have to think some of this is what was going on when Panetta made his mad dash to Congress, esp with the Priest process indicating that they don’t always bother to brief the Dir on who they are putting up for assassination.

      • TarheelDem says:

        I would not be surprised at a Bush faction within the CIA making a point of keeping Panetta out of the loop on stuff Cheney might want. The treatment of Jimmy Carter in 1979-1980 shows that there are some in the CIA who think they are kingmakers.

      • MadDog says:

        Some further thoughts that occur to me:

        It doesn’t deny that the CIA may elude the previously longstanding EO against assassination, by merely submitting their “candidates” onto the JSOC list.

        As in: “What? We’re not killing anybody. It’s those folks in DOD who are doing it.”

        And as I’ve mentioned here before, the whole “JSOC owns GWOT” Executive branch decision was likely deliberately driven by the denizens of the previous criminal cabal administration as a means to circumvent not only that longstanding EO against CIA assassination, but also to deliberately preclude Congressional reporting and therefore, oversight.

        Since the appointment of JSOC as the owner of GWOT occurred in 2004, I’m also guessing that since the Repugs controlled Congress then, those same Congressional Repugs were in the loop and happily approved of bypassing Congress.

      • MadDog says:

        And given the blockbuster takeaway from your next post, Dana Priest & Co. should be undertaking their own best tradecraft when connecting to their sources.

        Stuff like throwaway pre-paid cellphones bought via anonymous 3rd parties.

  4. orionATL says:

    good grief

    17 israeli spooks to kill one hamas official?

    what was this guy – some kind of master ninja fighter?

  5. Mary says:

    @ 7 – he was a pretty bad guy, but it is odd that he didn’t have security with him, given the kind of guy that he is. OTOH, Cheney and now even Obama are probably linked to at least as many killings and Hamas has that odd, Republican-esque role of being both a vehicle for murder/torture and a political party.

    I linked to this story here as an example of how that assassination thing works in real life. I don’t think that you necessarily have a sloppier than usual team, I think you have a less strong and centralized gov that has not put the quietus on the info coming out and that has taken the pretty unusual step of publicizing all this info. I think once you begin to have the President of the US via spox pretty publically on board with his Divine Right to send US killers and US drones into foreign countries, without regard for sovereignty, and start offing people and blowing up houses and cars, then people begin to get a bit less willing to handle all this behind closed diplomatic doors.

    Time recently put up a piece about all the “conspiracy theories” in Pakistan about evil US intentions, cackling over how the poor suspicious folk there really believe that there are B-52s flying above their country, ready to bomb, and with very little acknowledgement of the open and obvious US military and intel predator drone bombing campaigns within the country, killing off civlians with impunity. Gosh – can’t imagine how that would make anyone paranoid. The author also did a linquistic eye roll over the fact that the Siddiqui conviction here was leading to big protests there, without ever discussing her missing and likely dead children. He almost guffaws that the poor uneducated things there actually believe that the US has people working in Pakistan to kidnap and disappear people – golly, where could they have gotten ideas like that? It’s not like anyone picked up and disappeared from Pakistan a London chef or a cadre of Chinese Uighurs or Siddiqui or…


    Meanwhile, Nancy Yousef, blogging for McClatchey, has an interesting piece up about the unrest in Jordan resulting from the Khost bombing.


    When people object to what their gov is doing in Iran and are persecuted for it, the US publicizes and spins that; when Jordanians object to what their gov is doing and face military sanctions for it – tralalalala.

    The death of the Jordanian official alongside the CIA exposed the extent of Jordan’s military’s involvement in the war. Because the laws restrict many, including journalists, from critcizing the government, Royal Kingdom or military, publicly or privately, people here instead quietly seethe over their government’s ties with the CIA. The public knew and could embrace that Jordan had a field hospital in Afghanistan but the idea of troops working alongside the always reviled CIA was too much for many here. Jordanians, they argued, should not be spying or dying for a war that is not theirs to fight.

    It almost sounds like they aren’t properly grateful for the sectarian cleansing that the US oversaw for years in Iraq – a *cleansing* that brought all kinds of refugees streaming to Jordan.

    I do think this piece on some of the people behind some of the passports for the Dubai assassination is interesting


    The Dubai Police have called with a lot on the table, This will be interesting – can the US condem the assassination in Dubai while at the same time carrying out its own assassination programs around the Globe?

    Should we be waiting for Israel to tell everyone, publically, that they will cut off sharing intel if Briton and Austria etc. don’t drop their investigation? If they do – will Obamaco be there saying, “uh, yeah, what they said, us too”


  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    This “retraction” relies for support on the veracity of the retraction or claimed misunderstanding of comments about the CIA from those in the know. Those in the know would know the likelihood of criminal liability for murdering or conspiring to murder a US citizen in violation of their constitutional rights.

    I think it was Attorney General Bobby Kennedy who made a federal case out of such violations in order to prosecute racist murderers and hate crimes in the 1960’s South because local state prosecutors, courts and juries refused to prosecute or convict their perpetrators. The description of those hate crimes – whether it was fiery crosses in the yard, bullets in the back or firebombs in a church with children in the basement – usually boiled down to the claim that their perpetrators were doing no more than defending the peculiar “Southern way of life”. Quite possibly true, but what does that leave worth defending?

    Anyway, given a choice between believing Dana Priest and an administration spokesperson from either party on a topic so frought with political and criminal liability as torture, murder for hire or domestic spying, I’d take Dana Priest any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

    • emptywheel says:

      True. But remember that the unreliable Brian Ross and the more reliable Greg Miller report that al-Awlaki is not yet on a kill list (or wasn’t, a few weeks ago). Not sure I’d automatically take Greg Miller’s reporting over Priest’s, but there is a credible reporter reporting the opposite.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Is not being on a kill list like not being in one of Kyle Sampson’s non-existent files, even though he knows the name is somewhere on his desk or in his mental Rolodex?

    • klynn says:

      From your link:

      Huvelle said judicial involvement in the “delicate area” of how detainees are treated could undermine military and diplomatic efforts by the U.S. government on the terrorism front.

      (my bold)

      Mary, that sounds like the biggest pile of BS. Could you perhaps give your insight on this part of your link.

  8. orionATL says:

    ” i must emphasize the cia does NOT have a shoot-to-kill list, merely a shoot-to-scare list.

    but you know how it is,

    sometimes, shit happens.”