Cheney’s secret assassination program may be terminated, but the U.S. is already carrying out “targeted killings”
By Mark Benjamin | Salon.com, July 17, 2009
Media reports recently exposed efforts by the Bush administration to create a CIA “assassination squad” so secret that former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the agency to keep Congress in the dark about it. The Wall Street Journal called it a secret plan to “capture or kill al Qaida operatives”; on Thursday, the Washington Post said the program was about to be activated when CIA director Leon Panetta pulled the plug.
But the blaring headlines, and the buzz in the blogosphere, are not just due to more evidence of the ex-veep’s addiction to executive power and behind-the-scenes machinations. It’s that word “assassinate.” Most observers assume that assassination is specifically proscribed by U.S. policy. Except it isn’t, exactly, and while the secret CIA assassination program canceled by Panetta may never have claimed a victim, the U.S. is already carrying out actions that look nearly exactly like assassinations, and doing so within the guidelines of domestic and international law. The United States has had plenty of legal latitude to carry out targeted killings during the so-called war on terror — and has been exercising that option vigorously for the past eight years.