The Shadowy World of CIA Assassins: A Deeper Look
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By Daniel Robinson*

The term “agent” often confuses when discussing intelligence operations. In the lexicon of the CIA and other intelligence agencies, agents are not CIA employees but rather human intelligence (HUMINT) assets. These individuals are recruited by intelligence officers due to their access to valuable information or their influential positions. Therefore, when people inquire about CIA agents being trained as assassins, they are often referring to CIA operatives or officers.

Yes, the CIA does train certain employees in assassination techniques, but this represents only a small fraction of the agency’s personnel. The specific unit responsible for such training is the Special Activities Division (SAD), particularly within its Special Operations Group (SOG). The SAD/SOG is the paramilitary branch of the CIA, tasked with carrying out covert and clandestine operations, which include assassination, rendition, and enhanced interrogation techniques.

The SAD is divided into two main branches:

  1. Special Operations Group (SOG): This is the unit responsible for paramilitary operations, including targeted killings and sabotage. Operatives in this group are typically recruited from elite military units such as Delta Force (SFOD-D) and SEAL Team Six (DEVGRU). These recruits already possess extensive training in special operations and direct action missions, including assassination. The CIA supplements their military training with specific tradecraft skills needed for covert operations.
  2. Political Action Group (PAG): This branch handles covert political operations, such as bribery, blackmail, and influencing foreign governments. While not directly involved in physical combat or assassination, PAG operatives perform high-risk covert activities to further U.S. foreign policy objectives.

The SAD/SOG operatives undergo rigorous training in a variety of skills beyond their military backgrounds. This includes:

  • Tradecraft: Learning espionage techniques essential for conducting covert operations in diverse environments. This could involve surveillance, counter-surveillance, and clandestine communication methods.
  • Urban Warfare and Covert Tactics: Adapting military skills to urban settings where high-profile assassinations might occur. This includes discreet methods of elimination such as using poison, specialized weapons, and improvised tactics to avoid detection.
  • Cultural and Linguistic Training: Understanding local customs, languages, and behaviors to blend in and operate unnoticed in foreign environments.

Historically, the concept of political assassination has been a contentious issue for the CIA. During the Cold War, various high-profile cases of alleged CIA involvement in assassinations or attempts thereof (such as the efforts to kill Fidel Castro) brought significant scrutiny and led to legislative restrictions. The Church Committee in the 1970s conducted extensive investigations into these activities, resulting in Executive Order 12333, which explicitly banned political assassinations.

Despite these restrictions, the post-9/11 era has seen a resurgence in targeted killings, particularly under the authorization of the President and with congressional oversight. Drone strikes against terrorist leaders and other high-value targets are modern examples of such operations.

Today, the SAD/SOG continues to play a crucial role in counterterrorism and covert operations. While not all operatives are assassins, those who are trained for such missions possess a unique blend of military prowess and espionage expertise, making them highly effective in their roles. The ongoing war on terror has kept these operatives in high demand, with their actions often shrouded in secrecy and controversy.

In conclusion, while the CIA does train a small segment of its personnel in assassination techniques, this training is part of a broader mission to protect national security through a variety of covert operations. The operatives within SAD/SOG represent a highly specialized force, drawing from the best of military and intelligence backgrounds to execute missions that are critical to U.S. interests but often hidden from public view.

*Daniel Robinson, a highly esteemed collaborator at Smartencyclopedia, specializes in the critical domains of national security, government affairs, country intelligence, military strategy, and intelligence operations. With an unwavering commitment to these fields, Daniel is a crucial asset to our platform.

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