It's Wasn't Only Cheney
Who Had Assassination Programs: Clinton Did It, and Obama Does It, Too
While the current focus is on Dick Cheney's role concealing these nefarious missions, the U.S. has long had a bipartisan assassination policy.
Members of Congress have expressed outrage over the "secret" CIA assassination program that former Vice President Dick Cheney allegedly ordered concealed from Congress.
But this program -- and the media descriptions of it -- sounds a lot like the assassination policy implemented by President Bill Clinton, particularly during his second term in office.
Partisan politics often require selective amnesia. Over the past decade, we have seen this amnesia take hold when it comes to many of President George W. Bush's most vile policies. And we are now seeing a pretty severe case overtake several leading Democrats.
It makes for good speechifying to act as though all criminality began with Bush and -- particularly these days -- Cheney, but that is extreme intellectual dishonesty. The fact is that many of Bush's worst policies (now being highlighted by leading Democrats) were based in some form or another in a Clinton-initiated policy, or were supported by the Democrats in Congress with their votes.
To name a few: the USA PATRIOT Act, the invasion of Iraq, the attack against Afghanistan, the CIA's extraordinary-rendition program, the widespread use of mercenaries and other private contractors in U.S. war zones and warrantless wiretapping.
Regarding the Bush-era assassination program, there is great reason to be skeptical the program that CIA Director Leon Panetta alleges was concealed from Congress is actually the program the public is being led to believe it is.
Why would the CIA need to conceal a program that never was implemented and, if it never was implemented, why did Panetta need to shut it down? Moreover, who was running this inactive program from the minute Barack Obama was sworn in until June 24, when Panetta supposedly announced its cancellation?
This program -- as it is currently being described -- should hardly be a major scandal to members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, as some are now treating it. As they well know, Obama has continued the Bush targeted-assassination program, using armed drones and Special Forces teams to hunt "high-value targets."
Former CIA counterterrorism chief Vincent Cannistraro and others have pointed out, "The CIA runs drones and targets al-Qaida safe houses all the time." Cannistraro told Talking Points Memo that there is no important difference between those kinds of attacks and "assassinations" with a gun or a knife.
Now, if it turns out that the actual plan Cheney allegedly concealed is something other than what has been publicly described, that will be a different matter. For instance, if the CIA had a secret post-9/11 program planning assassinations on U.S. soil or of U.S. citizens, and it was ordered concealed by Cheney. Or, if it was a plan to target in other ways "enemies of the state" within the U.S., as Seymour Hersh has suggested.
"The Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state," Hersh said in March. "Without any legal authority for it. They haven't been called on it yet. That does happen."
Let's look at the program the Democrats claim was kept secret. The Bush administration reportedly authorized the CIA to use small paramilitary teams to hunt down and assassinate "al-Qaida" leaders around the world. It is currently being reported that this plan was never implemented and was born after 9/11. Both of these assertions are very, very doubtful.
The plan, as currently described in the media and by Democrats, is one that continues to exist under the Obama administration. In fact, this program has been part of official U.S. policy -- under Democratic and Republican administrations -- for decades.
By way of background, technically, there is a U.S. ban on assassination that dates to President Gerald Ford in 1976. "No employee of the United States government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination," states Executive Order 11905. That was updated by President Jimmy Carter, who dropped the term "political," simply prohibiting "assassination." The current Executive Order, 12333, was signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and has remained on the books through every administration since.
What is brutally ironic about Reagan signing this ban was that he authorized repeated assassinations, notably the 1986 attempt on Libya's Col. Moammar Gadhafi, which failed to kill Gadhafi, but killed his infant daughter.
But in that brutal apparent contradiction is the truth: The U.S. does not have a ban on assassinations as long as government lawyers can figure out some legal acrobatics for the president to use in sidelining the ban. Every president from Reagan to Obama has reserved the right to assassinate "terrorists" by claiming it as a military operation or a pre-emptive strike.