It's about time to write about Sy Hersh's allegation of an "executive assassination ring" inside the U.S. government:
Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command -- JSOC it's called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him. ...
"Congress has no oversight of it. It's an executive assassination ring essentially, and it's been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths.
"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.
The Joint Special Operations Command is a nominally secret branch of the U.S. Special Operations Command responsible for so-called "special mission units." In case you hadn't noticed, they're very, very special. Some of the special mission units are familiar; there's the first Special Forces Operational Detachment commonly known as the Delta Force; the Navy's top counterterrorism squad, the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DevGru) or Seal Team Six. Others are less so; an elite group of signal intelligence collectors goes by various cover names; it existed in the Iraq War as "Grey Fox"; it has also been organized under "Capacity Gear" and "Titrant Ranger." The JSOC also includes various mission support units that provide technology for missions and cover stories for JSOC operators.
These are open secrets. CBS's "The Unit," about Delta Force, even fictionalizes real missions. Most JSOC missions remain highly classified, successful ones, anyway -- failures tend to be spectacularly public and tragic. Even the presidential decision directives that govern their conduct are redacted, leading to fairly informed speculation that the SMUs are given wide latitude to operative covertly and even the authority, at times, to conduct their missions on U.S. soil. (They had a presence at the 2004 inauguration.)