Death squad

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Concept.png Death squad 
(Hit squad)Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Reagans-Contra Death Squads.jpg
Nicaraguan Contras being trained by U.S. troops at a Honduran base
Death squads carry out extrajudicial killings and torture.

A death squad is an armed group whose activity includes extrajudicial killings, torture and forced disappearances as part of political repression and ethnic cleansing during warfare (including civil wars) or revolutionary terror. Regular armies or police forces may form units that carry out this kind of activity.

Death squads are distinct from assassination teams due to their permanent organization and the larger number of victims (typically thousands or more) who may not be prominent individuals.

Wikipedia (as of April 2022) notes that:[1]

Except in rare cases where they are formed by an insurgency, domestic or foreign governments actively participate in, support, or ignore the death squad's activities.

Other violence, such as rape, torture, arson, or bombings may be carried out alongside murders. They may comprise a secret police force, paramilitary militia groups, government soldiers, policemen, or combinations thereof. They may also be organized as vigilantes. When death squads are not controlled by the state, they may consist of insurgent forces or organized crime, such as the ones used by cartels.

CIA special activities

John Stockwells activity as a CIA case officer and his participation in the Angola war gave him insight into how the CIA actively trains and/or uses death squads in a strategy of destabilization (or keeps oversight and control by having the leadership of these groups under control).[2][3][4] In an interview on Alternative Views in 1980 he commented on the training of police forces of several dictatorships around the world:

“[...] in country, after country, after country, of our allies, or our client states in the third world, you've find that the CIA helped put in power the dictator, or reinforced someone who had just gotten into power, train their police, train them in oppression, suppression of the people [which includes heavy torture techniques as was discussed shortly before in the conversation] and it worked for a decade, a decade and a half, sometimes for twenty years [...] (25:20)”
John Stockwell (1980)  [5]

US sponsored death squads in South America

“They don't meet the death squads on the streets where they're actually chopping up people or laying them down on the street and running trucks over their heads. The CIA people in San Salvador meet the police chiefs, and the people who run the death squads, and they do liaise with them, they meet them beside the swimming pool of the villas. And it's a sophisticated, civilized kind of relationship. And they talk about their children, who are going to school at UCLA or Harvard and other schools, and they don't talk about the horrors of what's being done. They pretend like it isn't true.”
John Stockwell (1987)  [6]

“So what the US military advisors do, is to teach the people in the country how to organize themselves, and how to carry out missions, and how to keep their mouths shut about missions, and how to be more "professional" in the jobs that the ingenious troops want to carry out anyway. [...] It wasn't quite that the American advisors said thou shall create a death squad and you gonna report to me, no. What they said was: here is how to organize yourself, to conduct missions and don't report to me, because I don't want to know it.”
Christopher Simpson (2014)  [7]

CIA Manual's

In 1984 the US press reported on a CIA manual that was: "advising Nicaraguan guerrillas how to kidnap, assassinate, blackmail and dupe civilians".[8][9] It is sometimes referred to as CIA manual on assassination,[10] or as A Study Of Assassination, which is the naming the CIA used internally.[11] The 19 page type written document was released as part of collection of Central Intelligence Agency files related to CIA Operations; PBFORTUNE and PBSUCCESS. The original document was undated and unsigned but with an estimated publication date of Dec 31st 1953;[12] declassified under the Freedom of Information Act on May 15, 1997.[13]

Another handbook produced by the CIA was Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare, which drew attention the same year,[14] also discussed assassinations.[15][16]

List of death squads in South America

Partial list of US sponsored death squads in South America [17] and elsewhere by[18] Document:CIA Support of Death Squads

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Page nameDescription
ContrasSouth American death squads that were supported by the United States.
Ukraine/Death squadUkrainian death squads carry out extrajudicial killings and torture.
Wagner GroupA well known ruthless private military contractor. Its founders were involved in a chaotic coup in 2023.
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  4. John Stockwell: The Secret Wars of the CIA (1987)
  6. Third World Traveler - The Secret Wars of the CIA: part I
  7. Vimeo Counter-Intelligence: I - The Company (ca 17:35)
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