Death Squads in America

Bush Gives Green Light to CIA
for Assassination of Named Terrorists
by David Gow, October 29, 2001, The Guardian (U.K)

'Covert killings to take in less important al-Qaida figures'

President Bush has given the CIA an explicit go-ahead to carry out covert missions to assassinate Osama bin Laden and his supporters around the world, effectively lifting a 25-year ban on such activities.

The US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, confirmed reports of such a move yesterday by telling CNN that the US would be acting in self-defence in carrying out such missions.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Mr Bush has decided that executive orders banning assassinations since a series of botched attempts in the 1960s and 1970s allow him to single out a named terrorist or terrorists for death by covert action.

Mr Rumsfeld said: "It is not possible to defend yourself against terrorists at every single location in the world and at every single moment.

"The only way to deal with terrorists is to take the battle to them and find them and root them out and that's self-defence. We're going after these people and their organisations and capabilities and to stop them killing Americans."

The US president, according to senior government officials quoted by the Post, signed an order last month known as an intelligence "finding", which broadens the list of potential targets beyond Bin Laden and his immediate circle of some 15 operational planners — and beyond Afghanistan.

The CIA, pilloried in some quarters along with the FBI last month for its fatal failure to detect the movements and plans of the al-Qaida terrorist network, is said to be willing and able to "take the lives of terrorists designated by the president".

Mr Bush has apparently circumvented the legal constraints on clandestine killing missions imposed since the Church committee found in 1975 that plots against five foreign leaders under presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Nixon had been organised in terms "so ambiguous that it is difficult to be certain at what levels assassination activity was known and authorised".

The new presidential order, drawing on one signed by President Clinton against al-Qaida three years ago, apparently overcomes such problems by making plain that responsibility and accountability rest with the president and his senior colleagues.

"I would want the president's guidance to be as clear as it could be, including the names of individuals. You have got to have the political levels behind you so the intelligence officers are not left hanging," the recently retired CIA deputy director, John Gannon, told the Post.

But history suggests that covert assassinations remain fraught with danger and carry a high risk of failure.

Jeffrey Richelson, an intelligence historian and author of a new book on the CIA, said of pre-1975 efforts: "They never succeeded in killing anyone. They were the gang that couldn't shoot straight."

Agents carried out numerous inept missions to kill Fidel Castro, using among other botched devices bacteria in his favourite type of cigar, an exploding seashell, and a poisoned wet suit. Other botched missions were undertaken in central America, the Congo and Iraq, though Mr Richelson has said the CIA did significantly aid the assassins of Che Guevara, and, indirectly, the overthrow of Chile's Salvador Allende in 1973.

Yesterday's report suggested that President Bush's order could extend well beyond the al-Qaida network concentrated around Bin Laden and the FBI's 22 "most-wanted" terrorists, with the CIA debating how many of the 35 or more countries identified as places where the terrorist network is active could figure on the list.

Andrew Card, White House chief of staff, said yesterday on NBC's Meet the Press: "It could take years but we are going to do everything we can to rout the terrorists in Afghanistan and then get them all around the world."

Financiers of the al-Qaida — "the Gucci guys, the guys who write the cheques", according to one unnamed CIA official could also be targets but the report said it was unclear whether Mr Bush had "signed orders that would amount to individual death warrants".

© 2001 Guardian Newspapers Limited

This article first appeared in The Guardian, 2001-10-29.

Death Squads in America

This has interesting implications.  So the CIA is willing "take the lives of [i.e., murder] terrorists designated by the president", and this is said to be legal provided that "responsibility and accountability rest with the president and his senior colleagues."  So as soon as the CIA kills some alleged terrorist, acting under specific orders from George W. Bush to kill that person, the U.S. becomes a nation whose political leader is a (technically legal) murderer.  What, then, distinguishes the U.S. President from Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic?

The CIA is now "debating how many of the 35 or more countries identified as places where the terrorist network [al-Qaida] is active could figure on the list" of countries where Bush's death warrants could be enacted.  Since the U.S. government has made it clear that it believes al-Qaida is operating within the U.S. itself, the U.S. is among these countries. This means that Bush can now order the killing of people within the borders of the U.S.  ...  including American citizens if they are judged by Bush or one of his "senior colleagues" to be a "terrorist" (note that no judge is required to authorize a death warrant).  But the term "terrorist" has never been defined in American law, and the concept can be interpreted so broadly that anyone taking part in an unauthorized demonstration against American government policies can be labelled as a "terrorist".  Thus any active political dissent in America can now get you killed.

September 11, 2001, was the 28th anniversary of the CIA-directed military coup in Chile which brought General Augusto Pinochet to power and ushered in a particularly brutal military dictatorship.  As is well known, this military government employed its secret police, DINA, to abduct, torture and kill anyone who opposed the regime.  Death squads were active in Chile for sixteen years.  George W. Bush has now made death squads legal in the United States, and (barring his removal from office) it is probably only a matter of time before they go into action.

Indeed, an early form of the U.S. death squad is already active: the FBI-engineered "stand-off" that occurs from time to time, in which some political dissident, such as pro-marijuana activist Grover Crosslin, is shot and killed, after, of course, "pointing a gun at an officer".  Thanks to George W. Bush's order, excuses such as this for the murder of political dissidents within the U.S. will no longer be necessary.  All that will be required is a designation of the person as a "terrorist" by Bush (or by a "senior colleague", such as any of the heads of the CIA, DEA, DIA, FBI, IRS, NSA, NSC and the rest of the alphabet soup of federal agencies, most of which most Americans have never heard of).  Welcome to the United States of America in the 21st Century.

Living his presidency like Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan, George Bush etched another notch in his gun butt this week, blowing away six "terrorists" in Yemen's desert. Their car was incinerated by a Hellfire missile, fired by a CIA unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone. ... [But] there are some problems with this approach to international peacekeeping. For a start, it is illegal. The Yemen attack violates basic rules of sovereignty. It is an act of war where no war has been declared. It killed people, some of whom may have been criminals, but who will never now face trial. It assassinated men who may have been planning attacks. But who can tell? It is, at best, irresponsible extra-judicial killing, at worst a premeditated, cold-blooded murder of civilians. And it is also, and this is no mere afterthought, morally unsustainable.Drones of death, The Guardian (U.K), 2002-11-6

On September 15, 2001, just four days after the 9-11 attacks, CIA Director George Tenet provided President [sic] Bush with a Top Secret "Worldwide Attack Matrix" — a virtual license to kill targets deemed to be a threat to the United States in some 80 countries around the world. The Tenet plan, which was subsequently approved by Bush, essentially reversed the executive orders of four previous U.S. administrations that expressly prohibited political assassinations.

According to high level European intelligence officials, Bush's counselor, Karl Rove, used the new presidential authority to silence a popular Lebanese Christian politician who was planning to offer irrefutable evidence that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon authorized the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian men, women, and children in the Beirut refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla in 1982. — Wayne Madsen, Karl Rove's White House "Murder, Inc."

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