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Jan. 12 2010 - 10:39 am | 79 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

The U.S. Joint Special Operations Command and the Latin American taxi driver

Something I heard last month that caught my attention.

In the course of a recent radio interview, The Nation magazine contributor Jeremy Scahill told an extraordinary story. He said a “Special Forces guy,” an operative of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), killed a taxi driver in an unnamed Latin American country and as a result, this operative had to be rendered by the CIA, and whisked back to America, presumably to avoid possible investigation or prosecution for the killing. Scahill did not say whether the killing had been accidental, or deliberately planned as part of one of the black ops he has been reporting on for his magazine.

Scahill also didn’t say when exactly this alleged killing had occurred, though he does say it occurred in the George W. Bush administration. The interviewer did not follow up and ask for specifics.

Scahill, who was being interviewed on “Fresh Air” about his recent book on private army Blackwater, said his source for this story was Lawrence Wilkerson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff. Below is the part of the “Fresh Air” transcript where Scahill tells this anecdote.

Mr. SCAHILL: … You know, I talked to Lawrence Wilkerson, who was then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, and he described to me how, under the Bush administration, JSOC essentially acted as a direct surrogate of the administration. And, in fact, General McChrystal, who is now the commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, ran JSOC from 2003 to 2008, and Colonel Wilkerson described to me how some of the operatives working on these secret JSOC programs would get in trouble in countries around the world.

And he cited one example in Latin America, where he said that a Special Forces guy actually murdered a taxi driver, and the CIA had to render him – in other words, abduct him – and fly him back to the United States to get him out of that Latin American country.

So you can see the issue there, where you have the military Special Forces engaged in operations, and the chief of mission in a country, the ambassador or the CIA station chief, don’t even know they’re there. You could imagine what kind of chaos that would cause behind the scenes when a lethal action goes down.


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    Readers, thanks for your eyeball time, please send tips, corrections, complaints, rants, etc. My email is ballve [at] gmail.com. I was born in Buenos Aires and raised there and in Atlanta, Mexico City and Caracas. I've written and reported on Latin America for almost a dozen years. I started out as an Associated Press reporter and editor in the agency’s Brazil and Caribbean bureaus. In 2007 I co-founded El Sol de San Telmo, a community newspaper in Buenos Aires. I am now a contributing editor for the nonprofit New America Media, Americas correspondent for Amsterdam-based Research World magazine (publication of the international association of market and public opinion researchers), and a 2010-2011 Lemann Fellow at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

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      Since 2002 I have been a contributing editor at New America Media, where I write about Latin America and the politics of immigration in the United States.

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