The Bush administration kept a secret operations unit that had the authority to kill targets in up to a dozen countries, according to a shocking claim made by an investigative reporter.
Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh told CNN that former vice president Dick Cheney oversaw a clandestine group called the Joint Specials Operations Command that had the authority to assassinate individuals based on group's own intelligence findings.
"[The Bush administration] delegated authority to troops in the field on the basis of whatever intelligence they think is good, and I can tell you it's always not good, and sometimes things get very bloody," Seymour Hersh told Wolf Blitzer on Monday.
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Hersh, an investigative reporter for "The New Yorker," dubbed the group an "assassination wing" when he spoke before an audience at the University of Minnesota on March 11 but has since said the term was "a loaded phrase" that he regretted using.
"The idea that we have a unit that goes around and without reporting to Congress -- Congress knows very little about this group, can't get hearings, can't get even classified hearings on it ... goes around and has authority from the president to go into a country without telling the CIA station chief or the ambassador and whack someone," Hersh told Wolf Blitzer Monday. "I am sorry, Wolf, yes, I have a problem with that."
Two former aides to Cheney, the former Bush homeland security adviser and a national security analyst all deny the claim, CNN reported.
A Special Operations Command spokesman also rejected Hersh's report and said the vice president has no authority of that nature over the military and that special operations abide by the rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict, CNN reported.
Hersh has not disclosed his sources.