Cheney’s Assassination Squads

You know how Sy Hersh promised bombshells after Bush left office? Well this seems like his first installment–though it also sounds like he’s not ready to put this in print yet. (h/t RawStory)

At a “Great Conversations” event at the University of Minnesota last night, legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh may have made a little more news than he intended by talking about new alleged instances of domestic spying by the CIA, and about an ongoing covert military operation that he called an “executive assassination ring.”

Hersh spoke with great confidence about these findings from his current reporting, which he hasn’t written about yet.

In an email exchange afterward, Hersh said that his statements were “an honest response to a question” from the event’s moderator, U of M Political Scientist Larry Jacobs and “not something I wanted to dwell about in public.”


“Yuh. After 9/11, I haven’t written about this yet, but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven’t been called on it yet. That does happen.

"Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command — JSOC it’s called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him. …

"Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths.

"Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us. [emphasis original]

Mind you, I think this refers to two different things: the assassination squads (which seems to return us to the way of the 1960s, where we just tried to off foreign leaders we didn’t like), and CIA’s domestic targeting of those perceived to be enemies of the states (somehow I’m sure this will end up including Quakers). 

Now, there have been hints of the JSOC working outside of the chain of command before. And we know they have targeted alleged terrorist leaders. I wonder, though, if it included bigger names–people like Yasir Arafat, who died of a mysterious illness at a time when Cheney’s office was talking about finding someone among the Palestinians to replace him.

In any case, from the NYT story Hersh referenced, it looks like this is another example of Cheney’s sloppy incompetence that has had to be cleaned up under Obama.

A United Nations report released last month specifically blamed clandestine missions by commando units for contributing to a surge in civilian deaths in Afghanistan in 2008. The report concluded that the number of civilian casualties rose nearly 40 percent compared with 2007, although it found that suicide bombings and other Taliban attacks were the primary cause.

Military officials said the halt was ordered in part to allow American commanders time to impose new safeguards intended to reduce the risk of civilian deaths. They said it was also intended to help the military release information about civilian casualties more quickly, to pre-empt what some said have been exaggerated accounts by Afghan officials.

According to senior military officials, the stand-down was ordered by Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, the head of the military’s Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees the secret commando units.

The rising civilian death toll in Afghanistan has soured relations between American commanders and the Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai, who has vocally criticized the raids.

The stand-down began in mid-February, and the raids have since resumed. It is unclear, though, whether the Special Operations missions are being carried out with the same frequency as before the halt.

169 replies
    • MarkH says:

      I am pretty sure that I am supposed to be surprised by this, but, alas….I am not.

      Is Negroponte involved in this somehow? I would alas not be surprised.

  1. BoxTurtle says:

    If they hit even one American citizen, they could be in real trouble. OTOH, hitting foreigners likely happens more than we’d like to admit.

    Clinton targeted AQ in Afghanistan.
    Bush the First targetted (and missed Saddam).
    Reagan targetted Sandinistas.
    Carter likely targetted nobody. It would be very out of character, but who knows?

    And so on…

    But I think an American targetted would be a new ball game.

    Boxturtle (If Sy isn’t working full time on this, then WTF is he working on???)

  2. skdadl says:

    Drat. My comment on the MinnPost report, which is great to see, just got EPU’d on the last thread.

    I won’t repeat it here, except to say that I’m convinced the JSOC is operating in Pakistan and Somalia at least, and probably sometimes in Iran, going over the border from Baluchistan. The International Crisis Group have been warning for years about what the CIA are doing in Somalia, and after Cheney’s adventures with Pakistan/Iran, I think that Pakistan is already too far gone for the West to presume to cope with.

    • Minnesotachuck says:

      In the last thread were you responding to my comment there about this? I don’t see it on the thread so perhaps you didn’t hit the “Submit Comment” icon?

      • skdadl says:

        No, my comment is there, at #44, in reply to fatster’s link, although I saw your comment too. I’m just a lot slower than you guys. I am especially slower than EW — I can’t figure out how she does it.

  3. Loo Hoo. says:

    I just finished reading the fatster’s link on this and knew you’d be on it. I wonder if Hersh got the word out so that in case misfortune befell him, investigations would occur. Hope he’s got a good hidey place. Now, to read.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    JSOP command reporting directly to the OVP? Somehow, I don’t think that’s adequate plausible deniability that its work was not known to or approved by the White Houes. No matter how much Shrub told Cheney he “didn’t want to know”. Kinda like the torture tapes being closely reviewed real time by “aides” in the White House. Would Bring ‘Em On Bush have missed the opportunity to view the torture tapes or watch sat video of what JSOP were up to?

    The JSOP command has been discussed before. What would be a bombshell is if Mr. Hersh has details that might look awkward on the front page of the New Yorker. Even more alarming would be information relating to JSOP’s domestic ops.

  5. GregOPauls says:

    Quotes from the NYT, that is a joke. How do we know the story is accurate or real. Comments should be reserved until quoted information has validity.
    Like no other pres had hit squads, that is what the cia, fbi and navy seals are for. They protect our interest with out anyone knowing.
    Don’t tell me this is a shock to anyone.

    • Synoia says:

      The real shock is that they were Cheney’s private hit squad. We all know Cheney was totally honorable and only had the good of the US people in mind as he took decision to hit people. Its just impossible that a man as upright as Cheney had a private agenda.

      Why it’s outrageous to even consider such an eventuality.

      • MarkH says:

        The real shock is that they were Cheney’s private hit squad. We all know Cheney was totally honorable and only had the good of the US people in mind as he took decision to hit people. Its just impossible that a man as upright as Cheney had a private agenda.

        Why it’s outrageous to even consider such an eventuality.

        Indeed. Thus, to ensure his reputation is protected, we must investigate it fully and report the Truth of the matter. Right?

  6. bobschacht says:

    Thanks for alerting us to this report!

    So, were they involved in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto?

    Besides Cheney, this looks like the kind of OPS that Negroponte used to run in Central America. I’d like to ask Sy if Negroponte was involved. Oh, and this sounds also like the kind of thing Blackwater would do.

    Obama better get a grip on these guys, or he could be in their sights.

    Bob in HI

  7. Stephen says:

    Cheney will be on CNN Sunday night and play softball with the rising Corporate shill John King.

    • ShotoJamf says:

      Cheney will be on CNN Sunday night and play softball whiffleball with the rising Corporate shill and suckup John King.

      Fixed it for you..

  8. scribe says:

    We should be glad Cheney was both ham-handed and incompetent.

    The one thing I’ve noted in the Yoo/Bybee memoranda we’ve seen so far is that there has been no mention of suspending, or the C-in-C power superseding, the Fifth Amendment. You’ll recall that one, among other things, prohibits the government from taking someone’s life or liberty without due process of law. I’d bet that the still-secret memoranda do, in fact, deal with that.

    And, if I were Hersh. I’d be looking at contractors having been hired by JSOC and/or Cheney’s office to violate that Amendment.

    • WilliamOckham says:

      Actually, I think there is a reference to the 5th amendment being superseded by the CinC powers. Let me see if I can find it.

  9. Leen says:

    Sy Hersh one of my heroes. Met him while standing in line at Starbuck’s at Union Station days before the inauguration. Sy and his wife were totally accessible to this peasant. They had just returned from Beirut, he was quite pissed off that journalist were not being allowed into the Gaza.

    Not surprising about Cheney part of his shadow barnacle branch.

    As for Afghanistan I am still in touch with the young man that I had hundreds of hours of conversation with while he was here at Ohio U on a Fulbright Scholarship. Just can’t get over how he would tell me how poorly things were going in Afghanistan in 2004 until he returned last summer in 2008. His dad a retired Brigadier General who was with the Mujahadeen fighting off the Russians kept asking my friend “do the Americans want to lose” in Afghanistan. They were both always saying that the Taliban had been on the run for the year after the invasion. But started to regain territory in mid 2003 soon after we illegally invaded Iraq.

    The MSM barely talked about what was going in in Afghanistan until late 2007 by then according to my friends family the Taliban were well entrenched again. Hell my friend and I sat listening to a Diane Rehm program where she had a U.S. citizen who had opened up a fucking beauty parlor in Kabul and Diane was interviewing her about her experience. Meanwhile my friend and I were begging Rehm and others in the MSM to do a story on the 6o some Fulbright students from Afghanistan studying here in the states. You know THEIR PERSPECTIVE and what they were hearing from their families. Over a year and a half ago his father, large family in Afghanistan had all come to the conclusion the only way to deal with the Taliban was to be inclusive of the more moderate.

    Finally that is the way the U.S. seems to be going

    My friend has been back for eight months and he keeps writing telling me “it is very very bad”

      • Leen says:

        You mean my friend in Afghanistan? I will ask him if I can repeat exactly what he says if that is what you mean? He was very loose before he left the U.S. when I asked him what I could repeat. Now he feels he is in a much more dangerous situation being back in Afghanistan.

        He was all ready thrown in prison by the Taliban back in 2000.

  10. Arbusto says:

    Thank god there’s no accountability in the Government, including Obamas, in our joyful pursuit of wrong doers everywhere. Just our Government saving tax payer dollars by avoiding Congress or the Courts in doling out instant justice.

  11. MadDog says:

    Tangentially connected to this post, EW have you seen this yet (via the ACLU) on the CIA’s 92 destroyed videotapes:

    Endorsed Letter from Judge Hellerstein Ordering In Camera Review of Redacted CIA Documents

    As I decipher the Judge’s handwriting, this is what he had to say:

    Both this letter, and the gov ‘1′, letter of March 6 2009 should be debated. A procedure for in camera review shall be established and confirmed by separate order. 3-9-09

    Alvin Hellerstein

    • WilliamOckham says:

      I believe that should be:

      Both this letter, and the gov’t’s letter of March 6 2009 should be docketed. A procedure for in camera review shall be established and confirmed by separate order. 3-9-09

      Alvin Hellerstein

      This has been another service of The Department of Usefulless Corrections

      • nextstopchicago says:

        Instead of crossing out ‘ful’ in useful and then typing ‘less’, you could have got by with crossing out ‘fu’ and then typing ‘ess’.

        – from the department of even more useless corrections.

  12. Mary says:

    Didn’t Mayer say that Comey and Goldsmith thought they were in physical danger after they locked horns with Cheney?

    It’s really no wonder when people speculate over things like Wellstone’s death. If our “best” are assassins who operate at the poltical whim of someone like Cheney, it says all there is to say about America. That doesn’t leave much left to disbelieve.

    • Leen says:

      I listened to her interview with Brian Lamb and do recall her saying something very close to that

    • Leen says:

      Read most of the transcript for PBS special “Cheney’s Law”and Amy goodmans interview with Barton Gellman. Can’t find anything or anyone who said that Comey and Goldsmith felt threatened by Cheney. But I sure do remember Jane Mayer or someone saying that

      Here is LHP after she listened to Comey tesitfy Why did Director Muller immediately understand why he was being pulled out of a dinner party and not hesitate to get on the road at once? Why did he feel the need to telephone the FBI agents that were in Comey’s security detail and order them “not to allow [Comey] to be removed from the room”? Hells bells! What were they expecting to do, have a shootout in a hospital corridor? OK, maybe the feebies were just supposed to be like bouncers at a bar?…..rom-comey/

      OT Chris Matthews and Ari Fleisher
      had quite the skirmish tonight. Matthews actually came out and said “9/11 happenned on the Bush administration’s watch” I sure have been waiting for that one. That sure pissed ARi off. Fleisher kept saying that Cheney had only referred to Saddam going “nuclear”once before the invasion. It was quite the go around. Sure hope a group like fact check gets on that conversation…because Ari was spinning a mile a minute

      • prostratedragon says:

        Jane Mayer, The Dark Side, p. 294:

        Comey was traveling at the time, but […] the two [he and Goldsmith] worked out a plan. They were both so paranoid by then about the powerful backlash they had provoked inside the administration that they actually thought they might be in physical danger.

        This part certainly got my attention when I first read it.

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    A special ops command not reporting through senior service chiefs, but directly to the OVP and under its operational command? Can anyone say Praetorian Guard? It is unusual, at least in the USA.

    That “command” structure suggested here would not have been for efficiency. It would have been to avoid, as Cheney did consistently throughout his tenure, the usual policy-making channels.

    These, by design, specifically require initiatives to withstand criticism of their assumptions, purposes, means and costs. By design, they subject initiatives to the scrutiny of multiple minds. By design, its participants talk and share. Bad or poorly supported initiatives get derailed. After all, they involve the spending of public monies, and the reputation and, in effect, the full faith and credit, of the United States.

    Cheney, on the other hand, ruled by fiat, as if the public resources Bush allowed him to command were his own or those of anonymous shareholders who were meant to shut up and vote for whatever their board of directors told them to vote for. And this from a man who had no constitutional authority whatever, beyond breaking tie votes in the Senate and waiting around for the president to become unavailable.

    There’s no, “We already knew that; everybody does it,” about this special ops command reporting directly to Mr. Cheney. True, American governments conducted and continue to conduct covert ops within the rules and budget set up for them. Sometimes they break both. And the White House has many communications channels with the Pentagon and its and other spy agencies. But a defining characteristic of Team Bush was to take established modes of conduct and distort and mangle and multiply them beyond all recognition.

    If Mr. Hersh has a line on a good story about such goings on, I wish him well. He should watch his back.

    • bobschacht says:

      Good summary!
      If so, this has got to be illegal. Certainly worth a special investigation.
      First on the list, IMHO, would be to determine if any domestic targets (e.g. Wellstone) were included. There should be no legitimate “executive privilege” about any such activity.

      Foreign hit squads (Bhutto?) might have to be investigated behind closed doors. But we can’t just meekly accept barbarities of this kind.

      Bob in HI

    • cinnamonape says:

      It’s clearly “designed” to avoid Presidential involvement…i.e. “plausible deniability”. This is because there are specific directives which allows a President to sign an order calling for the assassination of a foreign leader or politician. But the law specifies that the President must authorize the CIA to do so. No actions without that Directive.

      So if Bush signed off on having Cheney handle this it violated that set of procedures. In one respect it gave him deniability for any specific action…on the other hand he took responsibility for the whole mess they could create BY instituting such a group. Wonder if Yoo wrote the memo up on this, too.

    • MarkH says:

      A special ops command not reporting through senior service chiefs, but directly to the OVP and under its operational command? Can anyone say Praetorian Guard? It is unusual, at least in the USA.

      The Vice President has no powers in the Executive branch and is usually just an advisor, sometimes running an investigative policy-advising group. Would they really put the Veep in charge of something this dangerous?

      Well yes, after the Iran-Contra thing when they said they learned to run such ops from the Veeps office to keep deniability for the prez. Yep, they would.

      • hackworth says:

        Would they really put the Veep in charge of something this dangerous?

        Well yes, after the Iran-Contra thing when they said they learned to run such ops from the Veeps office to keep deniability for the prez. Yep, they would.

        It’s a two-fer. Not only is this true, but Dark Side coveted the position and relished the opportunity to bring down his enemies by any means.

  14. Mary says:

    15 – “debated” should be “docketed”

    That ACLU letter gets a “yeah buddy, that’s what I’m talking about” and an Amen Chorus from me.

    Finally someone is tying the existing EO’s prohibitions on classification of criminal acts with the assertions of classification privilege. IMO, this has been something that should have been pushed from the get go.

    With Holder’s statements on waterboarding AND Crawford’s on cases that didn’t involve waterboarding, it’s going to start to put Obama in the box where the public record indicates those criminal activities have taken place. And while the Executive typically does get first shot at interpreting its own orders, when the applicatin of the order involves interpreting whether or not activity is criminal, that opens a door for the judiciary.

    Looks like Hellerstein is at least going to use it to take that in camera look.

    • MadDog says:

      15 – “debated” should be “docketed”

      Your eyes are better than mine! And Hellerstein’s handwriting is better than mine, but that’s not saying much. *g*

  15. Mary says:

    18 – the degree of anger coming from Whitehouse, there has to be some very ugly stuff like this.

    IIRC, too, some prominently “missing” people in the Middle East weren’t even soldiers or terrorists, but instead were scientists.

    • macaquerman says:

      The scientists didn’t go “missing”
      They were “invited to help with our inquiries”
      A couple of them were said to have been caught in the middle and (after being burned) may have gone voluntarily.

  16. Leen says:

    ot Juan Cole thinks that Schumer and Rahm Emmanuel sunk Chas Freeman’s ship
    My interpretation of Chas Freeman’s withdrawal from appointment as the chairman of the National Intelligence Council is that it was provoked primarily by Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel. Schumer’s call to White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was probably the decisive event, though we don’t know what Emanuel’s reaction was.

    • bobschacht says:

      And if they’re not taking orders from Cheney, who are they taking orders from? This Admiral MacRaven guy ought to have his ass hauled pronto to the Oval Office, and brought under control pronto.

      Bob in HI

      • sojourner says:

        I just have to ask this question… Cheney is hanging around Washington — and ostensibly has this assassination squad in place. What does he have to lose by continuing to run it? Think about it — his health is failing and he could go at any time. What is he going to lose by continuing to act as if he is in power?

        Cheney had his own government in place even though Dubya thought he was the “Deciderer.” Laws do not apply to him, regardless of whether he is in office or out of office.

        I know this is probably an extreme theory, but he is just nutty enough to try to continue doing what he was doing and “save” the world…

    • dosido says:

      I wonder about this as well. Esp. since Cheney wants to stick around in DC even though he’s not Veep anymore. He still running something.

  17. Mary says:

    Actually, it looks like Haaretz scrivened in Feb, citing London’s Daily Telegraph, that Moussad is assassinating Iranian scientists.

    Israel is assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists as part of a covert war against the Islamic Republic’s illicit weapons program, the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday quoted Western intelligence analysts as saying.

    The British daily said Israel’s Mossad espionage agency was rumored to be behind the death of Ardeshire Hassanpour, a top nuclear scientist at Iran’s Isfahan uranium plant, who died in mysterious circumstances from reported “gas poisoning” in 2007.

    Other recent deaths of important figures in the procurement and enrichment process in Iran and Europe have been the result of Israeli “hits”, intended to deprive Tehran of key technical skills at the head of the program, according to the analysts

    The Daily Telegraph would know it was Moussad bc “Western Intelligence sources” told it so, and golly, it’s not like they would be trying to cover their own tracks. I mean, the US doesn’t do things like disappearing children waterboarding torture domestic propaganda use its own DOJ to destroy evidence of Executive branch crimes and lie to courts and Congress engage in massive felonious violations of wiretap restrictions against US citizens

    Not to lose my train of thought here, but what is it that America doesn’t do anymore?

  18. Mary says:

    31- their children will be happy – after all, it looks like sometimes the invitations include the whole family.

    It’s a hard thing to do, trying to figure out when being a patriot became synonymous with being good at torture – when “crushing a child’s testicles” replaced helping the elderly as a symbol of America’s “best.”

  19. emptywheel says:

    Hersh dealt with a lot of this in this article last year:

    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. He was referring to the legal threat confronting some agency operatives for their involvement in the rendition and alleged torture of suspects in the war on terror. “This drove the military people up the wall,” he said. As far as the C.I.A. was concerned, the former senior intelligence official said, “the over-all authorization includes killing, but it’s not as though that’s what they’re setting out to do. It’s about gathering information, enlisting support.” The Finding sent to Congress was a compromise, providing legal cover for the C.I.A. while referring to the use of lethal force in ambiguous terms.

    The defensive-lethal language led some Democrats, according to congressional sources familiar with their views, to call in the director of the C.I.A., Air Force General Michael V. Hayden, for a special briefing. Hayden reassured the legislators that the language did nothing more than provide authority for Special Forces operatives on the ground in Iran to shoot their way out if they faced capture or harm.

  20. maryo2 says:

    On Wednesday, March 19, 2008, TPM had an article about the sudden change of heart of Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi regarding allowing provincial elections in Iraq. He suddenly withdrew his objection.

    My understanding is that Cheney wanted the elections held so that a parliament would be in place to sign a bill giving foreign oil companies access to Iraq’s oil before the US elections in November. VP Abdul Mehdi is a friend to the Kurds in northern Iraq (according to wiki) and the Kurds did not want to handover their oil.

    On that very same day, Cheney said in an interview with ABC News “I talked with him [Mehdi] about that [his obections to elections], and a number of others. They expect they’ll have that resolved shortly.”

    The odd coincidence is that earlier on that same morning, the Times reported that American forces accidentally killed three Iraqi police officers, including a lieutenant in the special forces named Abdul Amir Hamid Salih. A police officer at the scene said “We were surprised when the Americans asked us for help at night.”

    Looking up “Salih” in wiki shows that Barham Ahmad Salih is a Kurdish politician who serves as Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq.

    My speculation is that Hamid Salih is a relative of Ahmad Salih and that Hamid was assassinated in order to encourage Ahmad Salih to tell V.P. Mehdi to give in to provincial elections. Today’s news supports that suspicion.


    • nextstopchicago says:

      Also, the speculation about the death of a policeman named Salih seems particularly baseless. It’s not like Salih the politician is an unknown. If his nephew were one of the ones gunned down in a friendly fire incident with American troops, we’d know about it. It’s not like Cheney has silenced all the Iraqi papers. It’s not like Juan Cole, reader of Iraqi newspapers and propagator of their information, has been bought off.

      There is way too much to be grounded and skeptical about without falling into a mindless cynicism and “they musta”/”they coulda” mode of arguing about the evils of our opponents.

  21. Mary says:

    40 – Is that the math version of a one handed round off? *g* 1

    43 – that’s the Risen.

    OT – One of Germany’s our “best and brightest” has been charged with 29,000 counts for his alleged role at a Nazi camp. The man facing charges, Demjanjuk, has been living in the US and is a retired auto worker.

    Upon being presented with the German warrant, Obama’s Dept of Justice:

    a) immediately put through a request that Demjanjuk be retained as an expert witness to explain why Yoos memos were issued in good faith; or

    b) sternly castigated Germany for failing to look forward and proceeded to classify all references to Ohio and auto workers; or

    c) reluctantly withdrew their request under a) above in order to facilitate superceding requests from DOD to retain Demjanjuk’s services for its “best and brightest” program, or

    d) classified Demjanjuk as an illegal enemy combatant, based on his status as an auto worker (apparently Yoo assured them there’s no difference between a failed state and a failed industry); or

    e) said Demjanjuk “can be deported for falsifying information on his entry and citizenship applications in the 1950s” [but quickly added that they would have to hold those documents behind their backs, while holding a mirror in front of them, so that they could make sure they addressed the 1950s violation by looking forward].

    As a helicopter filled with black hooded men hovered over Cleveland, the German Justice Ministry spokewoman, in a show of good humour, “said it was not clear if the U.S. would automatically deport Demjanjuk, or whether Germany would have to formally seek his extradition.”
    then she snorted “extradition” and “deported” and laughed and laughed and laughed.

    In other news a 17 yo Cleveland, [redacted] Eagle Scout named John Demajanjuk has been reported missing by his family.

    • bmaz says:

      In further news, the family has been unable to be found to corroborate the initial missing person report.

      Also, the report seems to have been misplaced…..

    • phred says:

      Not with a calculator — then it’s more like a somsersault ; )

      Jim @ 50, Ivins is an intriguing possibility. I think Wellstone is a stretch, and I’m not inclined (yet) to think Cheney added domestic assassination to his lengthy resume, but if he did, Ivins is the first place I would look.

    • nextstopchicago says:

      Mary, you damned well need to finish stories you cite before you go sowing cynicism.

      If you had, you’d have noticed that we ALREADY deported Demjanjuk. TWENTY FUCKING YEARS AGO.

      The Israelis kept him for 7 years before deciding that he wasn’t in fact the prison guard they thought, and they released him back to the US.

      He may or may not be the one the Germans are looking for. I have no trouble with hunting down former Nazis. But there is real doubt whether this is the guy.

      Or perhaps you think the Israelis are easy on Nazis too!

  22. JThomason says:

    Assassination has been reported to have been one of the key features of the “Surge” enhanced by advanced targeting technology as well.

  23. JimWhite says:

    My money is on Bruce Ivins as another Cheney victim. I’ve been of the opinion his DOD people were behind the anthrax attacks, so it just makes sense he would use this group to tie up that loose end with a handy scapegoat.

    • Knut says:

      My money is on the British scientist killed just outside Oxford around the start of the invasion of Iraq. Forget his name, but remember that he was charged with cutting his wrists, although there were none of his fingerprints on the handle of the knife said to have done the act. He was an expert for the UN on biological warfare. I think a lot of people accept that he was assassinated. The investigation was snuffed by Blair’s government.

        • ThingsComeUndone says:

          Paul Wellstone plane crash? That guy who was going to testify against Rove about fixing computer votes another plane crash!

        • Leen says:

          Me too. Hope Hersh has the goods.

          Folks have to listen to ARi Fleisher lie and lie it is infuriating
          Defending the Bush Legacy

          Fleisher said “We always said that he (Saddam) did not have nuclear I”(Fleisher) repeatedly said that”

          Ari Fleisher “Äfter Sept 11 having been hit once how could we take a chance that Saddam might not strike again”

          What a fucking liar…just a flat out liar. I hope fact check puts this interview through the ringer. Fleisher must have lied at least 20 times in five minutes

  24. Mary says:

    Still OT, but still related, apparently no one has told Judge Brinkema about the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, or the new, Bush-improved, Dept of Justice through Torture and Political Assassination.
    Per Scott Horton, quoting from this AP report, there was some fah didlin going on with the plea bargain involving former professor Sami Al-Arian. After the prosecutors got their plea, they turned around and filed other charges.

    Judge Brinkema is not amused and gave “Al-Arian’s lawyers 10 days to file papers seeking dismissal of the case on the grounds that prosecutors failed to keep promises made under the plea bargain”

    In response to the blank look on DOJ lawyer’s faces, Judge Brinkema continued:

    “But I think there’s something more important here, and that’s the integrity of the Justice Department,”

    Seen on Craig’s List after Judge Brinkema’s order:

    LOST: Somewhere and everywhere across the nation, “Integrity of the Justice Department”
    Current known aliases include “torture” “prevarication” “obstruction of justice” “destruction of evidence” and “disappearing children” Can be enticed if presented with a stripped, hooded, handcuffed detainee wearing a dog collar who has been beaten to a pulp, especially if the detainee is handed over with cooing noises and whispered directions to “assassinate” REWARD if not found. Contact George Bush Barack Obama

  25. Sara says:

    You can listen to most of the Sy Hersh presentation at the Minnesota Public Radio site. It was on the Midday Program today, second hour, 12-1:00 PM today. The program is actually a three way conversation among Hersh, Walter Mondale, and Larry Jackobs of the Humphrey Institute.

    While the assassination squads attached to Cheney’s office was something of a bright shiney object in the whole thing, the point of the presentation was really about whether formal hearings such as Leahy has been advancing, could work vis a vis all the Bush/Cheney leftovers. Mondale chaired the Domestic intelligence sub-committee of the Church Committee, and was part of the Tower Commission that investigated Iran Contra, and a significant part of the discussion was about those efforts versus what seems to be required now. Listening, I got the feeling that Hersh was rather enlisting Mondale in an effort to get up and running whatever Leahy can move forward. It is worth listening to the whole presentation in context.

    Hersh identified Elliot Abrams as the key White House Staffer who worked with Cheney — the operational guy if you will. Discussed a WH meeting shortly after 9/11 called by Cheney of veterans of Iran/Contra both in the WH then, and people from GHWBush’s circle, that first critiqued why Iran/Contra went wrong (Too many people knew, and Ollie North wrong person to run it) and then having critiqued, they laid out the plans. According to Hersh, the whole point was to get around any form of congressional oversight — and since Mondale was the author of much of the legislation that came in the wake of Church — FISA for instance — their mutual point was that Congress needed to act, because past efforts had obviously been somewhat ineffective.

    KO says tomorrow he will have this on his program. So the story has a few legs. Not often that a free evening program of the College of Continuning Education of the U of M and the Humphrey Institute goes to prime time in 24 hours.

  26. earlofhuntingdon says:

    No one would need to remind Mr. Craig that he’s the White House’s attorney, not Mr. Obama’s personally. He isn’t the attorney for the people or government of the United States. His job is to promote the interests of an office and its current occupant.

    As a DC wheeler-dealer, a job he’ll return to after his current gig, I would say that a less competent and respected DoJ helps Mr. Craig do his private sector job, which is largely influencing the DoJ decisions to benefit his private clients. One job pays less than $200K; the other an order of magnitude more than that. After eight years of Bush, Mr. Craig is not entitled to the benefit of any doubt about where his loyalties lie.

    • Sara says:

      I don’t think we should expect Obama or the Executive to investigate this whole thing. It is Congress that shortchanged itself given its oversight responsibility and powers, and it should be Congress that takes the lead in any investigation. After all at least one goal is to rebalance executive and legislative powers. Mondale got all fancy with that during the conversation, quoting Madison and all. But he was in the Senate during Watergate — and then played critical roles in subsequent investigations, which at least initially did rebalance powers between legislative and executive branches. What you want from Obama, once a plan for investigative efforts is formulated, is a grudging willingness to co-operate, handing over evidence and the like, and having a DoJ that follows up as evidence is laid out and criminal investigation must be considered.

      Hersh made a number of sketchy points — giving his audience a sense of how much needs investigation, and what he suspects we will never really know unless some sort of insider comes forth and tells all. For instance, the relationship between Bush and Cheney — he thinks it is a black hole that can’t easily be plumbed. He thinks we’ll ultimately get much of what Cheney did — but what Bush knew and didn’t know — that to Hersh is the big black hole. In otherwords we will find it most difficult to discover how presidential authorities were really used.

      But listen to the conversation itself at MPR’s site. And yes, there is a good piece on it at the Minnesota Post.

      • bmaz says:

        I think you are exactly right with the investigations by Congress thought (Mondale too); however, that is not what Leahy was proposing. Leahy proposed the “blue ribbon” style of commission. We discussed this previously and it is still my objection to Leahy and I still think his plan is going nowhere fast. As an unfortunate corollary, I also see no appetite for real work by Congress either. Pretty sad state of affairs, and if you can’t investigate what has transpired over the last eight years now, what exactly will be worthy in the future?

    • MarkH says:

      Will Obama investigate this now that the secret is on the news?

      This kind of thing has to be done by Congress.

  27. neurophius says:

    Meghan McCain on Rachel coming across as an actual moderate, indeed reasonable, Republican.

    one of a kind?

  28. Styve says:

    I am curious what people think of the fact that the first thing Hersh discusses is “domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state.[…]” Though the focus is on the “executive assassination” team operating under Cheney, the “second area of extra-legal operations: the Joint Special Operations Command, it is unclear or intentionally left opaque whether the domestic “activities” involved assassination in a literal sense, or in a figurative (blackmail, political persecution??) sense.

    • pmorlan says:

      The first thing that came to my mind were the mysterious deaths surrounding the Minot and Barksdale AFB after the bent spear incident in August, 2007. As it happens I was just reading over some of the media coverage surrounding that incident last night. I even read some of the DOD press conferences that I hadn’t seen before where they bobbed and weaved and delayed answering questions. I think there was definitely more to that story than the official, it was just a few guys making mistakes (few bad apples), story put out by the DOD. I also wouldn’t be surprised to hear of Blackwater being involved.

      I also agree with you that the domestic part of this could very well be about leaning on newspaper owners, reporters, politicians and others in order to keep them quiet. It might also help explain why there is such an overwhelming desire on the part of so many to keep from investigating any Bush crimes.

      • Styve says:

        Thanks for the support, pmorlan! It is wierd that no one is talking about what might be entailed in the “domestic activities,” but is rather focusing on the “Iraq Option”, to coin a phrase!!

        • pmorlan says:

          They probably don’t want to speculate and be seen as conspiracy nuts. I really don’t care if my speculation makes me seem that way. After all with all the things we KNOW that Bush and Cheney did I don’t think our speculation is that outlandish. I only wish it were.

      • bobschacht says:

        One of our own (former?) Firepups a.k.a. “The Spook” took a close look at that and wrote a bunch of stuff in a series of blogs during September 2007 that was copiously sourced, but has not been taken seriously by the main bloggers here. Tin foil hat territory for some, but if you want a lot of the basic data on that incident, you can find it in those articles.

        Bob in HI

  29. tbsa says:

    So just who did they believe were enemies of the state? I wonder how many American citizens they took out. Possibly the Anthrax Doctor who died suddenly.

  30. Petrocelli says:

    I hope this story goes to the top of the heap, and that Gordon Brown is forced to hold hearings.

  31. ThingsComeUndone says:

    Palme Swedish Prime Minster during Reagen’s time. The Prime minister of Panama plane crash then Manuel Noreiga took over.

    • acquarius74 says:

      Here is the May, 2008 clip of Amy Goodman on interviewing John Perkins, who calls himself an (formerly) Economic Hit Man. He began his ‘work’ in 1965. Here he explains that first the EHMs went into a 3rd world country, ’sold’ the ruler on a big infrastructure job that the IMF and World Bank would fund, creating a huge debt that could not be paid. The money of the loan went to the US who paid the big corps who built the infrastructure facilities.

      If the Economic Hit Men failed to slicker the ruler into the program, then the Jackels were sent in to assassinate the ruler and install a puppet. If the Jackels failed (as in Saddam’s case), then the military went in (as in Saddam’s case).

      There are also good videos on YouTube of this John Perkins telling of his experiences with the take-over of governments by US.

        • ThingsComeUndone says:

          Sarah ran as prolife she put her family on display. She is against birth control if her daughter is having the normal problems teen moms face then lets see Sarah’s family values fix things.
          Teens having sex we say birth control. Why having a family really makes it hard to finish high school and if you do not do that you can’t get a good job. Both Bristol and Levy have dropped out.
          No good job equals higher divorce rate! Something else Sarah hates. To be fair Bristol never got married to Levy so no divorce.
          Now suppose Sarah was to poor to support her daughter can we say Welfare Mom all the GOP hates that but there but for the grace of her family’s cash goes Bristol.

  32. Valtin says:

    This is a chilling story, whether or not Hersh reported on some of this last year. Assassination is the third rail of American politics, and the use of the drones to kill/assassinate by remote control has caught the fancy of the media (60 Minutes report).

    Here’s how the military describes JSOC, indicating by its innocuous description that it is intended to be deep cover:

    Joint Special Operations Command is a joint headquarters designed to study special operations requirements and techniques; ensure interoperability and equipment standardization; plan and conduct joint special operations exercises and training; and develop joint special operations tactics.

    I presume that many here are familiar with the CIA Assassination Manual, “A Study of Assassination”, from the 1950s, transcribed over at National Security Archive.

    In safe assassinations, the assassin needs the usual qualities of a clandestine agent. He should be determined, courageous, intelligent, resourceful, and physically active. If special equipment is to be used, such as firearms or drugs, it is clear that he must have outstanding skill with such equipment.

    Except in terroristic assassinations, it is desirable that the assassin be transient in the area….

    For secret assassination, either simple or chase, the contrived accident is the most effective technique. When successfully executed, it causes little excitement and is only casually investigated.

    The most efficient accident, in simple assassination, is a fall of 75 feet or more onto a hard surface….

    In all types of assassination except terroristic, drugs can be very effective. If the assassin is trained as a doctor or nurse and the subject is under medical care, this is an easy and rare method. An overdose of morphine administered as a sedative will cause death without disturbance and is difficult to detect. The size of the dose will depend upon whether the subject has been using narcotics regularly. If not, two grains will suffice….

    Specific poisons, such as arsenic or strychine, are effective but their possession or procurement is incriminating, and accurate dosage is problematical.

    By the way, there’s a job opening at JSOC! Here’s how it reads:

    Joint duty position opens for intel officer

    RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) — A joint duty position for a captain or major in the intelligence career field is open with the Joint Special Operations Command at Pope Air Force Base, N.C.

    According to officials at the Air Force Personnel Center here, the person selected will work within the command’s intelligence directorate.

    The job involves coordinating all source tactical, theater, and strategic intelligence in support of assigned and attached joint service, surgical special operations forces, say officials with JSOC. Other responsibilities include acting as an interface with the national intelligence community and the JSOC force during operations and developing intelligence scenarios for joint readiness exercises.

    Those interested in applying for the position should have 10 to 12 years time in service and have special operations experience. The reporting date for the position is January or February. reports the following as JSOC Units:

    1st Special Forces Operational Detachment / Delta – “Delta Force”

    75th Ranger Regiment (1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions)

    Naval Special Warfare Development Group – (SEAL Team Six)

    160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) – “Night Stalkers”

    Finally, as a last shot in this omnibus, throw some interesting things together comment/contribution to this discussion, there’s this from IntelNews:

    Thirty more people were killed this past weekend in Pakistan by US missiles fired from unmanned CIA drone planes, in the second such strike on Barack Obama’s watch. In late January, two more missiles killed at least 20 people, according to international news agencies. That these drone attacks by the CIA are authorized by the US and Pakistani governments has been well known and well reported for some time. IntelNews is among several news outlets that have reported on a high-level US-Pakistani agreement by which “the US government refuses to publicly acknowledge the [US missile] attacks [on Pakistani soil] while Pakistan’s government continues to complain noisily about the politically sensitive strikes”. This website has repeatedly questioned the legality of these extrajudicial assassinations, which apparently is an issue that does not concern the Obama administration or most US intelligence experts. The more important question in the minds of intelligence observers appears to be why the US is unable to hold its side of their bargain. While Pakistan has overzealously kept its part of the deal, by refusing to even discuss these strikes, recent weeks have seen several American public figures make unauthorized disclosures of the assassination operations. Late last month, while speaking to the US Senate Armed Services Committee, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates essentially confirmed that the Pakistani leadership is aware of the CIA drone activities. Last Thursday, US Senator Diane Feinstein carelessly exposed the Pakistani government by stating during a public Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing that “as I understand it, these [CIA drones] are flown out of a Pakistani base”. Pakistani government officials quickly scrambled to issue assurances that “[t]here are no foreign bases in Pakistan” and that they have no idea what Senator Feinstein is talking about. But nobody believes them, of course, since, as one leading Pakistani daily wrote, the country’s “[o]fficial sources have lost all credibility”. Meanwhile, the recent CIA missile attacks were the firth this year. At least 162 people have reportedly been killed in 39 CIA missile strikes in Pakistan during the past few months.

    • ThingsComeUndone says:

      Just turn that into a diary kids looking for information on the topic can then read it and we get this story more coverage:)

    • greenwarrior says:

      it struck me as odd that starting date for the jsoc job was january or february. from the url on the linked article it looks like this might have been a posting from 1995. why would it still be there?

      • Valtin says:

        I don’t know. It could be an old posting, or it could be a kind of ongoing position, or a come-on, to draw in applicants, and then sort them out later into the (classified) real positions.

  33. perris says:

    “Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us. [emphasis original]

    ;let’s make something brutally clear, not realized till spoken but obvious once told;

    these “assassinations” were personal, they had very little do do with “eliminating a dictator” because they used dictators who played along

    this had to do with someone having information or releasing embarrassing information and paying the price

  34. bobschacht says:

    This just came in over the transom– well, actually in an email:

    Attorney General Appoints Officials to Lead Task Force Reviews on Interrogation and Detention Policy

    Wednesday, March 11, 2009
    (202) 514-2007
    TDD (202) 514-1888
    WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder today announced the appointment of two individuals to lead interagency task forces established under separate Executive Orders issued on Jan. 22 calling for a review of the government’s interrogation and transfer policies, as well as a review of detention policy.

    “These appointments reflect our commitment to develop sound options for handling detainees in the future as well as policies on interrogation and transfer that uphold American values and national security interests,” said Attorney General Holder. “Having served in critical legal and national security positions over their careers, J. Douglas Wilson and Brad Wiegmann have the experience and judgment necessary to help us carry out these important tasks.”

    This is just the lead. Who are Douglas Wilson & Brad Wiegmann?

    Bob in HI

    • Valtin says:

      Brad Wiegmann: Here he shows up as an attorney for the Department of Defense, circa 1998 in a deposition, as part of “Filegate” (a Judicial Watch file).

      Then, at this link, we find Mr. Wiegmann listed as a recipient of one of the missing memos…..Vaughn.pdf. Brad Wiegmann is listed as NSC, and most likely is listed in about seven other emails, as someone in the OLC loop with the other attys discussing Geneva, etc.

      The 5/28/04 memo is the only one with listed with the name “Brad Wiegmann”, the others all say “John B. Wiegmann”, who is also listed as NSC. It’s possible that John B. Wiegmann and Brad Wiegmann are two different people. John Wiegmann currently seems to work at Dept of State.

      The 5/28/04 memo is to “Brad Wiegmann (NSC), A Erdmann (NSC), Carl J. Tierney (DOD), Brad Clark (OSD)” from C. Kevin Marshall (OLC), and cc’d to “Jack Goldsmith, Howard Nielson (all OLC)”. The memo is described as “E-mail among OLC, NSC, and OSD with draft OLC analysis re: Geneva Conventions”.

      I don’t know C. Kevin Marshall, the author of the memo Wiegmann received, except to say he’s a Federalist Society member. He also shows up in the recent Bradbury memo as a cite for the reasoning against the right of the President to suspend treaties.

      J. Douglas Wilson… googling… I found this, from the statement “given to DOJ Inspector General investigators in 2002 by a DOJ Prosecutor named John De Pue, a 25 year veteran of DOJ”:

      … the Chief of the Appellate Section emailed me expressing the view that any such interview would not be subject to suppression. She subsequently emailed me a memorandum J. Douglas Wilson, formerly of the Appellate Section and presently the Criminal Chief of the San Francisco US Attorney’s Office … concluding that the sole remedy for a “McDade” violation was to discipline the responsible attorney and that suppression of any resulting statement was unwarranted.”

      There’s this, from AFP:

      The Attorney General appointed J. Douglas Wilson, currently the chief of the National Security Unit in the US Attorney’s Office for the northern district of California to lead a task force that will review US policies on interrogation and the transfer of detainees.

      Wilson’s team will review whether the “Army Field Manual interrogation guidelines … provide an appropriate means of acquiring the intelligence to protect the nation, and whether different or additional interrogation guidance is necessary,” the US Justice Department said.

      It will also examine US policy on rendition—the transfer of individuals to other nations for interrogation—and will establish rules ensuring policies “comply with domestic and international legal obligations … and that individuals do not face torture or inhumane treatment.”

      Brad Wiegmann, a deputy chief of staff in the National Security Division of the Department of Justice, was appointed to lead a review of US detention policies, together with a representative of the Department of Defense.

      Wilson wrote National Security Investigations and Prosecutions, but it costs $194. It appears mostly to be about FISA.

      This treatise presents the law governing, and related to, national security investigations (NSIs). An NSI is an investigation conducted by the United States government to acquire information about foreign threats to the national security, e.g., international terrorism. National security law is often inaccessible, and can be particularly hard to follow when divorced from the context of historical tradition, governmental structures, and operational reality in which it functions. This treatise explores the full background of NSIs, both from a pre-911 and a post-911 perspective, providing a powerful tool for any attorney handling a case involving a national security investigation or prosecution.

      The book is co-written with David Kris. Here’s some interesting facts about our man’s co-author:

      David S. Kris was the Assistant Deputy Attorney General for national security issues in the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) from 2000 to 2003. He had worked his way up through the DOJ. He is now a counsel, Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, and Senior Vice President at Time Warner.

      Kris had been a high-ranking DOJ lawyer in the Bush administration for several years, and had appeared before Congress to advocate for the administration’s positions regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the USA PATRIOT Act. He had furthermore previously appeared before Congress in his personal capacity, after leaving the DOJ, to continue advocating for the government to have enhanced flexibility under FISA and the PATRIOT Act. This background caused his strong criticism of the administration’s legal claims to be considered particularly notable.

      Finally, here’s an interesting case that Wilson lost as U.S. Attorney, when the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit threw out an interrogation after finding that the defendant was denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel…. Interesting.

      U.S. v Harrison
      , 213 F.3d 1206, (9th Circuit, 2000)

      I’m smelling a big fat rat. Two rats (three if you include Holder, four if you include Obama).

    • emptywheel says:

      We know that some parts of EO 12333 were pixie dusted away. So it’s not really relevant–Bush may have simply wished away the no assassination provisions.

      Moreover, if you look at the earlier Hersh article, linked about, you’ll see they’re doing this under their military, not intell, banner, which means they claim they are free from some of their oversight in this issue.

  35. NorskeFlamethrower says:


    Citizen emptywheel and the Firepup Freedom Fighters:

    I have been waitin’ for Hersh to unburden himself…and I thought he’d have the courage to do it before the bastards got out of town and took our country’s honor and soul with ‘em.

    Look, it’s not like hundreds and even thousands of people haven’t known about this stuff to some degree or another since it began and this includes military, administration types, media folks and corporate leaders. Nothing else matters now, not the economy, not Iraq, not Afgahnistan, nuthin else matters until we uncover and deal with the entirety of the crimes and corruption of the last 8 years beginnin’ with the election of 2000 and 9/11 all the way through forged documents that led to war and the outing of a CIA officer in order to blind the country to what was really goin on with nuclear proliferation.

    Unless and until we deal with all of it in the clear light of democracy nothing about our existance as a country will mean a tinker’s dam to the rest of the world or history.


  36. Scarecrow says:

    So, if we send Predator’s into Pakistan and fire missiles at the suspected home of a Taliban leader, is that different from an assassination squad?

    • phred says:

      Nope. You just end up with a lot more “collateral” damage. Whatever happened to “don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes”? A nation unwilling to suffer losses in a war ought not to go around inflicting it on others. And when a nation is willing to suffer losses in a war, then you know that it is justified in waging it.

  37. perris says:

    here is my fantasy;

    bush is told by his lapdog that it is all unraveling (rove gets this one right, it is unraveling)

    rove has to come up with a plan to salvage something, the plan is this;

    bush has to give cheney up, he has to pull the reagan;

    “this was done withouy my knowledge nor my approval, I consider this a direct violation of my orders and our law”

    cheney is arrested, bush turns states evidence for a plea deal

  38. Leen says:

    Glenn, Juan Cole (said that Rahm Emmanuel was deeply involved), Larry Johnson, Steve Clemons, Amy Goodman, Attackerman, Max Blumenthal have all written about the Charles Freeman withdrawal….But the MSM has not touched it. Rachel, Matthews,Olberman, Shuster not allowed to go near it. Anyone hearing the MSM touch this?

    • klynn says:

      This does not look good for Rahm. When Rosen started the whole campaign…It does not look good when it appears like Rahm carried water for someone charged with espionage against the US.

  39. cinnamonape says:

    I suspect Hersch is not merely talking about the run oif the mill procedures of killing known terrorists when authorized by the President~ EO 12333.

    CIA-Executive Ponders Assassination

    Hersch would, of course, know more about the history and uses of this than anyone. He must be referring to something else that removed the decision-making from Bush, and broadens the scope of those to be targeted beyond even those that could be considered “fundraisers” for AQ. It seemed that the CIA was edgy about undertaking activities that were not directly approved by Bush. So Cheney created this rogue group out of a variety of Special Forces units.

    • Sara says:

      According to what Hersh says at the tail end of the tape, (The Minnesota Post has a badly recorded but unedited for a radio time slot version that is on MPR), his stories in 2007 and early 2008 regarding plans for war on Iran were sourced to Intelligence Sources trying to get the two committees in Congress to sign off on letting them kidnap Iranian Nuclear Scientists, and then shoot their way out of Iran. They wanted to bring the kidnapped scientist to the US and get him to “confess” to the Iranian Nuke Program and all — but alas the committees asked questions about how they were to get into Iran, and they had to admit it too might involve some shooting. So it was not approved.

      Hersh says that once Obama was elected, and given the whole intelligence picture, he got to Bush and turned the whole thing off. Hersh seems to suggest there was a whole batch of such stuff underway last fall, much of which Bush didn’t know about, or at least claimed he didn’t know about.

      Sounds to me as if Hersh is ready to spill lots of stories, so the water on this could be breaking. If so, Congress may be led to investigate even if they now prefer to stay hands off.

      What I find interesting is Hersh’s choice of venue. 1300 miles from the beltway, Jointly with a senior statesman like Mondale who probably has more experience chairing serious investigations than any living former resident of the Beltway, and at a fairly informal public meeting on a big ten campus with an audience of mainly students taking courses at the Humphrey Institute. It’s just an interesting place to start dropping all your stories.

      • Phoenix Woman says:

        According to what Hersh says at the tail end of the tape, (The Minnesota Post has a badly recorded but unedited for a radio time slot version that is on MPR), his stories in 2007 and early 2008 regarding plans for war on Iran were sourced to Intelligence Sources trying to get the two committees in Congress to sign off on letting them kidnap Iranian Nuclear Scientists, and then shoot their way out of Iran. They wanted to bring the kidnapped scientist to the US and get him to “confess” to the Iranian Nuke Program and all — but alas the committees asked questions about how they were to get into Iran, and they had to admit it too might involve some shooting. So it was not approved.

        Hersh says that once Obama was elected, and given the whole intelligence picture, he got to Bush and turned the whole thing off. Hersh seems to suggest there was a whole batch of such stuff underway last fall, much of which Bush didn’t know about, or at least claimed he didn’t know about.

        Sounds to me as if Hersh is ready to spill lots of stories, so the water on this could be breaking. If so, Congress may be led to investigate even if they now prefer to stay hands off.

        What I find interesting is Hersh’s choice of venue. 1300 miles from the beltway, Jointly with a senior statesman like Mondale who probably has more experience chairing serious investigations than any living former resident of the Beltway, and at a fairly informal public meeting on a big ten campus with an audience of mainly students taking courses at the Humphrey Institute. It’s just an interesting place to start dropping all your stories.

        Wow. Just — wow. Cheney really was running the frickin’ government, wasn’t he?

        And the idea of Obama, not yet sworn in, running to Bush to tell him about what was being done in his name, and to get him to stop it — I wonder if Obama’s blood ran cold when he first heard about it, and about what it all meant.

  40. nanachalfont says:

    Does it shock? No- but does it shock that Americans are still complacent over these outrages? To think that these actions against Americans have not occurred is to continue to be complacent. In only 8 years these thugs were able to act illegally, to commit treason to break international law and to kill ultimately well over a million people- Americans. They did not allow the fallen soldiers to be seen on TV- they arrested people at rallies for wearing T-shirts that suggested they supported a different candidate! They absolutely and most definitely took us to the brink of complete and total tyranny- they manipulated the economy and we will be paying for years- wiped out- this country is WIPED out! And what’s shocking is that now- it will begin to unfold and where will be the outrage? I am shocked by Americans- anthrax deaths? The entire 9-11 committee knew it was being lied to? HUH? Arrest them! We went to war on a lie- and yet we’re having a hard time getting our soldiers the hell out of Iraq- and we’re hot for sending more to Afghanistan where we’ll really get our asses handed to us- as if we haven’t already. The problem with us is that we do not learn- not a thing.
    The shock is that we’re not shocked and calling upon what we assume others do and have done is just more laziness and cowardice. They took just about everything- maybe more than we know now- but trust me- they are walking around and they still have networks supporting them and lulling the rest of us back into whether or not Jessica Simpson is too fat!You can bet, if they ever do stand trial they’ll get their habeus corpus- and they won’t be tortured- cause we have a shred of- well a broken skeleton of a democratic government with ‘rules’ let’s stop justifying their anti- American anti- planet actions- all of which, by the way, they grew

  41. Styve says:

    Just ARREST CHENEY, and ask questions later!! Oh, and we can make an exception to the “America doesn’t torture…” schtick…

    • Leen says:

      Just drop him down in the middle of Baghdad butt ass naked and let the Iraqi people take care of him.

      Hopefully people will let Rahm, Schumer, Rep Israel, I hear Feinstein was on the get rid of Freeman bus. Call all of them

  42. Citizen92 says:

    Look a little closer a McRaven.

    From his official Navy bio:

    experience includes assignments as the director for Strategic Planning in the Office of Combating Terrorism on the National Security Council Staff

    Of course I suspected as much because that Navy Bio picture shows a big ol’ PSB (Presidential Service Badge) on the right front of his uniform. PSB’s are given only to those who serve/d as full time military staff to the President. Service on the NSC qualifies. Ollie North also had one of those PSB’s.

    I say look at McRaven because of where he had been. His stint on the NSC staff in the Office of Combatting Terrorism was in an office created after 9/11. OCT was put together and run by a retired General named Wayne Downoing. One of Downing’s claims to fame? He was a lobbyist for the Iraqi National Congress. Another? That he was part of the Pentagon’s “military analyst (Torie Clarke’s shill) program.”

    I wonder if Bush-Cheney saw something they liked in VADM McRaven during his time at the White House? I wonder if Cheney had a “different understanding” with the President when it came to McRaven?

  43. 1oldlady says:

    Well, lets go back, way back to hum….Nixon. Cheney was…hum, head of the intelligent agency! Wonder why people would think such a thing about him!? I find it hard to believe that Cheney was NOT part of Watergate… That’s why I think there’s a connection between Watergate and what Hersh is claiming. Cheney didn’t get caught, so he did not learn anything, and the pattern is repeated – in a different form. The process is the same, in my view!

    Remember, a few years ago, I for got which news agency reported it, but there was a large company truck that specializes in “shredding”, parked out front of the VP’s home in Washington D.C.? What were they doing and why?

    You know, when such a journalist such as Hersh knows information about any government agency or someone breaking national law and international law, and want to wait unit the “smoke” clears…and starts to “tease” you with the information he/she has…this in my view – they are as guilty as the agency/person in that government agency! I don’t know journalist law or what form of protection they may have…But with such information as what he is claiming to know; makes this even worst and shows his lack of moral and ethical standards that seem to weasel there way in to our culture!

  44. Mary says:

    55 – *G* I guess not.

    60/102 – thanks for the direct take. Can you actually see this Congress doing anything though? I just can’t picture it – not theHarry Reid/Chuck Schumer/Joe Lieberman/Mitch McConnell/Lindsey Graham etc. freak show. Inhofe, Baucus, the Nelsons, Rockefeller, DiFi – I just can’t even picture it.

    95 – you and bmaz must be closet Bingophiles.

    103 – nothing concrete, although offers to make sure it stays permanently lost have been pouring in … from the DOJ.

    No one ever seems to have tried to nail down numbers on black sited victims. While 14 eventually were handed over, the discussions seem to indicate closer to 100 were involved. Some ended up in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, etc. There was the Pakistani tied to Pearl’s murder who was dumped off at his house to die. But no real efforts to cross check names and numbers.

    125 – wssn’t that also the EO prohibiting human experimentation and drugging?

  45. klynn says:


    Thanks so much for this post. The comments have been great. The post sure puts into perspective all the times we wondered why there was no action on behalf of the Rule of Law.

    How many times did we question out loud about blackmail or a looming/hidden threat?

    The worst part would be if there is any foreign backing to Cheney’s work or if there is foreign infiltration of such an operation.

  46. JimWhite says:

    Okay, Marcy, you’ve either got to put up a new post or I have to open or close a few more tabs on my browser. Right now, this tab heading reads:

    Emptywheel >> Cheney’s Ass…

  47. SWEG says:

    So what’s new? We’ve been murdering people for ideological reasons since the early fifties and have never come up for air.

  48. Loo Hoo. says:


    By the way, in case there’s any ambiguity on the subject, President Gerald Ford in 1975 signed an executive order that said this: : “No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.” It’s been upheld by every subsequent president. Apparently vice presidents are another matter.

  49. Nell says:

    Re the Attytood link, particularly ‘upheld by every subsequent president’: I thought it was publicly reported that Bush overturned the Ford EO banning assassinations after the September 11 attacks.

    Not that we did anything but farm out the ‘engaging in political assassinations’ during the period when the Ford EO was being “upheld”.

  50. Rayne says:

    This continues to chew and nag at me:

    Iran Contra, writ large — what Elliott Abrams said were the key learnings from Iran Contra.
    – can’t trust our friends
    – C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it
    – can’t trust the uniformed military
    – got to be run out of the OVP

    Check, hmm, check, check. So was the CIA completely out of it?

    And who’s not a friend…?

  51. Leen says:

    Here is Elliot Abrams advice for Obama on the I/P conflict via Steve Rosen.

    Interview with Abrams…..2FShowFull

    Elliott Abrams’ advice to Obama team

    by Steve Rosen
    Tue, 24 Feb 2009 at 9:13 AM…..-team.html

    Elliott Abrams, a top Mideast strategist for the Bush Administration, sets forth in the Weekly Standard his advice for the Obama team on Israeli-Palestinian issues. He says “it is time to face certain facts: We are not on the verge of Israeli-Palestinian peace; a Palestinian state cannot come into being in the near future; and the focus should be on building the institutions that will allow for real Palestinian progress in the medium or longer term.”

  52. Sara says:

    Late in this thread, but an afternote

    The Minnesota Post has up a response from Public Relations at the CIA denying everything. It is a piece in Eric Black’s sidebar.

    This is a little ironic, as Hersh said the subject was the JSOC, the Joint Special Operations Command, that reported only to Cheney during the Bush/Cheney era — he never said CIA was the operational body in question, and CIA certainly did not have authority over JSOC, which he describes as including Navy Seals, Army Rangers, etc. But for some reason the Public Relations folk at CIA thought it worth while to send Black a denial without being noticed of the article. For what it is worth, the Minnesota Post is an all web “newspaper” created by former long time Strib reporters who were bought out when the paper downsized, and who got good start up money from local Family Foundations.

    Anyhow, Black has sent the CIA PR denial to Sy Hersh for comment. So as some say — story developing…..

  53. acquarius74 says:

    Most of you are probably familiar with the Frank R. Olson case. He was a microbiologist during WWII when CIA was OSS (Office of Special Services). He was assigned to Ft Detrick, MD and continued working with ‘the hot stuff’ as anthrax and biological warfare were tagged. He became disenchanted with the CIA and its programs, began ‘talking too much’ and wanted to quit and get out of the CIA. In Nov, 1953 he was murdered by a CIA colleague in NY City. When his son, Eric Olson, grew up he began investigating his father’s death, including having his father’s body exhumed and an autopsy done.

    Here is how Cheney and Rumsfeld come into the picture: [seems they had a pretty tight communication with the CIA in early 1970’s]

    Article, London Sunday Express, August 25, 2002 – by Gordon Thomas


    Eric Olson believes that Cheney and Rumsfeld were later given the task in the 1970s of covering up the details of his father’s death.

    At that time Rumsfeld was White House Chief of Staff to President Gerald Ford. Dick Cheney was a White House assistant.

    Among the papers found by Professor Olmstead is one that allegedly states: “Dr Olson’s job was so sensitive that it is highly unlikely that we would submit relevant evidence.”

    In a memo, Cheney allegedly acknowledges that: “The Olson lawyers will seek to explore all the circumstances of Dr Olson’s employment, as well as those concerning his death. In any trial, it may become apparent that we are concealing evidence for national security reasons and any settlement or judgement reached thereafter could be perceived as money paid to cover up the activities of the CIA.”

    Frank Olson’s family received $ 750,000 (then about GBP 400,000) to settle their claims in 1976.

    Both the offices of Rumsfeld and Cheney have declined to comment on their role concerning the alleged coverup but, from his home outside Washington, Eric Olson said that the documents involving Rumsfeld and Cheney show they “have questions to answer”.

    He added: “The documents show the lengths to which the government was trying to cover up the truth.”


    • acquarius74 says:

      Coincidence that Chaney built his retirement palace within a stone’s throw of CIA Headquarters at Langley?

      Chaney is becoming more and more vocal – almost bragging about the power he wielded as VP. Just stupid that he admitted his influence in getting the waterboarding approved. Commenter above reports Chaney is to be on CNN again Sunday night…

      Careful, Darth, seems those old seams of secrecy are beginning to leak… CIA no likey that.

  54. Sara says:

    The Frank Olson case is one small piece of what is referred to as the “Family Jewels”. These were serious cases that as of 1975 CIA and other intelligence agencies were hiding, but Bill Colby, then D-CIA dropped them on the Church Committee in late 1975. The Olson case was one which fit within the subcommittee on Domestic Abuse by Intelligence Agencies of the Church Committee, Senator Walter Mondale was the sub-committee chair. It was Mondale who put the case on the public record in a careful way that led to the decision by the agency to make payment to Olson’s family. Mondale talked about this during his conversation with Sy Hersh at the U the other night. It was Rumsfeld and Cheney who convinced President Ford to fire Colby after he offered up the “Family Jewels” to the Mondale Subcommittee, and the replacement for Colby at CIA was — George Herbert Walker Bush. Cheney and Rumsfeld helped select GHWB.

    Joint Special Operations Command would be a military designation — anything that begins with “Joint” is almost always Military in the wake of Goldwater-Nickles. It combines the assets of the service special operations commands, the Navy Seals, the Army Rangers, Green Berets, and whatever the Marines and Airforce call their special operations types. Chain of command should be from the service units through the joint command and to the Secretary of Defense and then the President — but according to Hersh this ended in Cheney’s digs.

    On KO’s show tonight, the little piece with Howard Fineman was of interest. He said he had checked around today with regard to Hersh’s points at the Minnesota event, and apparently was told that if Hersh was saying it, there probably was lots of there there. This could be a case where Hersh dropped just enough that his competition is now going to beat the bushes and see if they can outdo him — it tends to work that way, particularly with Sy Hersh. Both Fineman and Jonathan Alter last night looked like they could not wait to start doing some real reporting. Fineman’s comments suggested to me that he had just come off a very close reading of all Hersh’s reporting over the past few years, and he had some good ideas of where to go and start reporting. Hersh also said the other night that Bush/Cheney had lowered the boom on the national and major news and media outfits — no reporting on this stuff, and they in turn had turned off their investigative reporters. My thinking is that Hersh may have broken the dam, and that he intended to do so.

    Apparently Leahy has not gotten lots of responses in the Senate to his idea for a Commission, or hearings however they are structured. Pressure needs to be put on the obvious Senators to wipe their eyes and sign on as a joint author with Leahy on a good plan. We can differ as to how it should be done — but we need to up the pressure to get Leahy co-authors. KO talked about this tonight too.

    • newtonusr says:

      Both Fineman and Jonathan Alter last night looked like they could not wait to start doing some real reporting.

      I also got the impression that they are getting the Pulitzer sniff.

    • acquarius74 says:

      I forgot the snark symbol after my ‘joint’ remark, but thanks for the clarification. I’ve read much about this secret tool of the pres., they operate under no law and with an almost unlimited budget…whatever it takes.

      I had it figured that GHWB as Dir CIA had recruited Chaney and probably Rummy.

      Imagine an America in which that original Bush had never set foot on our soil.

  55. Nell says:

    Sara: Both Fineman and Jonathan Alter last night looked like they could not wait to start doing some real reporting.

    Jonathan Alter would have to produce something equivalent in significance and impact to Sy Hersh’s entire career output to compensate for his having recommended torture as a tactic after September 11 (in his Newsweek column the first week in November 2001). Or do you think he was forced to do this by his frightened editor?

    Howard Fineman, on the evidence of his most recent column, does not appear even capable of real reporting.

    However, I’d be willing to take seriously the theory that these two men were somehow held back by intimidated or bought-off media employers for the last eight years if we could strike a deal: neither will be allowed to appear in any medium as commenters or pundits for the next year, and their names can only appear in connection with actual reporting done by them.

    With or without such an arrangement, I’m not holding my breath waiting for any stories of significance from either one.

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