The leak, which came Thursday afternoon, outlines both the positive and negative consequences of covert, high-value kills, and offers guidance on how best to plan them.
In short, its 21-pages read something like high-level cliffs notes for assassinations, though the report steers clear of such language.
Among potential negative consequences of the high-value target (HVT) kills, the report cites “increasing the level of insurgent support, causing a government to neglect other aspects of its counterinsurgency strategy,” “strengthening an armed group’s bond with the population,” and “creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter.”
It also warns that HVT kills can be a harmful distraction. It “can capture the attention of policymakers and military planners to the extent that a government loses its strategic perspective on the conflict or neglects other key aspects of counterinsurgency.”
However, the majority of the report lists the potential positive effects, finding that HVT programs can help in “eroding
insurgent effectiveness, weakening insurgent will, reducing the level of
insurgent support, fragmenting or splitting the insurgent group, altering
insurgent strategy or organization in ways that favor the government, and
strengthening government morale and support.”
The report claims that Osama bin Laden’s operations were severely hamstrung because he was considered a high-value target.
“Usama bin Ladin’s measures to avoid
detection, including his reliance on low technology
communications, his reluctance to
meet with subordinates, and his contentment
with leading from a sequestered distance via
infrequent contact, have affected his ability to
command his organization, according to detainee
reporting,” the report states.
In Colombia, assassination of Colombia’s Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) leaders are credited with severely eroding the militant’s capabilities. That organization’s new leadership finally declared an “indefinite truce” this week.
A year after the report was written, CIA drone assassinations rose to an all-time high level of 751, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The numbers have dropped precipitously since, reaching a seven-year-low in 2014 with 35 fatalities.
The report takes a long look at the history of such kills. Agency researchers studied HVT programs in “Afghanistan (2001-present), Algeria (1954-62), Colombia (2002-present), Iraq (2004-present), Israel (1972 to mid-1990s, mid- 1990s to present), Peru (1980-99), Northern Ireland (1969-98), and Sri Lanka (1983- May 2009).”
The CIA details operations from a number of nations, against groups like the Taliban, Al Qaeda, the FARC, Hezbollah, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), Hamas, Peru’s Shining Path, and the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and Algeria’s FLN.
The report was prepared to give “the most senior US policymakers, military planners, and law enforcement with analysis, warning, and crisis support.”
In a statement to the Daily Dot, a CIA spokesperson said, “We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported stolen intelligence documents.”
Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III