The CIA has apparently been dispatching small teams of highly-trained fighters to kill specific suspected terrorist targets, breaking with former President Barack Obama's tendency to rely on drone strikes rather than human assassins, BuzzFeed News reports. "It's a small number where it has been kinetic, but it is happening," said one person familiar with the new squads, using "kinetic" to suggest lethal military action.
The CIA's Special Activities Center apparently oversees the program; it also houses the Ground Branch, which is "made up of elite fighters, often taken from the ranks of SEALs, Delta Force, and Marine Special Operations Command," called Paramilitary Operations Officers, BuzzFeed writes. There are about 100 such fighters, although that number is seemingly growing under President Trump. A spokesperson for the CIA denied any elite hit team program exists.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo, whom Trump intends to make his next secretary of state, had pushed for the department to be more "vicious," although he has not confirmed the creation of the assassination teams. He is apparently the driving force behind the new ground operations, though, people familiar with the decision said. Obama, on the other hand, heavily relied on unmanned drones to do similar work, although he oversaw a notable CIA hit team in 2011, which took out Osama bin Laden.
"They are getting people on targeting lists," one insider explained of the new development. "Small teams are locating and killing bad guys." Read the full investigation at BuzzFeed News.