The Assassination Squads: Two Points

Siobhan Gorman reports that the secret program that Leon Panetta just revealed to Congress is an assassination squad.

A secret Central Intelligence Agency initiative terminated by Director Leon Panetta was an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives, according to former intelligence officials familiar with the matter.

The precise nature of the highly classified effort isn’t clear, and the CIA won’t comment on its substance.

According to current and former government officials, the agency spent money on planning and possibly some training. It was acting on a 2001 presidential legal pronouncement, known as a finding, which authorized the CIA to pursue such efforts. The initiative hadn’t become fully operational at the time Mr. Panetta ended it.

In 2001, the CIA also examined the subject of targeted assassinations of al Qaeda leaders, according to three former intelligence officials. It appears that those discussions tapered off within six months. It isn’t clear whether they were an early part of the CIA initiative that Mr. Panetta stopped.

Two comments about this.

First, there must be something more. Aside from the near ubiquitous drone strikes, which seem to be fully acknowledged and non-controversial, there have been enough personal strikes against al Qaeda figures that appear likely to have been assassinations, that for all intents and purposes, it appears we are assassinating al Qaeda figures.

It may be, for example, that the conflict reported by Sy Hersh is the problem–that Special Ops has the mandate to kill but CIA is being dragged into those assassinations.

Senior Democrats in Congress told me that they had concerns about the possibility that their understanding of what the new operations entail differs from the White House’s. One issue has to do with a reference in the Finding, the person familiar with it recalled, to potential defensive lethal action by U.S. operatives in Iran. (In early May, the journalist Andrew Cockburn published elements of the Finding in Counterpunch, a newsletter and online magazine.)

The language was inserted into the Finding at the urging of the C.I.A., a former senior intelligence official said. The covert operations set forth in the Finding essentially run parallel to those of a secret military task force, now operating in Iran, that is under the control of JSOC. Under the Bush Administration’s interpretation of the law, clandestine military activities, unlike covert C.I.A. operations, do not need to be depicted in a Finding, because the President has a constitutional right to command combat forces in the field without congressional interference. But the borders between operations are not always clear: in Iran, C.I.A. agents and regional assets have the language skills and the local knowledge to make contacts for the JSOC operatives, and have been working with them to direct personnel, matériel, and money into Iran from an obscure base in western Afghanistan. As a result, Congress has been given only a partial view of how the money it authorized may be used. One of JSOC’s task-force missions, the pursuit of “high-value targets,” was not directly addressed in the Finding. There is a growing realization among some legislators that the Bush Administration, in recent years, has conflated what is an intelligence operation and what is a military one in order to avoid fully informing Congress about what it is doing.

“This is a big deal,” the person familiar with the Finding said. “The C.I.A. needed the Finding to do its traditional stuff, but the Finding does not apply to JSOC. The President signed an Executive Order after September 11th giving the Pentagon license to do things that it had never been able to do before without notifying Congress. The claim was that the military was ‘preparing the battle space,’ and by using that term they were able to circumvent congressional oversight. Everything is justified in terms of fighting the global war on terror.” He added, “The Administration has been fuzzing the lines; there used to be a shade of gray”—between operations that had to be briefed to the senior congressional leadership and those which did not—“but now it’s a shade of mush.”

“The agency says we’re not going to get in the position of helping to kill people without a Finding,” the former senior intelligence official told me.

But even that can’t be it. While the conflict Hersh reported pertained to Iran, not al Qaeda, Congress clearly knows about this conflict–they’ve even drafted legislation to curb it. Nevertheless, you’d think that if Congress saw this going on with regards to Iran, it’d worry them more than the same practice going on with al Qaeda.

Second, just to pre-empt the inevitable discussion of "law" every time this comes up. Yes, EO 12333 still appears to ban assassinations.

No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.

But EO 12333 is precisely the Executive Order that Sheldon Whitehouse invoked in 2007 when he revealed that Bush got an OLC opinion stating he could change EOs without changing the EO–what I call pixie dust.

Here’s what–according to Whitehouse, who after all ought to know–Bush believes about whether or not he has to follow EO 12333, an Executive Order signed by Saint Reagan.

Let’s start with number one. Bear in mind that the so-called Protect America Act that was stampeded through this great body in August provides no – zero – statutory protections for Americans traveling abroad from government wiretapping. None if you’re a businesswoman traveling on business overseas, none if you’re a father taking the kids to the Caribbean, none if you’re visiting uncles or aunts in Italy or Ireland, none even if you’re a soldier in the uniform of the United States posted overseas. The Bush Administration provided in that hastily-passed law no statutory restrictions on their ability to wiretap you at will, to tap your cell phone, your e-mail, whatever.

The only restriction is an executive order called 12333, which limits executive branch surveillance to Americans who the Attorney General determines to be agents of a foreign power. That’s what the executive order says.

But what does this administration say about executive orders?

An executive order cannot limit a President. There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order. Rather than violate an executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it.

"Whenever (the President) wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order," he may do so because "an executive order cannot limit a President." And he doesn’t have to change the executive order, or give notice that he’s violating it, because by "depart(ing) from the executive order," the President "has instead modified or waived it."

So for those who will, inevitably, immediately invoke EO 12333 in arguing that assassination is "illegal," please do your homework. EO 12333 apparently prohibits assassinations, but there’s no way we can guarantee that Bush didn’t pixie dust the EO back in 2001 when he set up his little assassination squad. Furthermore, an EO is just that, an EO, one that a President can change at will without even publicly informing Congress or the American people. While it counts as law for the Executive Branch, it is not the same as a law passed by Congress, and treating it as if it is is simple foolishness at this point.

I assume we’ll learn more about this in coming days. But thus far, I’m not convinced this is the whole of the story yet.

Update: Okay, the WaPo explains that it’s not the assassinations themselves, it’s technical capability to make assassinations easier.

The program began shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and was authorized by Bush as part of a highly classified directive on Sept. 26 of that year. The directive granted the CIA blanket authority to attempt to kill or capture al-Qaeda operatives.

Former intelligence officials said the program was aimed at enhancing the agency’s ability to carry out the goals of the directive.

Note the date, too. The presidential finding that enabled CIA to capture and keep Al Qaeda members was signed September 17, 2001. So this is a follow-up to that one, it appears.

Also, consider this recent reporting from Wired.

American drone strikes are finding their targets in Pakistan through a series of infrared homing beacons, Al Qaeda alleges in a new online publication.

The American and Pakistani intelligence services credit U.S. unmanned aircraft with decimating the ranks of terrorist and insurgent operatives in Pakistan. “Very frankly, it’s the only game in town in terms of confronting and trying to disrupt the Al Qaeda leadership,” CIA director Leon Panetta said in May. The unmanned aircraft have supposedly carried out 28 attacks on suspected militants, just since the start of the year. Hundreds have been killed, including as many as 45 more people in a series of strikes today.

But how the killer drones find their targets has been a matter of some dispute. Local Taliban commander Mullah Nazir, himself an occasional target, says they’re guided by SIM cards, installed in militant cell phones. Area tribesman talk of homing devices, planted by informants, that are capable of signaling American aircraft. In The Ruling Concerning Muslims Spies, an internet-distributed book written by self-styled theologian and emerging Al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi, warns readers of American infrared devices which he claims directs the attacks on Al Qaeda and its allies.

“These result in the firing of the murderous and destructive missiles whose wrath is inflicted on the Mujahedeen and the weak,” he writes. Then he provides “photos of some of the devices the spies painstakingly transport to the targets they are assigned by their infidel patrons.”

The pictures of the “chips with 9 volt batteries” provided in the book (see photo, above) bear a sharp resemblance to the Phoenix and Pegasus models of infrared flashing beacons made by Cejay Engineering. The devices are used by the U.S. military, among others, to identify friend from foe, mark drop zones, and outline perimeters.

Now, I don’t think these beacons are the big secret thing. But I think the big secret might be something similar to this–a technical toy that would make it easier to conduct drone attacks or the like.

  1. bobschacht says:

    Geez, EW, when do you sleep???

    Or is that a classified secret? *g*

    I have an excuse– here in Hawaii, its only about 10 PM. But in MI its what, 2 AM?

    You’re right to suspect that there’s more to this than meets the eye. But predator drones don’t sound like Cheney’s M.O. to me. The “secret program” has got to have a key human component that Cheney felt he could control. Of course, even if the program originated with Cheney, it may have passed out of his hands, and changed its M.O. more than once since then. So maybe predator drones and the related technologies are what remains of this “secret program.”

    But I recall also that Cheney regarded the Pakistan desk as his own fiefdom, no matter who was Secretary of State. So, say, something that started from Cheney and might have subsequently been connected with “offing” Bhutto might by now have been completely redefined as a predator drone thing. Note that the common element might be local humint regarding targeting. But those are just wild arse guesses.

    Bob in HI

    • regulararmyfool says:

      Say, Bob, you are talking about Cheney, not some intelligent person with morals. All that I have read about this latest scandal seems to believe that it was “overseas.” Now, Cheney would lie, cheat, steal, blackmail and murder anyone in the United States if he got up on the wrong side of the bed. The man is only partially human. He has no morals. We have some secret little program conceived and run by Cheney, we have to dig until we have all of his little pals, then military tribunal, finding of treason and execution. No little legal arguments. You don’t cure rabid dogs.

      • bobschacht says:

        You don’t cure rabid dogs

        Actually, your thinking sounds to me a lot like Cheney’s: no need for any judicial or clinical determination of rabidity; if you think the dog is rabid, that’s good enough reason to kill it, according to that way of thinking.

        I believe that ordinarily, a veterinarian’s determination is needed to kill a dog thought to be rabid. Am I wrong about this?

        IMHO, There should be due process, even for rabid dogs.

        Bob in HI

  2. anatomist says:

    You wonder why she doesn’t already have a chaired professorship in Contempory Authoritarianism or the like (if she wanted)

  3. Waccamaw says:

    I realize this is a very simplistic response on my part but what if there are no high weeds in this story?


    1. The story “broke” in the WSJ.

    2. There is no way that pols would bat an eye at “taking out” al Qaeda operatives regardless of method.

    Smoke and mirrors.

    • Minnesotachuck says:

      2. There is no way that pols would bat an eye at “taking out” al Qaeda operatives regardless of method.

      A couple of points. First, as someone whose daughter’s place of employment on 9/11/01 was One World Trade Center, I have deeply mixed feelings about this whole business. At one level I have no problem with “taking out” those al Qaeda operatives who were directly involved in trying to kill her. What sent me over the edge into unending rage at the Bush administration was when I learned that they had decided not to commit adequate SpecOps and other forces beginning in Afghanistan in late 2001 because they were already planning ahead for Iraq. The result was bin Laden’s escape through Afghan “troops” supposedly closing the neck of the bag at Tora Bora, when it would have taken only a battalion or two of ours to do the job.

      On the other hand when you have a shiny, well-balanced tool in your hand it’s always a temptation to use it where it may be inappropriate and counterproductive. It’s the old everything-looks-like-a nail problem with hammers. As for CIA assassinations supposedly being reined in by the legislation resulting from the Church Committee Hearings, Roland Haas might beg to differ. Check out his book Enter the Past Tense: My Secret Life as a CIA Assassin, or watch this BookTV interview with him a couple of years ago.

      • Waccamaw says:

        Not sure if I was clear on what I meant by that #2….I believe any and all of them (with maybe one or two exceptions) would have condoned any action (legal or illegal) that would have eliminated anyone who might have any connection to al Qaeda. (Lots of “anys” running around loose in that sentence.) Which is why I can’t imagine some of them getting their knickers in a twist at this point in time and calling for investigations into whatever cheeeeeney kept from them. It’s just gotta be something totally different.

    • Rayne says:

      That this “fact” broke in WSJ makes it highly suspect to me.

      WSJ is Cheney’s mouthpiece.

      There’s something else going on here, and it’s wrapped up in more compartmentalization. I could see us spending a lot of time wrapped up in the technical issue, which would be the easiest matter to solve, as compared to the far-muddier human issue. There still appears to be some sort of crossover between CIA and DOD-DIA which could have made chain of command and responsibility very muddy — not to mention how contractors would fit in this mix.

      Need to go back and look at that project Cheney launched inside the GHWBush administration which was ultra-stealthy and uber-secret, because it may be the model for operations just as Iran-Contra under Reagan was the likely model for funding. It was something like the Phoenix Project, but tailored to a different time and target; technology would have been less of an issue than the fact of its existence.

    • Leen says:

      that is what is frightening about so many Americans. International laws, treaties, morality, innocent lives etc do not matter to many folks who hide behind little crosses and stars of David around their necks.

      “we do not count” their lives as valuable and that is a good reason to fear us

  4. bmaz says:

    Now, I don’t think these beacons are the big secret thing. But I think the big secret might be something similar to this–a technical toy that would make it easier to conduct drone attacks or the like.

    Is this what Woodward was blabbing about?

  5. Palli says:

    Could it be as simple as this: the assassination squad murdered Osama bin Ladin early in the program but kept it hush so the war in Iraq could happen with him as boogeyman and al Qaeda as the greatest danger to civilization since sliced bread?

    It seems to be the loss of American lives and the transfer of the contents of the US treasury to neocon corporations needed/needs a big coverup.

  6. Ishmael says:

    And as in many other areas in national security, the Bush policy has been taken up by Obama. From a piece by Stuart Gottlieb, of Yale’s Policy Studies Program, in Foreign Policy recently, on the drone attacks:

    “Since Obama’s swearing-in, the United States has executed dozens of suspected al Qaeda leaders and operatives without court hearings, the presentation of evidence, or the involvement of defense lawyers. These executions, typically carried out by missile strikes from unmanned CIA drone aircraft, have taken place in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Scores of civilians, including many women and children, have reportedly been killed or maimed in the strikes.”


  7. tjbs says:

    Remember an entity: off the shelf,quickly deployed and beyond oversight from Iran/ Contra Ollie North mouth?
    Could this be a blending of intelligence from the CIA w/ contractors ,such as blackwater, to do the killing.
    They would have cover to fly in ,hit ,fly out in a matter of hours.
    Is this the records cheney burned or shredded?

  8. Mauimom says:

    Okay, the WaPo explains that it’s not the assassinations themselves, it’s technical capability to make assassinations easier.

    Marcy, how reliable is anything one sees in the WaPoo? [I ask seriously.]

    • Mary says:

      it’s technical capability to make assassinations easier

      One thing something like that would make you wonder about is whether they have found something exploitable in communications technology (cellF, satF, etc.) other than using it as a homing beacon. ? I’m lo tech, so maybe that’s flight of fancy territory.

      • bmaz says:

        I have no reason to believe it is the thing that spooked Panetta, but that is exactly why I asked early in the thread, after EW talked about tech capability, if it might be related to the “super secret weapon” Bob Woodward was blabbering about late last year. See also this Wired piece.

        • tryggth says:

          I’ve been looking at this possibility for the last couple of days. If you look at the slide deck referenced in the Wired piece you will see a slide that mentions nantech being a few years out. Then if you google “pollen” and “titanium dioxide” you learn “maybe not so much”.

        • Rayne says:

          I couldn’t help but think of that interview with Woodward as a big piece of hype, a kind of propaganda psyop designed to tell both al-Maliki that he was “touchable,” and to tell AQ and collaborators they were touchable, too.

          I’d believe there was a version of the Phoenix Project in Baghdad which may have contributed to the reduced violence against troops by taking out key insurgents and AQ contacts — but it happened BEFORE Petraeus was installed as commander of the Multinational Force in Iraq (Jan 2007), while John Negroponte was still DNI (through Feb 2007). One might wonder whether such an Iraq-based project was also “contemplated” elsewhere…

        • Valley Girl says:

          bmaz- thanks for that link to the wired piece, which MAY well connect the dots in an important way. You and Marcy need to get someone to evaluate this who is a real molecular biologist, or physical chemist… etc. (I’m a biologist, but don’t have molecular expertise, but just looking at the Wired info really gobsmacked me, because it’s not far off being doable.)

          And, no “assassination” squads, but continuing research and realization of really sophisticated ways to create “tracking devices” of an extraordinary nature biological/ chemical nature, plus ways to administer those devices and design them so that they transmit some kind of detectable signal, possibly via an ordinary external source of power (like 50 Hz or 60 Hz wiring).

          These are some relevant snippets from Marcy’s WaPo link, that totally mesh (to me) with the Wired piece you linked, bmaz:

          the secrecy surrounding a little-understood electronic surveillance program that operated without court approval,

          CIA Director Leon E. Panetta informed Congress about the covert program — the nature of which has never been publicly revealed — in two classified briefings last month. He said he had only recently learned of the nearly eight-year-old program, and he said that past CIA managers had kept details from Congress at Cheney’s request.

          technically oriented intelligence-collection effort unrelated to terrorism suspects or the terrorist-surveillance program that came to light in 2005

          I think that focusing on the “electronic” part of the “electronic surveillance program” leaves out other really important aspects. Electronic surveillance automatically brings to mind the kind of transmitters we would ordinarily imagine- cell phones or possibly more sophisticated implantable microchips. But, for my money, the part that is most important is the development of the transmitting devices themselves- and then, second, how to “implant” them.

          As I said I looked at the Wired Piece- and was gobsmacked. The basic scientific knowledge is THERE, to create the devices conjectured in that Wired article. Kinda like the creation of the atom bomb in the sense that all the scientific info is there- the challenge is realizing the outcome. So, that, from my humble scientist’s take is the analogy (albeit a rough one) rather than “planes and tanks”.

          I hope that this is at least semi- clear- I am a bit bowled over! Oh, and somewhat different than the atom bomb because there are more bits and pieces- but a lot of the core elements of the ideas in the Wired piece rely on technology that was developed way before 2001 (and expanded since), and is used widely in basic biological research.

          edit- To make it absolutely clear, above I am talking about the Wired link you gave bmaz, not the one Marcy linked in her post.

        • robspierre says:

          I’m always sceptical about wondrous technology. Remember stealth? The gee-whiz talk is always about justifying budgets. Once someone buys the widget, it turns out to do a lot less than expected. Facial- and voice-recognition technologies strike me as just this sort of hype. The problems involved are huge. Yet the Pentagon has been saying facial recognition is just around the corner for roughly as long as I have been alive. Ask yourself, how likely is it that machines are going to recognize faces reliably when they can’t yet distinguish between a road, a car, and a sidwalk well enough to drive a car to the mall?

          The real danger that I see from this stuff is the belief that these technologies work. We could have a terrorist no-fly list situation on a much larger and siller/scarier scale (I’m on the no-fly list because my name is one of the three or four most common in the United States). Already, people have an irrational belief in the accuracy of eye-witness testimony, even though it is notoriously unreliable. Once we combine eye-witnessing with “infallible” secret technology, we will be locking up or assassinating people right and left with no way to disprove the premises that justify the acts. As with electronic voting, once something like this gets established, it can be next to impossible to dislodge it.

        • Valley Girl says:

          robspierre- quick comment, but I’ll check back.

          You raise a really important point- (everyone, read his comment above)

          Sorry, my response below is not terribly well thought out- I’m running out the door, but I’ll check back, and try to compose a more coherent response.

          So, adding to what you said above (thanks) perhaps what was shocking was not the fact that “we can now do these things” but the overall intent and extent of the program. And, as you say, in your manifold examples, the technology really doesn’t work as intended, but people still buy into the idea that it WILL work. (That said, it is “doable”, but you are exactly right – I’ve personally had to come to grips with the awfulness of voice recognition technology).

          Again, great point! I’ll check back.

        • Valley Girl says:

          oh, p.s. I just thought of a Lawrence Krauss presentation that I watched on C-Span a year plus ago- about the Strategic Missile Defense program. “Star Wars”. He really took it apart- technology that won’t work! (It was just one part of a lecture to AEI) I wish I could find how to link it, because it makes your point (and my point in #147) to the max- that it doesn’t actually have to work to get govt $$$.

        • Rayne says:

          The technology may be in the range of capability, but quality assurance is not. How can you be absolutely certain you have the right person 100% of the time wrt to thermal fingerprinting?

          You can’t; this use of technology would only go ahead if the deploying party/ies didn’t give a rat’s butt as to accuracy. The chances of discovery are pretty good after a certain number of uses, too.

          Whatever this was, it was a lot closer to deployment, enough that it freaked out Panetta (because it probably was used). I’d subscribe to use of implanted chips before the fingerprinting.

        • Valley Girl says:

          Hi Rayne- hope you read my 145 comment above. I was so het up I didn’t give the info that got me really upset. It’s in the .pdf. For some reason, I couldn’t get the “here’s” to show up in bold- so I ended up putting it in caps. Go to the link to the wired article, and then click on the .pdf. Hopefully after you read that, what I said will make more sense. “Thermal fingerprinting” was just a “test example”, and not what I meant to be talking about.

          Again, my bad!

        • Rayne says:

          The subdermal implant is the only thing which would have been possible any time over the last 8 years with any degree of accuracy and consistency.

          The rest are still very much in development, like nanotech “tagging.” We’re not even close to simple nano meds at scale yet.

          Have done some competitive intel in these areas for futurists within the last 5 years, so I’m familiar with most of these items profiled. The time line in the doc is also a bit accelerated, must have some drag when it meets with reality.

          Keep in mind that any technology deployed must be completely invisible, undetectable, or it tells others how far along we are and tips them off to countermeasures quite rapidly. Unless a target is completely neutralized, disclosure is likely, breaching the cover of the op.

          There’s also a need for HUMINT with deployment of each of the most likely tools, adding to the complexity of the situation — and increasing my skepticism.

        • Valley Girl says:

          UH OH! Important update!!!

          In my long comment above, I now realize that I left out REALLY important information- when I said I read the Wired article bmaz linked,
          and then went on a tear, it was b/c of the pdf that was linked in the article.

          The link is in this sentence- it’s a pdf-
          I believe he is talking about the much ballyhooed (in defense geek circles) “Tagging, Tracking and Locating” program; HERE’s a briefing on it from Special Operations Command.

          I have no idea how to do a pdf link- just go to the article, and click on what I bolded above.

          Ouch, my bad.

        • tryggth says:

          VG, I found that Special Ops slide presentation interesting also. Notice that on the last slide there is a “prediction” about when micro and nano scale tags could become available. 12 months for micro. That really isn’t a long time.

          The presentation is from 2007 and just about a year later we have word of this.

          “The tags primarily consist of naturally occurring pollen, a substance that evolution has provided with extraordinary adhesive properties,” said Prof Paul Sermon from the University of Surrey, who led the research. “It has been given a unique chemical signature by coating it with titanium oxide, zirconia [zirconium dioxide], silica or a mixture of other oxides. The precise composition of this coating can be varied subtly from one batch of cartridges to another, enabling a firm connection to be made between a particular fired cartridge and its user.”

          According to the UK Home Office, there were 18,489 crimes involving firearms in England and Wales in 2006-7. But DNA profiling using skin cells or other biological material stuck to gun cartridges is only successful in about 10% of cases. DNA is damaged by the heat produced when the bullet is fired and also by copper released from the cartridge case by mildly acidic sweat.

          If all ammunition were marked with pollen tags, they could help police find out when and where a bullet had been bought. The nanotags are also difficult to remove from clothes and hands, so it would be possible to prove that a suspect had handled a particular batch of ammunition.[my emphasis]

          Of course what you want is something perhaps more “transitive” where the tags can move by association – either proximity or direct contact. Sticky is good. Too sticky not so much. Building those association networks is the key. Tag someone or something and try to find someone (once or twice removed) they have been associated with. I guess that might be the theory.

          Technological tracking isn’t new of course. During the Vietnam war we apparently were bombing buckets of urine occasionally. But that wasn’t particularly “transitive”.

          Now let me turn the Telsa knob thingy on my tin-foil hat up to 11.

          I’ve been in one of these puffer machines at the SF airport. There is a whole shitload of things these puppies can detect if programmed right. They use “Ion Mobility Spectrometry” They might even be able to tell if you have lung cancer. Anyway… here is the thing about getting asked to step into one of these at SFO: I notice that only something like 1 in 6 or 1 in 10 passengers were being asked to have air blown up their shirts. Now think about that. Ostensibly they are looking for someone with explosives or who has been recently handling explosives. But either they didn’t believe in the system enough to actually screen everyone or they are just counting on getting pretty damn lucky. Afterwards I thought “man, someone sure sold these people a lot of expensive and operationally useless crap.”

          But maybe there was a different use for these sorts of things…

        • Rayne says:

          The nano stuff can be very sensitive to handle, especially if there’s the possibility it sticks/drifts because of static charge. I tend to think this is not a good use for this technology — unless you can persuade someone to use a pharmaceutical patch laced with the stuff which might both stick more firmly and move transdermally.

          Re: the sniffers — there have been cases where they detected radioactive particles which are completely benign, causing real traffic snarls in airports. They became more commonly used after the Po-210 poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.

      • bobschacht says:

        On the “homing beacon” theory–

        Remember that it is not necessary for an AQ agent to use a cell phone. All that is needed is for an agent on the ground to hide a live phone in the right place, at the right time, and then vamoose while signaling that the target is “ripe.”

        Bob in HI

  9. Leen says:

    “The initiative hadn’t become fully operational at the time Mr. Panetta ended it.”

    If they did not even tell Panetta (congress) that this program existed why would anyone believe that it was not operational?

    “Hadn’t become fully operational” leaves lots of room for plenty of illegal activities to go on

  10. emptywheel says:


    Make no mistake–Siobhan Gorman is one of the best intelligence reporters in the business, notwithstanding her employer (she used to work at the Baltimore SUn and consistently break big stories, particular on NSA-related programs).

    • Waccamaw says:

      Ah, there’s the hidden piece of the puzzle I needed….if you say Gorman is creditable, that explains why you are looking through the weeds. My bad. I saw WJS as the source and immediately questioned it without knowing the reputation of the author. If there’s nothing else I’ve learned at the Lake in past years it’s to question the author(s) and the publisher. *g*

    • MadDog says:

      I totally agree with you regarding Siobhan Gorman’s cred, but I do have to say that stuff just doesn’t smell right with this whole story as you yourself acknowledge.

      The “on again, off again” part of the storyline originally put out.

      The “never reached operational threshold” part of the storyline originally put out.

      The part of the storyline about “training”.

      The story fed to WSJ’s Siobhan Gorman that the program is about just “assassinating al-Qaeda folks”.

      All of these in combination just don’t make sense given what has taken place for the last 8 years.

      The operational targeted assassinations of al-Qaeda folks have been going on since almost day one after 9/11 and continues up to this day.

      Yes, the “technical means” stuff reported in the Wired story can be added to the mix, but so what?

      It doesn’t seem to be a likely rationale for hiding the nature of this wetwork program.

      Based on all that has been taking place since 9/11, the story told to Siobhan Gorman seems all too conveniently like disinformation.

      Targets that conveniently fit the public’s idea of real enemies so nobody will much care if they get taken out.

      I can’t help thinking that this story just plain doesn’t hang together, but that it’s simplistic enough to get accepted by TradMed, and therefore the public.

      And I think you agree EW, that you’re still bothered by an itch you can’t seem to scratch.

  11. nolo says:

    Not to take away from the estimable gravitas of this entire subject, but since (I think) I was the first to point to the WSJ story, here, last night — I went ahead and made a graphic or two, over on mine, about it all. I’d say that I’m being entirely too-glib, in comparing it to a movie trilogy — except that it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that these movies actually were part of Cheney’s inspiration — once he really got rolling with the “assassination squads” idea — he is just that banal.

    To be clear, though, as I said last night — I agree with EW, that there is something “more” here. And the something more likely can’t be Executive Order-ed, post-hoc, pixie-dusted — away.

    Here’s to hopin‘ — and “hope is a good thing. Perhaps the best of all things. . .”


  12. emptywheel says:


    Joby Warrick is a good reporter. So I’ll take what he says, even if it’s from the WaPo. And thankfully, he wasn’t paired with Paul Kane, who has been inane of late.

  13. Leen says:

    “to identify friend from foe,”

    Has to be very difficult for the people in Afghanistan and Pakistan to believe what President Obama said in his Cairo speech that he came bringing a “greeting of Peace” from the American people. Especially when that greeting comes in the shape and destructive power of drones instead of doves. How many innocent people have been killed as a “greeting of peace” by U.S. drones…..95712.html
    ‘US drone’ hits Pakistan funeral…..575883.ece

    But the whole world knows American lives are “priceless” But Pakistani, Iraqi, Afghani lives…no one is counting

  14. nolo says:

    EW — if I was paranoid, I’d suspect that someone over at “The Beeb” (BBC), just stole this post of yours, added a few pull-quotes [for broader political themes], deleted two others, and then ran it — as the BBC’s take on it all, this morning.

    Nice. [I think, as it is intended as flattery — that they essentially screen-hacked yours.]


  15. emptywheel says:


    Yup–but it goes both ways, you get to rely on a reporter’s reputation in spite of her employer, and Siobhan Gorman has totally earned hers.

  16. TarheelDem says:

    The only thing in this that I see as causing Congressional concern is operations in Iran that they were not informed about, and which might have been continuing unnoticed during the past six months of the Obama administration. Rumors about operations are one thing; knowledge of the extent might be another.

    As for technological guidance of drones to terrorist leadership targets, it is possible to locate cell phones and satellite phones by signatures if you know what signature you are looking for. But it seems to me that one would have better locational data than we appear to be having if that was the case.

    If it’s infrared beacons, they would depend on the placement by human beings, which might explain some of the more blatant drone attack errors.

    My sense is that what Congress did not know was that there was a program that was continued despite its blatant failures because someone in command insisted that it was useful. And once out of sight, it was out of mind until someone said something random to Leon Panetta who replied “What?!”

    • emptywheel says:


      Just to clarify–I don’t think it’s the beacons. But I think they’re useful as an example of technology that helps the assassination squads carry out their work. And the problem of human implementation here is important, I think–I think something that is as easily abused as that may be one element.

      • esseff44 says:

        I was just reading about ‘roving bugs.’ Almost any cell phone can be turned on remotely and the microphone transmit nearby conversations to a listening post. It was questionable for use domestically without FISA, but there would be no restrictions on use outside US.

        • esseff44 says:

          Here’s a link to the article. This was news to me. You may take the battery out of your cell phone, but as long as there is a cell phone anywhere nearby, your conversation could be transmitted to a listening post. Think of the possibilities to be the proverbial fly on the wall.

        • TheraP says:

          Thanks for the link. I’ve passed it along to my email list. Along with a link to this thread.

          I’m still wondering if there’s a connection between that capability and a bomb going off… anywhere. All you’d need would be a dignitary at the kind of meeting where people would turn off cell phones. And … bam!

        • alank says:

          That’s interesting. I had suggested decades ago this might be done with landline POTS, but was advised by sibling at Bell Labs that it was impossible.

    • robspierre says:

      The Hellfire missiles that have been shown in photographs of armed Predator and Reaper drones use semi-active laser guidance. An airborne illuminating laser on the drone itself, on another drone or aircraft, or in a handheld unit aimed by a footsoldier lights up the target. The missile seeker then homes in on the reflections. The laser can be encoded so that different missiles can home on different targets simultaneously.

      The Israeli Spike missile might be a plausible alternate payload. It uses a camera connected to the launch aircraft by a fiber-optic cable. I don’t know if they have ever been launched from a drone or if there would be any advantage to doing so. When launched from a helicopter or the ground, the Spike approach lets the operator see the target and steer the missile from the missile’s vantage point. In theory, this could reduce targeting errors, although you have to wonder about reaction times, restricted field of view, and closing rates.

      None of these requires a beacon for guidance per se. IF operatives were available, I imagine that the beacon would be used at most for telling the drone operator which house he should lase. The ground-based operative would have the advantage of knowing which house was which–something that is probably a non-trivial task when you are flying from a continent away and viewing via a camera mounted on a model airplane in bumpy air.

      Cell phones seem like an unlikely targeting aid to me. If you have access to someone’s SIM chip, you have access to the phone, You’d do better to put the bomb inside, call him, and blow him up when he answered, as Israel used to do. However, after the Church Commission revealed the CIA’s interest in poison wetsuits and dipilatory-filled shoes, anything is possible.

  17. Leen says:

    “Nevertheless, you’d think that if Congress saw this going on with regards to Iran,”

    No need to wonder why Iran does not trust the U.S.? Overthrow a Democratically elected President who nationalized Iran’s oil revenues, install the Shah, sell weapons and military technology to Saddam, insert U.s. and Israeli special forces on the ground in Iran, endlessly repeat unsubstantiated claims about Iran’s nuclear program, go along with Israel’s push for more sanctions against Iran .

    Why would Iran question the words or intentions of the U.S.? “g”

  18. JohnnyTable70 says:

    Regardless of the outrage in the blogosphere over yet another revelation of illegal activity by the Bush Junta, the public will not get drawn into the minutiae over the process of authorizing assassinations. This will be spun as prima facie evidence (IMO clearly it is not) that the Bush Junta was willing to do anything to stop a terrorist attack.

    While this adds to the overall picture, I can’t see this specific revelation getting any traction whatsoever.

    • Leen says:

      Margaret Mead
      “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

      “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

      “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.”
      Millions of Americans marched against the invasion of Iraq and the Bush administation’s crimes.(not that the MSM covered those protest, you have to be protesting in Iraq to get that their attention) 35 million people protested that illegal invasion of Iraq…world wide.(the MSM did not cover these protest either)

      Reasons enough to have hope

  19. Leen says:

    Juan Cole has a few things to say about the “assassination” teams

    The problem with assassination teams is that they are extra-judicial. They are killing people who have not been proven to have done anything wrong. The long litany of mistakes that security organizations have made in recent years, targeting innocents, should form a legion of cautionary tales about just killing people. Maher Arar, for instance, might as well have simply been shot down like a dog as shackled and sent for torture by the Baath Party in Damascus. He was innocent. Murat Kurnaz might have as easily had two bullets put behind his right ear as to have been arrested and sent for “interrogation” to Guantanamo (this is the link for his book). Then there was that little Khaled el-Masri ‘oops’ moment, which would have been even more embarrassing to the US government if he had been shot between the eyes by a US government sniper. I could go on and on (the majority of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay now appears to have been clueless innocents, and Bush-Cheney appears to have wanted to sentence them to life imprisonment without a trial; they could have as easily just been shot on sight).

  20. Rayne says:

    WRT (21), I’ll add my caveat that even a reporter of excellent caliber can have their work shaped substantially by editors.

    WRT to the secret program: Based on poking around in the executive orders, I’ll theorize that whatever this was could have been a result of the work under NSPD-5, the text of which is not available. The description at reads,

    NSPD-5: Review of U.S. Intelligence
    May 9, 2001
    [Text Not Available]

    On May 9, 2001 President Bush issued National Security Presidential Directive 5 which calls for a comprehensive review of U.S. intelligence.

    The review is intended to “ensure that U.S. intelligence capabilities are honed to serve us on a wide range of critical challenges that face us now and in the future.”

    The review is to be conducted by two panels named by DCI George Tenet. One panel will be comprised of selected governmental officials. The second panel, to be named by Tenet in conjunction with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, will be composed of nongovernmental experts.

    The review has “a broad mandate to challenge the status quo and explore new and innovative techniques, systems, practices and processes” for foreign intelligence, according to a White House press statement.

    The panels were to report to the President in summer 2001.

    (to be continued)

  21. Rayne says:


    Rumsfeld testified before the 9/11 Commission:

    A more comprehensive approach required a review not only of U.S. counter-terrorism policy, but also U.S. policies with regard to other countries, some of which had not previously been at the center of U.S. policy. It was a big task. Dr. Rice has stated she asked the National Security Council staff in her first week in office for a new Presidential initiative on al-Qaeda. The staff conducted an overall review of al-Qaeda policy. In early March, the staff was directed to craft a more aggressive strategy aimed at eliminating the al-Qaeda threat. The first draft of that new strategy, in the form of a Presidential directive, was circulated by the NSC staff on June 7, 2001 and I am told some five more meetings were held that summer at the Deputy Secretary level to address the policy questions involved, such as relating an aggressive strategy against the Taliban to U.S.-Pakistan relations. By the first week of September, this process had arrived at a strategy that was presented to Principals and later became National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD)-9.

    The objectives of the new strategy were:
    • To eliminate the al-Qaeda network;
    • To use all elements of national power to do so — diplomatic, military, economic, intelligence, information and law enforcement;
    • To eliminate sanctuaries for al-Qaeda and related terrorist networks – and if diplomatic efforts to do so failed, to consider additional measures.

    The essence of this strategy was contained in NSPD-9. It was the first major substantive national security decision directive issued by this Administration. It was presented for decision by principals on September 4, 2001 – 7 days before September 11th. The directive was signed by the President, with minor changes, and a preamble to reflect the events of 9/11, on October 25, 2001.

    Emphasis mine. (to be continued)

  22. Muzzy says:


    Former intelligence officials said the program was aimed at enhancing the agency’s ability to carry out the goals of the directive.

    I wonder if this relates to ‘chain of command’ issues in authirizing assassinations. Wouldn’t it “enhance the goals of the directive” if Cheney didn’t have to wait for anyone else’s approval ?

    I also haven’t seen anywhere a specific statement suggesting that assassinations were limited to al Qaeda.

  23. al75 says:

    In the “1% Solution” Ron Suskind alleges that W./Cheney targetted the Bagdhad al Jezerra office with a smart bomb as their way of filing an editorial complaint – killing several AJ staff.

    I’ve never heard anyone comment on this – which is an act of murder, if the report is true.

    But I’ve wondered since – how would a secret order to snuff some journalists go into effect? Who would issue the military order to target such-and-such a site, presumably overriding the normal military control of air strikes, etc.

    I wonder we might be seeing an answer to the question here – some kind of special means of harnessing military firepower to personal kill orders coming out of the White House – or, more accurately, Cheney’s office.

  24. bobschacht says:

    Rayne @ 27
    This is the first I’ve heard that the Bush Admin was the least bit interested in Al Qaeda before 9/11. Are you sure this report is authentic? Has it been corroborated by any other sources? You cite but don’t provide the actual link.

    If Rumsfeld gave this testimony, it should be available elsewhere.

    Bob in HI

    • Rayne says:

      Bob — Rumsfeld’s testimony was published as part of the 9/11 Commission’s report. The site I’d link to as I did last night in an earlier thread, but I’m having problems with posting the last part of my 3-of-3 comment at the moment, am wondering if there’s a problem with the coding for links.

      More in a bit.

      Edit: I’ll try to add the last here, tack it on –

      Contd (3/3): Add the text of the AUMF and the POTUS had enough pixie dust:

      Under Article II of the Constitution, including in his capacity as Commander in Chief, the President has the responsibility to protect the Nation from further attacks, and the Constitution gives him all necessary authority to fulfill that duty, a point Congress recognized in the preamble to the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (”AUMF”) of September 18, 2001, 115 Stat. 224 (2001): “[T]he President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States.”

      Emphasis mine.

      Somebody in the DOJ already looked at the surveillance angle as well, issuing what looks like a concurrence well after the fact (wish I could remember how I found this bit.)

      The effort is being labeled as some sort of technical component of surveillance, with the DOJ’s bit placing more emphasis on early warning. This sounds quite innocuous, and perhaps this is why the flags didn’t get run up earlier; perhaps the real problem is that the product wasn’t used as an early warning system, but a method for assassins to find their mark.

      (Or a method up to and including assassination to make a political party look good, funded by taxpayer dollars. See, c. Aug. 2004.) //end

  25. TheraP says:

    EW, I think your post/your thinking on this gets at the fact that the cheney/bush cabal maybe never did “lay out” in a paper trail all the ramifications of their dastardly goals and methods. They just laid down some “directions” – then covered their tracks with EO’s and legalization fictions. It’s the banality of evil. Setting out a few apparently fuzzy guidelines and cliches (like “wanted: dead or alive” or like providing troops with hoods to put on detainees) and then letting one thing lead to another – so that each step led inexorably to the next step being easier… since you’d already come that far. Once you get people to accept an assumption (like “every target is ipso facto a bad guy), and then you use a cliche like wanted dead or alive and you even make up packs of cards (Makes you wonder if there were other packs, doesn’t it?)….. Well, I just see them as “starting” these programs (whether the hidden ones or the sort of known ones) and letting the “official” version seem to wander further and further afield. Like giving guns to kids. And leaving ammunition where they can find it. And maybe some comic books that point out who the bad guys might be. With pointers for what the bad guys might be capable of… (so the kids could retrofit those things.. the next time they “play the game”) And so on…

    I’m not suggesting they had no “intentions” – but I am just suggesting that they provided the latitude and the pointers…. which allowed for so much abuse, so many crimes, without writing it all down. Though they “seemed” to be writing things down.

    Not to forget about the assumptions that the prez and the real-prez are above the law etc. Or the assumption that your “oath to the Constitution” is really an oath to the president. And on and on… Each step taking a person further and further into the quicksand – with no thought to the minefield they’ve laid in the Constitution and the the Rule of Law.

    That’s where I think this post – and many of your posts – points. At least to me…

    I hope that makes sense to somebody.

  26. Leen says:

    Leahy describing the “equal justice under the law” well…not Valerie Plame Wilson. Why the hell did the Supreme Court say no to Valerie?

    Wrong thread sorry Oops tried to cancel

  27. ezdidit says:

    Domestic assassination squads…under orders from the Vice President…hmmm: sounds like Honduras, North Korea or…the United States. What a disproportionate response. Typical.

  28. 1970cs says:

    This attack on Somalia in 2008 was widely reported, yet it was still clearly the use of the U.S. military on a sovereign nation that we are not at war with. The article staes it was the 4th time this had happened. Did this slip through the filter?…..lia/72267/

    • Rayne says:

      See my comment (35) re: AUMF. I think the POTUS was using wide latitude wrt “War on Terror” and the power of the presidency during war.

      • 1970cs says:

        : “[T]he President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States.”

        I agree, the key word would be prevent. That would cover just about anything.

  29. joanneleon says:

    A few thoughts and speculations:

    – Like TarheelDem, when cell phones were mentioned, I wondered why infrared beacons were needed when my own cell phone can pinpoint my GPS location and get traffic information for me.

    – I also wonder if contractors like Blackwater may have been involved in this program.

    – Whenever someone says the purpose of a program is Al Qaeda operatives I immediately assume that’s a cover for much broader capabilities, just like the “wiretaps” supposedly used for communications with terrorists abroad that happens to scoop up and store domestic communications.

    – What would cause Congress and someone like Rush Holt to be so upset about this program? Well, what caused them to be so upset about the “warrantless wiretapping”? I think the answer to that was the domestic end of it and the potential or real abuse of it. So, what about those terrorist cells that we’re told exist in the U.S.? Would Cheney’s program be used for such things? Not the drones in this case but perhaps the assassins?

    – Where else in the world might this program be used?

    – One more random thought: I can’t help but wonder if this little private army Cheney built for him himself (and Rummy?) is what preoccupied him for years during his tenure and what caused him to morph into a person that his friends no longer recognize. Is this what he was doing for all those years when we never saw him? Was it just Cheney or was it Cheney and Rumsfeld and perhaps other close neocon friends? If so, it’s no wonder that the war in Iraq and Afghanistan was so mismanaged is it? In Cheney’s mind, which war was more important, the one being waged by a small group in an undisclosed location or the one our kids were being sent to fight?

    • emptywheel says:

      I actually think the beacons may be a more recent innovation due to the fact that you can disable GPS by taking the battery out of the phone until you use it. Plus, AQ is reportedly using phones less and less. Also, remember that for a while the Taliban was bombing out cell towers. So you still need a way to target even if the cell targeting fails.

      • alank says:

        Beacons are used with differential GPS to increase accuracy of location as well as guide commercial airlines.

        • Leen says:

          so much for “accuracy”

          Published on Sunday, April 5, 2009 by The Sunday Times (UK)
          Thousands Flee Bomb Attacks by US Drones

          by Daud Khattakin and Christina Lamb

          AMERICAN drone attacks on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan are causing a massive humanitarian emergency, Pakistani officials claimed after a new attack yesterday killed 13 people

          Anyone see much coverage of the hundreds of thousands who have fled these areas as Americans bring a”greeting of peace”. You know coverage between the 24/7 coverage of the Iranian protesters, Micheal Jackson and Sarah Palin dropping out?

        • alank says:

          As the late Douglas Adams had observed, technology is something that doesn’t work. If only it worked as well as it did in Woody Allen’s Sleeper.

      • Rayne says:

        Cell phone technology changed over the last eight years; believe that cell phones are now traceable even though the batteries have been removed, may be a feature tied to the SIM card, am looking now for info on this. Also makes a difference on the transmission technology (CDMA vs. TDMA, for example).

        I’ve been wondering if the undersea telecom cable cuts were part of this initiative; persons unaware that their service had been affected by the cuts may have taken their phones in for service, possibly getting a new SIM card in the process.

        Perhaps the Afghanis’ proposed bombing of the towers was in response to this new capability in tracing phones…

        • yellowsnapdragon says:

          I’ve been wondering if the undersea telecom cable cuts were part of this initiative

          Hmmm. Interesting thought. There’s something about that incident that stands out.

        • wohjr says:

          Don’t forget there were also mysterious cuts in the SF area a few months back. I’m with the above comments, there is something above and beyond tracking people through SIM cards here

      • joanneleon says:

        EW, great points about the methods devised without relying on cell technology. But I wasn’t necessarily thinking about Afghanistan and that region.

        Watching Rush Holt on MSNBC last week, I got an impression that he wasn’t just concerned about our current battle theaters. He talked about our national security and said something like “people could get hurt.” As far as I know, Holt is not a guy to throw around the “national security” term lightly, and when he talked about people getting hurt, well that’s a given in a war, no? But how about in other places, including the U.S.?

        Again, I emphasize that these were my own impressions.

        Lastly, the fact that you are thinking the current kerfuffle is related to technological capabilities and the fact that Holt is a rocket scientist, for real, is interesting. How many people in Congress have any real clue about high tech?

        • TheraP says:

          Makes you wonder…. If cell phones can be turned on (or commandeered) remotely and if cell phones can be used to set off bombs, then potentially you’re talking about all kinds of mayhem and assassinations. I hope to god I’m off base here. But I fear I’m following along to the utter depravity of how this might work.

      • radish says:

        I actually think the beacons may be a more recent innovation due to the fact that you can disable GPS by taking the battery out of the phone until you use it.

        I don’t think this particular secret program would have anything to do with better tech. Even commercially available beacons/RFIDs/lasers are plenty good enough for tagging people discreetly from a distance once you’ve identified them. If it were just better tech there wouldn’t be any need to hide it from Congress. Plus between them the US and Israel are already absolute undisputed masters of the comint/elint universe. Nor would it be necessary to hide assassination of suspected baddies, which is something we do all the time.

        So without any disrespect to Gorman, it seems pretty clear that this article needs to be treated as either a “limited hangout” or a “shiny object” or both. Whatever it was that gave Panetta and others the screaming meemies, it wasn’t just a vanilla hit squad, and it wasn’t just a fancy new toy.

        My money is on one of the Seriously Crazy options. Either a “Reichstag Fires” unit, or else a program to kill people who weren’t armed hostiles but who were troublesome/meddlesome in some other way. Which could mean anybody from pivotals like David Kelly and Bruce Ivins (if you prefer your tinfoil thick and shiny), to unfriendly foreign (surely not domestic — they would never do that!) journalists and pols (if you prefer your evil banal and predictable).

        Anything less and the Village wouldn’t bother telling the newspapers.

  30. Mary says:

    I haven’t been able to read enough of this to even have much spec, but I’ll toss a couple of general concepts out.

    First, wasn’t there some discussion about this program being an overlap between intelligence gathering and covert action?

    Second, it is one thing to talk about assassination in the context of a drone attack; although the “outcome” may be the same it is a very different thing to talk about a situation where you capture someone, enhancedly intorturgate them for a period of time, then dispose of them by killing. IOW, to kill someone in an attack vs taking them into custody of some kind (military or law enforcement or CIA ) and keeping them for a bit, then avoiding your GITMO, Bagram, el-Masri types of problems and just killing them.

    Third, if you are going to do 2, take someone alive, it’s likely you are going to take more than that “someone” including wives, children, the pizza delivery guy, etc. Or maybe you even take them first to get the guy you want. In any event, do you assassinate witnesses as well?

    I think the possiblity that they were talking about assassinations of those already reduced to custody, after torture interrogations, to avoid their el-Masri, al-Libi, Zubaydah etc. problems, might be on the table. Maybe even some plans for a “release to assassination” plan for the currently unconvictable. There apparently was enough talk about permanently disappearing el-Masri after that screw up was known that the hints of it made it into Priest’s reporting.

    • Knut says:

      I think it is quite plausible that they deliberately murdered some inconvenient witnesses, including women and children. But it is hard to see CIA doing this. Blackwater, yes. But how could the CIA sign on to that kind of subcontracting? Panetta shut it down, so in some manner Tenet signed on. But what did he sign on to?

  31. Mary says:

    OT – but I guess a NYT headline will do what human rights groups pleas won’t.

    Now that Dostum has been given lots of time to destroy evidence and has lost his gloss as a political ally, Obama might take a look at what happened with the shipping container killings.

    Barack Obama told CNN he had told officials to “collect the facts for me” and could order a full inquiry.

    Dostum was on CIA’s payroll when the killings were taking place.

  32. behindthefall says:

    What gets me is that Panetta acted as though the fear of God had been roused in him. Targeting AQ, even if done by the CIA instead of some shadowy military group, would not seem to be the magnitude of issue that, if it became known, would put his agency at serious risk, Congressional notification or no Congressional notification. It’s just my uninformed reaction that it has to have been something worse.

    Targeting allies, on the other hand, European allies who traditionally go along with the U.S. but now might be unsupportive, in particular, is the kind of thing that would send Panetta screaming out into the streets in his nightclothes. That would be serious, un-fixable political poison. Let’s hope I’m completely wrong and that gadgets and technology and AQ are indeed the cause and not a cover story.

    • esseff44 says:

      I was thinking that too. What would cause Panetta to come running to the Intel committees with ‘his hair on fire’ as soon as he found out. It has to be more than taking out AQ operatives or planning activities for that goal. That would be met with a yawn and not demands for hearings.

  33. acquarius74 says:

    Is the technology that causes small planes to nose-dive into the ground limited to aerial vehicles? Can it take over the control of automobiles, causing collisions or ‘over-the-cliff’ types of “accidents”?

    Cheney’s ‘enemy’ is not synonymous with our country’s enemy. IMO.

  34. yellowsnapdragon says:

    My bet is that the big secret isn’t an assasination ring, but a coup ring that uses assassination as a tool for toppling “unfriendly” governments. Heh. I bet the Bush people screwed that up as badly as everything else they touched.

    Now why does all this remind me of the research EW has done on Bandar Bush/British Spies and coups in–where was it, Guinea?

  35. johnhkennedy says:

    “In Cheney’s mind, which war was more important, the one being waged by a small group in an undisclosed location or the one our kids were being sent to fight?”

    The only way we will ever find out is to have subpeonas and testimony under oath in public hearings.

    Push them to do it.


    Demanding both a
    Commission of Inquiry
    and a Special Prosecutor at ANGRYVOTERS.ORG


    Forward this url to your friends
    We can’t let them bury these crimes.

    Over 250,000 signers so far
    Join them and call yourself a patriot

  36. orionATL says:


    from memory.

    within the last year or two.

    in the press.

    an american military official (admiral/general – don’t remember his name) was quoted as saying :

    “for god’s sake at least kill the right people.”

    i’m not sure if it was afghanistan or iraq or both he was referring to or if this is relevant.

  37. acquarius74 says:

    Something that existed in mid-2001; technology that identifies, locates, and targets — like the collars put on wild animals and sea creatures to study their roaming territory or to dart them in order to study their health, etc..

  38. gosprey says:

    Second MadDog @45 and behingthefall @51. There certainly seems to be lots of shiny-object chaff flying about.

    And whoever is keeping Dick’s Hit List, don’t forget the DC Madam.

    Fantastic job, Marcy. Keep pulling on that thread.

  39. orionATL says:

    army times

    june 26, 2007

    [ Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld turned special operations forces into a “giant killing machine,” said Douglas Macgregor, a former Army colonel and frequent critic of the Defense Department.

    Now, with Rumsfeld gone and Navy Vice Adm. Eric Olson about to take control of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), Macgregor anticipates a return to the fundamentals drilled into Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and other specially trained troops.

    “The emphasis will be on, ‘If you have to kill someone, then for God’s sakes, kill the right people,”’ Macgregor said. “In most cases, you’re not going to have to kill people and that’s the great virtue of special operations. That’s been lost over the last several years.” ]

    • fatster says:

      Ooops, sorry. I was out looking for the quote, probably as you were providing the link, so apologies for my dupe @ 71.

  40. Leen says:

    “July Thursday 2 2009 (03h55) :
    Questioning The Ethical Legitimacy Of Drone Attacks In Pakistan And Afghanistan

    Ongoing Civilian casualties have become an important consideration when looking at and considering the use and legitimacy of drones in South Asia. In a belated admission last month the U.S. had admitted to 26 civilian deaths in a series of drone attacks that took place in May but was not released to the media until over a month later. In the May attacks Afghan officials put the death toll at 140, significantly higher than U.S. claims. In the same strikes the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission put the Civilian deaths at 86.

    The count of civilian losses in both Afghanistan and Pakistan has been routinely lower in U.S. estimates compared to the counts by the civilian populations within the two countries. The delays in reporting and denials in the numbers of civilian deaths is a continuation of the same pattern of behavior from last year. Last August a U.S. bombing in western Afghanistan caused the deaths of 90 people, most of them in that instance were children, the U.S. in that case too initially admitted only to killing a small number of civilians adjusting their count later. As what occurred last year this time around in May’s drone attack large numbers of women and children were killed.”

    Cheney “so”
    General Tommy Franks
    “we don’t do body counts” other than Americans

  41. SaltinWound says:

    If we were killing people after releasing them, then it makes sense of the figures concerning prisoners returning to the battlefield. They were returning to the battlefield, by definition. Also, what are the chances that we’re tagging or microchipping prisoners in some way before releasing them?

    • DLoerke says:

      Microchipping a terrorist before releasing him would be a great idea. The idea IS to catch the enemy, extract information or kill him, yes?

      • bobschacht says:

        Microchipping a terrorist before releasing him would be a great idea. The idea IS to catch the enemy, extract information or kill him, yes?

        The steeple-fingered crowd that runs GITMO haven’t figured this out yet.

        Bob in HI

  42. i4u2bi says:

    What’s a few dead terrorists give or take…some people may wonder abought the strange domestic accidents and suicides that have benefited the Republicans and neocons. Just a thought.

  43. orionATL says:

    behindthefall @51


    offing aq’s is not going to upset an american official the way panetta seemed upset.

    how about these for a guess:

    assassinating religious leaders who were deemed “radical”.

    assassinating reporters who reported “radically”.

    bumping off clergy and media would be a real hornet’s nest if revealed. wes’ve already been revealed to have kidnapped muslim clergy.

    or maybe it was assassinating public critics in arab or european countries.

  44. tjbs says:

    Is this what happened to Pat Tillman when he was going public to defend the innocents against B/C murder machine?

    • Leen says:

      Was trying to find the article or interview where it was exposed that Pat Tillman was about to blow a whistle. The interview with Mary and Kevin Tillman is astounding.
      One brave family….._slain_nfl

      “AMY GOODMAN: So, who do you think is responsible for this cover-up?

      MARY TILLMAN: Well, I—you know, the Army has told us that it was a three-star general, a General Philip Kensinger, that was responsible for not telling the family, for covering up. But I talked to retired General Wesley Clark, and he said, after looking at the documents, he said that there is no way that this started at the three-star level. In fact, he went on Keith Olbermann last summer, and he said that this cover-up started at a much higher level than a three-star level.

      I think that it most likely started with the former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He had written Pat a letter when he enlisted, thanking him for enlisting, so Pat was in his radar. We were also kind of shocked to discover in August at the second congressional hearing that Rumsfeld sent a snowflake memo—I guess he opposes email, so he tends to write things and drop them off on people’s desks. And this memo was to the then-Deputy Secretary of the Army, Peter Geren, who is now the Secretary of the Army. And this memo basically said, you know, that Pat’s a very special person and that they should keep an eye on him.

      So it’s ludicrous to think that the generals in the chain of command who, through the documents we know, learned of Pat fratricide within twenty-four to forty-eight hours—it’s ludicrous to think that they didn’t tell the Secretary of Defense, because Rumsfeld would have—heads would have rolled if they didn’t tell Rumsfeld. I mean, this was the month the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke. In fact, it was the same week Pat died. Fallujah was in chaos. President’s approval rating was very dismal. And, of course, this was the worst month in the war to that point in Iraq in terms of casualties. So, for them not to tell him that Pat was killed by friendly fire, that just wouldn’t have happened, in my mind, because he was—he’s known to be a micromanager. He’s also known to want hands-on with the military, especially the Special Operations and the Black Ops.

      AMY GOODMAN: Now, Donald Rumsfeld, in his first testimony after he was no longer Defense Secretary but brought in by the House to address this issue, the death of your son, responded, “I know I would not engage in a cover-up. I know no one in the White House suggested such a thing to me. I know the gentlemen sitting next to me are men of enormous integrity and would not participate in something like that,” he said.

      MARY TILLMAN: Right. Well, I think he was being very disingenuous. I didn’t believe him then. I still don’t believe him.”

  45. orionATL says:

    thanks, fatster.

    no harm in more than one of us looking things up.

    from the same army times article – below the photo box:

    Vice Adm. Eric Olson testifies on Capitol Hill before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination to be U. S. Special Operations Command Commander on June 12. More than half a dozen top special operations slots are changing hands over the next few months. my emphasis.

    looks like the dod was starting to clean house.

    not sure how any of this affects the cia, but hasn’t the american military/intelligence complex been patting each other on the back for the last several years about working closely together.

  46. Blub says:

    Didn’t AG Holder yesterday say “I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative impact on the President’s agenda. But that can’t be a part of my decision” with respect to appointing a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of shrubco criminal wrongdoing? I presume that this assassination thing, combined with the latest round of torture allegations, is pushing even the AG to the edge of actually having to do something about all this?

  47. Badwater says:

    I can just imagine that authorizing assasination squads made Bush feel like a real tough guy. I can also imagine that reports from the squads made him snicker.

  48. posaune says:

    Now I’m flipped out. I knew someone who had been on the Pakistan desk. Next assignment was Poland (2005), and very abruptly, pulled out of Warsaw, and sent to Afghanistan (2006). Abandoned his wife in Warsaw, who got to keep the State Dept housing (!). At the time, I thought the story was unbalanced, but in light of all of this, geez.

  49. fatster says:

    FBI agent says Guantanamo was like ‘animal house,’ says photos show drunken carousing ‘day and night


Published: July 13, 2009 
Updated 3 hours ago

    “In a little noticed complaint Friday, the 43-year-old agent, Theresa Foley, alleges that she experienced a “generally sexist, discriminatory and ‘boys club’ atmosphere” during her time at Camp Delta in Cuba and that she contracted a permanent debilitating disease as a result of being forced to sleep in rat-infested quarters. Foley is suing the Justice Department over her illness and purported sexual harassment.”


      • TheraP says:

        And if she has it, then what about the inmates? Is that why they don’t want them in US prisons? Cuz it might come out?

        This is disgusting!

  50. John says:

    I think it’s obvious that the real scandal is a secret plan to assassinate AMERICAN CITIZENS, not terrorists. It’s a plan to murder or imprison millions of Americans in case of a national emergency.

    • TheraP says:

      Remember how they trained pastors to guide the flock to follow the martial law soldiers? That’s gotta be part of it.

  51. fatster says:

    July 13, 2009
    Timing of focus on Cheney, CIA ‘very suspect’ Matalin says

    WASHINGTON (CNN) – “A one-time aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney suggested Sunday that recent reports about Cheney and the CIA are a distraction designed to avert attention away from the policy struggles of the Obama administration
    . . .
    ‘“Every time they get in trouble . . . they dredge up a Darth Vader story,” Matalin also said, making a reference to past comparisons between Cheney and the villain in the “Stars Wars’ movies.”

    [There’s a video, but I really don’t think I could stand to watch James&Mary this am. ]


  52. JThomason says:

    Another deeply informative post and thread on a nagging topic that needs continued diligent attention and exposure.

  53. Proudliberal7 says:

    Actually, I don’t have a problem with that – I think it was a great idea. Beats the hell out of bombing weddings and blowing up villages. Having said that, that makes this ‘leak’ highly suspicious – I agree, there’s something more to this to have Cheney ordering the CIA not to tell Congress about it.

    • yellowsnapdragon says:

      there’s something more to this to have Cheney ordering the CIA not to tell Congress about it

      Yep. Either it’s as morally repugnant as torture or its so blatantly criminal that it would send Cheney to jail. What would Cheney think is bad enough to send him to jail, even more criminal than torture…what kind of war crime is worse than or equal to torture?

    • SouthernDragon says:

      Why not?

      Webster’s defines “assassination” as “1. to murder by sudden or secret attack, usually for impersonal reasons (~ senator) 2. to injure or destroy unexpectedly or treacherously.” It says nothing about the method(s) used.

    • Blub says:

      its funny.. one of the oldest assassination techniques known to man involved summoning your enemy to a parley at your fortress and then dropping something heavy (or hot and fiery) from your battlements, onto his head, as he rode on his horse up to your front gate. The method was surprisingly effective for whatever unfathomable reason – presumably because the victim was honor bound to ride through your gate even if he suspected he was going to get attacked dishonorably from above.

  54. SouthernDragon says:

    The CIA and Special Forces. Phoenix and Cheney’s nameless, to us that is, program. Same shit, different day. The one thing that has changed is the use of robotics to do the killing. That drone rockets kill indiscriminately is just a technical glitch I suppose. Cheney and Colby were probably friends.

  55. yellowsnapdragon says:

    …and why was it on again/off again? Was the program objected to more than torture, or was it only “on” when an assasination was carried out?

    It seems like the secret program was international in focus, not domestic, but some vile program directed at US citizens might cause Cheney some fear of legal reckoning.

    I’m still betting that the military was engaging in coup attempts. Don’t know where.

  56. wohjr says:

    What are coups or attempted coups that have taken place in the last few years?

    One that really jumps out in my mind is Mauritania, but others can remember more, I’m sure. Guniea (both Equatorial and regular)? Madagascar. Nicaragua. Thailand? Sudan/Chad? Georgia?

    • yellowsnapdragon says:

      We know from Sy Hersh that Iran was a target of the assassination ring. So what other countries have we heard of having uprisings? Um, the Uighurs in China, Burmese monks? These are fairly recent. What was going on in 2001, 2002, 2003?

      • wohjr says:

        Perhaps an unintended consequence, but there was an Article in the NYT this weekend about Baluchis in Pakistan getting frisky. IIRC, SE Iran is also home to substantial Baluchi population and a Baluchi seperatist group was reportedly receiving CIA funds for internal destabalization in Iran proper. If I can find the link I will post it– these guys are supposedly really bad news.

        @ Blub, yes, you’re right, Commodore Frank is now in charge in Fiji.

    • Blub says:

      there were a couple in among Pacific island states I think. Unless I’m recalling it incorrectly. I don’t think Georgia was a coup.. more like an outright invasion, during the Olympics Opening Ceremony no less.

      • wohjr says:

        Yeah, no, not referring to the invasion but the supposed coup ‘attempt’ by a tank battallion a few months after the shooting with Russia though. Unclear if it was just Shakasvilli moving in on some domestic opponents or an actual attempt. I come down on the former side, but thought it was worth noting– though, the current Georgian regime I would think would be judged as “friendly” in realpolitik minds in the last administration so unclear what the value of destabilization there would be…

  57. radish says:

    I hadn’t read the WaPo link when I wrote that last. If we take “Former agency officials” at their word when they say that the 8 year program that just ended was a “technically oriented intelligence-collection effort unrelated to terrorism suspects or the terrorist-surveillance program” then it rules out the serious crazy.

    But that makes the sudden ending more puzzling. “Unrelated to terrorism suspects” is the only controversial part of that phrase. Any pol or journalist who didn’t already assume that the US could listen in whenever they felt like it was kidding themselves, and the normal data-mining is already part of the landscape. We already know they were eavesdropping illegally as part of other programs. Why does everybody have their panties in a bunch about this program?

    • yellowsnapdragon says:

      My panties are bunched up knowing that Cheney was afraid of telling Congress, presumably for fear of prosecution. That indicates that the program is a serious breech of morality and law.

      • joanneleon says:

        Now it might be fear of prosecution but during the last eight years it was probably more like fear of meddling with his Pinky and The Brain world.

    • Hugh says:

      Well, I have also heard that the Israelis were assassinating people working on Iran’s nuclear program. There could have been American involvement in these. That would certainly cover the “facilitating” of assassination. DOD and CIA could have been using Israelis as the button men.

      Sorry if others have already mentioned this stuff or if it is mentioned in the articles. Like I said I have not really been following this story.

  58. Hugh says:

    I have not been particularly tuned in to this story but there were previous rumors that Cheney had set up or was trying to set up his own personal death squad.

    There were military components to it and a blurring of CIA and DOD functions. BTW this should make you think immediately of Stanley McChrystal who was running DOD special ops. So if there is a scandal he is up to his eyes in it.

    I haven’t read the WaPo story but if I had to guess it is conflating the cover justification of “preparing the battlefield” for the use of DOD special ops. This is just a euphemism and a dodge for what was essentially assassination.

    Not to go all Bourne on everybody but I wonder if US citizens and/or citizens of close allies (say like the British) were considered potential targets.

    Finally, I don’t know what fully operational means in the context. It would not take 8 years to put something like this together. With Cheney’s pull one could have a force like this up in 6 months, conducting operations in 9, and fully operational in 12.

  59. Rayne says:

    Semi-OT — did you know you can buy a GPS tracking device for USD 349.00?

    Me neither. Jeepers, I could keep track of my teenagers with this.

    Or an ugly soon-to-be ex-spouse if I were getting a nasty divorce.

    Dozens of uses come to mind. And so cheap!

    Seriously, the technology we’re talking about has to be more than an over-the-counter issue. I’m not sold on it being a technology; I’d be more readily convinced that it’s somebody else’s technology we are using inappropriately.

  60. muleboy303 says:

    i’m trying like hell to keep up with all the revelation/speculation for as of today, it seems to have the potential of being as large a story as watergate or iran-contra. and i wish to add my gratitude to EW and all others at FDL for their efforts.

    my best guess so far:

    at the uppermost echelons of the US govt, in 2001 and 2002 especially, the words “either you are with us or with the terrorists” were taken quite literally. to the extent that the gathering of information, use of new technologies, and skirting US laws via deception, semantics, and outsourcing to private contractors, a program of identifying and killing muslim clergy, me/arab news reporters, and low level legislators who demonstrated an aptitude in swaying me public opinion in opposition to us policies.

    and as with almost every govt ‘program’, once begun, had a tendency to expand in size and scope with the passage of time.

    my most curious question so far is how/why did it take four months for the new head of the cia to learn of it’s existence ?

  61. THATanonymous says:

    OK folks, what do we KNOW? We know that Panetta had to stop for a box of Depends on his way to visit Congress. Congress in turn asked him if they could borrow some. That’s all we know about the program. What else we know is that Congress doesn’t bat an eye at violating virtually all of the amendments to the Constitution and the Constitution itself. Congess doesn’t care if the American people starve, they’re helping that happen as fast as they can with bailouts for the inexcusable and unstoppable money machine.

    So Panetta is scared; usually Congress either helps with the ‘war’ madness or doesn’t give a fuck about anything that doesn’t affect their own personal bottom line. So, what caused their collective bowels to loosen when Panetta came calling?

    Here’s an idea, just an idea you understand. Absolutely nothing to back it up excpet thinking about it a while.

    Mini/micro nukes delivered from a space platform, possibly remotely controlled by Cheney himself. Done right, the first one or two could be blamed on terrorists having smuggled a bomb, or two or three, into the U.S. If that’s what it is and if it’s under Cheney’s personal control, everyone would be worried about pissing him off or even looking like they might think about thinking about prosecuting him, especially since there is nowhere to hide and these things could be directed at any target anywhere. Now that’s something to be frightened of.

    Just saying. The other guesses so far don’t rise to the level of fear/brown stuff in everyone’s eyes.

    TA (the law never was the law, except when it applies to you)

    • Rayne says:

      Okay, now that might send me out for Depends, too. Jeebus.

      Casts a different light on Hoekstra’s little “boo-boo” as House Intel chair, since his subcommittee on Intel Policy issued the report, “Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States”, containing a map about a nuclear strike WRT Iran’s nuclear energy pursuits, since the map (page 6 of report) showed Kuwait as Ground Zero.

      Was somebody planning a black flag op which could change the entire energy market and the middle east in one fell swoop?

      • THATanonymous says:

        That could make members of Congress nervous, but I don’t see them becoming scared shitless. I also don’t see Leon running over post-haste to tell that kind of stuff to Congress. And why would they keep Tenet out of the loop? And why wait six months to tell Panetta? This is something BIG and scary.

        stannenb @132, I am not a bio-wepons scientist, but what I understand about the current state of genetically targeted anything (cancer treatment, weapons, etc.) simply precludes the possibility of personally targeted nastiness. Besides, Congress obviously doesn’t care if we have drones take out dozens of wedding parties with dozens of dead innocents each time, so why go to all that trouble?

        As for weaponized energy beams: They can’t do it from space yet and this whatever-it-is has INDIVIDUALS scared. Individuals who love to think of themselves as powerful, with powerful friends. How’s that work?

        Have there been any reports of Congress critters seen wearing tin-foil hats lately?

        One last question: why is Cheney still receiving daily security briefings?

        TA (the law is never what it seems to be, unless you’re rich and it’s in your favor)

  62. joanneleon says:

    Another thought:

    What did Cheney want? If we go back to the PNAC’s stated goals and talk from people like Perle, and even some statements from Condi Rice, they wanted to remake the Middle East. Sy Hersh said long ago that they wanted to go into Syria and Iran. And then there is their talk about a new world order and things they had been scheming about for years, long before they finally got the power to do something about it. Some of those things were things the American public would never go along with, even after the trauma of 9/11. So if they were to achieve these goals it would have to be through other, secret means and/or by having some sort of control over their opposition. What kind of program would allow them to make progress toward those goals?

    • yellowsnapdragon says:

      having some sort of control over their opposition. What kind of program would allow them to make progress toward those goals?

      Well I don’t like the answer to that question! If we are talking about manipulating the opinions of Americans in ways that might permit them to use the military toward their ME goals, 9/11. After 9/11…anthrax, Afghanistan, Iraq/Al Qaida, Lebanon against Isreal.

      If we are talking about what the US might actually attempt in order to remake the ME for the purpose of securing oilfields, well then…maybe draw as many old timer jihadis to Afghanistan while the US conquers Iraq, destabalizes Iran with the intention of installing a friendly regime and gives ME control to Isreal and Saudi Arabia.

  63. stannenb says:

    I agree that, whatever it was that CIA was concealing, it had to be something profoundly wrong.

    Let’s take at face value the assertion that it was something to make assassination

    Better signaling to drones? Yawn. Incremental improvement, you still have to get someone to plant the signaling device. And profoundly wrong? Certainly not to the current political establishment?

    Here’s my speculation with no supporting data: Genetically targeted bioweapons.

    Certainly profoundly wrong, enough to warrant the various reactions, yet something that might be seen to be acceptable on 9/12. Oh, and it violates treaties and things, a good reason not to tell Congress, and enough to make Panetta and Congress sweat.

    Does it make assassination easier? Sure. Find someone’s discarded cigarette butt, do the genetic engineering, then spray the stuff indiscriminately. Target wanders by, gets poisoned or infected, dies. To everyone else, its harmless.

    It’s within the realm of the feasible, but its also something that’s better in theory than in practice, I’m sure. So the research program lives in some super
    secret facility, surfacing every so often with something that might be good enough, but turns out not to be, so get the reports of this being on and off again and again. And, since the budget doesn’t have to be very large – genetic engineering can almost be done in your garage these days – it doesn’t rise to Panetta’s attention until now.

    Again, no facts, just a hunch.

  64. sagesse says:

    What if it some kind of death ray? The military trains at bases all over the country with mobile or staionary threat emitters – like the remote range but in Googling info about them, emitters may have something called death ray syndrome (seriously) associated with them.…..ision=-203

    What if it is some kind death ray – run through a threat emitter device the military has long used. This makes me wonder if the “practice” that goes on at some of the military facilities amidst public land – like the AF Base at Mountain Home that has remote emitter and other sites scattered over a million acres of BLM land– is really not just a simulated war game – where emitters put out electromagnetic signals to play at jamming radar and “simulating” enemies – but instead they are practicing zapping with emitter-like devices with “death rays”?

  65. bobh says:

    Yes, there has to be more to it than assassination squads. They have been assassinating people with Predator drones and Hellfire missiles for years now. There are elements of b.s. about this story.

  66. dotmafia says:

    i think the answer, which apparently stunned dems and repubs, is potentially a simple one and not all of this chaff about special assassination squads.

    maybe they just planned on dropping a nuclear bomb to kill al qaeda leadership, and despite bush and cheney’s bravado, the act carried potential dire political implications for the u.s., afghanistan and pakistan, and so they didn’t have the guts to actually carry it out.

  67. prostratedragon says:

    Put me in the assassinations-plus group. Maybe the “plus” had to do with the way in which actions were organized, so that a hit could be ordered well down the chain of command, based perhaps on the latest unfiltered field data from things like drones to which Maj. Dogsbody, or worse yet contractor Dogsbody, has been given access.

    Something like that would maintain, even enhance, the plausible deniability on individual actions whose disasterous nature was one of the main targets of the Church Committee (that site’s finally back up; link is to a single-page pdf image).

    In fact I’d almost go as far as to say that eliminating the almost goofily muddled policymaking and control structures occasioned by plausible deniability was more important to the Committee than eliminating hit squads. Any one account from the Interim Report, say the Lumumba case, is made lots more horrifying by the realization that no one seems quite to have known why or on whose ultimate orders so much nasty skullduggery was taking place. Consider this, from p. 20 of the Interim Report:

    (p. 20) Tweedy [Bronson Tweedy, chief of CIA clandestine Africa Division] testified that Bissell [Richard Bissell, Director of covert operations, CIA] assigned him the task of working out the “operational details,” such as assessing possible agents and the security of the operation, and of finding “some solution that looked as if it made sense, and had a promise of success.” Tweedy stated that Bissell “never said * * * go ahead and do it in your own good time without any further reference to me.” Rather, Tweedy operated under the impression that if a feasible means of assassinating Lumumba mere developed, the decision on proceeding with an assassination attempt was to be referred to Bissell. (Tweedy, 10/9/75 I, pp. `7, 17-18)
    Tweedy stated that he did not know whether Bissell had consulted with any “higher authority” about exploring the possibilities for assassinating Lumumba. Tweedy said, that generally, when he received an instruction from Bissell:

    I would proceed with it on the basis that he was authorized to give me instructions and it was up to him to bloody well know what he was empowered to tell me to do. (Tweedy, O/9/75, p. 13)

    Other parts of the Congo story, which recurs throughout the reports, show this vagueness propogating itself all along the chain, and similarly with Chile, Cuba, Vietnam, etc. This manner of operating was disrupted by the legal changes in the wake of the Church reports, with which Cheney and others were famously and vehemently in disagreement. It would not surprise if he, with Bush in complete sympathy if it mattered, had made it a priority to get countermanding orders and principles in place as soon after assuming office as possible.

  68. MartyDidier says:

    Maybe there are additional points to be concerned about?

    Why is it that I heard all about the Assassination “system” running in the Illinois area using three prearranged Hospitals used as “Killing Machines” back in 1996 from a family I was in who are CIA Assets who told me that Cheney was involved? In 2002, they tried to take me out in one of the Hospitals known as Central DuPage Hospitla but since having learned about how this attempt works I was able to side step the worst part. The Hospital did make numerous attempts to have me “personally” attend a business meeting starting in late 2001. The Maintenance Forman called on behalf of the Hospital President demanding that I drive in for a meeting. Finally I did and missed having three set up car accidents when I was near the Hosptial. The maintenance Forman didn’t have any work prepared for me to look at and frankly didn’t know the reason why I was summonded although he was the one who called me. In later 2003 I met a lady who’s good friend was murdered in early 2002 at Central DuPage hospital. She and her family members with one who is a Med Student will testify in court that it was murder. It’s interesting that the deceased had a twin who didn’t have any children and was the highest contributor to Bush’s Election campaign. The deceased had only one daughter.

    Also, in 1996, my brother-in-laws were talking about a plan put on by the assassination side of what we knew here as being the Combine also called “The Guys” by family members who happened to be the lady who I met in later 2003. Small world. Her marriage had fallen apart and her xH’s father was a Bank VP of the Trust Department of a huge Bank downtown. This may not seem like much to anyone however the high adminstrators at big banks are laundering drug money straight into property using Mortgage fraud techniques. How I know is because the family I was in have been laundering drug and other criminal money since the later 70’s.

    Meet the family:
    Mexico drug plane used for US ‘rendition’ flights: report – Sep 4, 2008…1e3ql- xUcQEZbVg

    Please note the CIA link as the family often bragged about being CIA Assets. They said that they wouldn’t ever be arrested for anything even if it were murder.

    Guess who assisted the family with setting up their air shipping drug business in Florida? He was an attorney in a Chicago law firm after graduating from school in the early 90’s and one of his focuses was Constitutional Law. He’s a pretty important guy right now but another well known attorney found over 130 properties thought to be owned by him in a hidden way. The family said that property is used as payment for services rendured.

    As for me, I know from the family that the Assassination Operation was in operation all the way back to the early 90’s and Cheney was involved at a high level with it.

    Marty Didier
    Northbrook, IL

  69. x174 says:

    just read the raw story article that features emptywheel. gosh, these guys lie about as good as the liars in the Bush Felon & Fellatio Club. go figure.

    your argument that since they (the CIA) are presently assassinating Al-Qaeda with unmanned drones, there is no credibility to the whole the-program-was-never-really-implemented Panetta con-job-blow-job. (and this latest con follows hard-on the high heels of them admitting to lying in bed with Congress for THE PAST EIGHT YEARS.)

    i think there’s a technical word for people like them: dorks

  70. MadDog says:

    Siobhan Gorman of the WSJ has a new article up on the canceled CIA Targeted Assassination program:

    CIA Plan Envisioned Hit Teams Killing al Qaeda Leaders

    A secret Central Intelligence Agency initiative axed by Director Leon Panetta examined how to assassinate members of al Qaeda with hit teams on the ground, according to current and former national-security officials familiar with the matter.

    The goal was to assemble teams of CIA and special-operations forces “and put bullets in [the al Qaeda leaders’] heads,” one former intelligence official said…

    …Had it become fully developed, the CIA’s aborted plan would have been a covert-action program. At the outset, the potential operation wouldn’t have been limited to particular countries. The use of hit teams was in accordance with the authority granted by the 2001 order, said a former national-security official familiar with it…

  71. x174 says:

    mt:looks like Cannistraro is either being trotted out to undercut your argument about assassinations being the norm over at CIA and therefore the Cheney assassination squads were/are most likely a reality or performing a community service to tell us all that Cheney was also targeting Americans for assassination. i might have believed the community service angle if Cheney was still in office. what good does it do us now? perhaps, Cannistraro could have lost his head if he said anything while Darth Vader were still in power.

  72. JohnDoe says:

    I’m waiting for confirmation of the likely truth: that Cheney used his assassins to forward his agenda, not taking out “terrorists” but eliminating any obstacles in his war-for-oil path, like Paul Wellstone and David Kelly. Hey, it’s not against the law if the Vice President does it, right?

  73. 1boringoldman says:

    C.I.A. Had Plan to Assassinate Qaeda Leaders
    This story is beginning to smell like old fish. First, it’s a non-story because we all assumed that getting al Qaeda leaders was the plan. Nobody is sympathetic to al Qaeda’s leaders. Second, it has the effect of casting Bush and Cheney in a good light – “See how compassionate they are, trying to avoid the collateral damage of the drone attacks.” “See, they didn’t want to kidnap people and torture them.” “What a bunch of upstanding guys!” Third, it is an easy story for Cheney to respond to. “It was an program in the planning stages. We would’ve certainly alerted Congress had it become operational.”

    Shiny Object?

  74. x174 says:

    Newsweek has an interesting article on Cheney’s executive assassination squads:

    Don’t Shoot
    The CIA’s kill teams were modeled on Israel’s hit squads
    By Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff | Newsweek Web Exclusive
    Jul 14, 2009

    A ferocious dispute between the CIA and congressional Democrats centers on an ultrasecret effort launched by agency officials after 9/11 to draw up plans to hunt down and kill terrorists using commando teams similar to those deployed by Israel after the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre, according to a former senior U.S. official. . .