After authoritatively and wrongly claiming the United States would go to war to halt Iran's nuclear program six times during the Bush administration, The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh is back at peddling conspiracy theories. His latest: Former Vice President Dick Cheney personally ran an "executive assassination ring."
"After 9/11, I haven't written about this yet, but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven't been called on it yet."
Hersh then went on to describe a second area of extra-legal operations: the Joint Special Operations Command. "It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently," he explained. "They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. ... Congress has no oversight of it."
"It's an executive assassination ring essentially, and it's been going on and on and on," Hersh stated. "Under President Bush's authority, they've been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That's been going on, in the name of all of us."
Like every good tale, there is some truth to it. The Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, does participate in the black operations hunt for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups' leaders. This is done in conjunction with the CIA's Special Activities Division. There is little secrecy about this, just read Jawbreaker or this article by Bob Woodward from back in November of 2001.
But to claim that JSOC does not "report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office," or that "Congress has no oversight of it" is just false. JSOC was established in 1980 after the failed mission to rescue the hostages at the U.S. embassy in Iran. JSOC is a component command of the U.S. Special Operations Command, which reports to the Secretary of Defense. JSOC, like the CIA, certainly falls under congressional oversight.
Hersh has made a living of making fantastic claims that don't quite live up to the hype. Chalk this one up as another Hersh fantasy.