Details on Secret CIA Assassination Program Begin to Emerge
by Charles Lemos, Mon Jul 13, 2009 at 02:18:27 PM EDT
Yesterday after reading in the Wall Street Journal that secret CIA program whose disclosure former Vice President Cheney ordered withheld from Congress apparently involved targeting high level Al Qaeda operatives, I wondered if it wasn't already common knowledge that the United States was targeting for assassination Al Qaeda operatives. Surely, this is not Earth-shattering news that requires keeping Congressional leaders in the dark. Black operations against Al Qaeda's leadership and their rank and file has been on-going since the early days of the Clinton Administration.
Today, the UK Guardian adds more color and suggests that the CIA program that Vice President Cheney ordered concealed was a program similar to a suspected Mossad program that tracked down and killed members of the Palestinian Black September terrorist group that were involved in the attack on Israeli athletes that left 11 dead at 1972 Munich Olympics. This Mossad operation was first reported by Canadian journalist George Jonas in his book Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team and later made into an Academy Award nominated film, Munich, by Steven Spielberg.
From The Guardian's story:
Dick Cheney, the former vice president, ordered a highly classified CIA operation hidden from Congress because it pushed the limits of legality by planning to assassinate al-Qaida operatives in friendly countries without the knowledge of their governments, according to former intelligence officials.
Former counter-terrorism officials who retain close links to the intelligence community say that the hidden operation involved plans by the CIA and the military to launch operations, similar to those by Israel's Mossad intelligence service, to hunt down and kill al-Qaida activists abroad without informing the governments concerned, even though some were regarded as friendly if unreliable.
The CIA apparently did not put the plan in to operation but the US military did, carrying out several assassinations including one in Kenya that proved to be a severe embarrassment and helped lead to the quashing of the programme.
A former intelligence official said the plan was hatched in the cauldron of the September 11 attacks when officials were pushing various forms of unilateral action and some settled on the Israelis as an example.
"One of the most sensitive areas has been what we do in friendly countries that don't want to co-operate or maybe we don't have enough confidence to entrust them with information. If you have an al-Qaida guy wandering around certain bits of the world we might decide that we need to deal with that ourselves, directly, without making a lot of noise," he said. "There was a plan to deal with that. It was much talked about in the CIA and the military had its own operation."
Another former senior intelligence official responsible for dealing with al-Qaida said that assassination plans were reined in after similar covert operations by the military were botched and proved to be embarrassing, particularly the killing in Kenya. He did not give details of the operation.
The official said he believes from conversations with serving members of the CIA that the area of real concern in Congress is that the planned operations may also have involved the covert surveillance of American citizens.
There appears to be common agreement among knowledgeable former intelligence officials that the controversy goes beyond the immediate question of assassination and capture of al-Qaida operatives as there have been numerous killings and detentions since the 9/11 attacks.
One former official said that the Bush administration discussed assassinations in the context of a ban introduced in the 1970s that responded to several failed CIA attempts to murder Fidel Castro, and concluded that as the US had declared itself at war with al-Qaida and the Taliban, this ban did not apply.
In the aftermath of September 11th when the entire world was on the American side, it is difficult to conceive of most foreign governments not co-operating with US intelligence on these matters. The main exception would have been Pakistan whose intelligenc services, the ISI, retains links to Al Qaeda and other Islamist terror groups. Furthermore, extra-judicial assassinating Al Qaeda operatives in the field is a far different cry from assassinating foreign leaders. Based on what we know now, it still remains puzzling as to why Vice President Cheney would order the details of this secret CIA program, and now apparently a DOD program as well, concealed from the Gang of the Eight in the Congressional leadership.