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Assassinations, Accountability and the CIA

The murky world of what the CIA should be doing has engaged our Readers Who Comment in a food fight this morning as they debate whether CIA Director Leon Panetta was right to cancel a CIA assassination program targeting al-Qaeda leaders but never revealed to Congress.

Joby Warrick reports that CIA officials were planning to activate training for the program, conceived during the Bush administration, when Panetta pulled the plug. Columnist David Ignatius, also a spy novelist who long covered the CIA as a reporter, writes that "The latest 'scandals' involving the Central Intelligence Agency are genuinely hard to understand, other than in terms of political payback."

While most readers seem to agree there should be limits and accountability for the CIA, they disagree on what those limits should be. Some applaud Panetta. Others invite us to recall the horrors of 9/11 and essentially say anything goes. All this being played against the discussion of whether there should be an investigation of Bush administration actions in the War on Terror.

First to the comments on the article:

We'll start with tmkwanwho wrote, "...The present administration was right to put a stop to this sort of thing the moment it learned of it."

But Rob_ said, "I thank God the Administration shut down the assassination program before it did something terrible like killing Osama bin Laden."

rkerg wrote, "Very smart of Panetta... now that the Repubs are out of office, their foot soldiers in the agency are willing to let it go operational now, so, when it blows up, Obama gets the blame for Cheney and Bushes harebrained scheme. It is just another example of the Repubs non accountability doctrine."

CharlesGriffith1 said, "...So, we're immersed right now in an actual shooting war, remember? New York, the Pentagon, that farm field in Pennsylvania...have they faded so quickly? Can you post-ers here face these family members with these comments? In war one kills one's enemies, right?..."

But troutcor wrote, "Assassinations, torture, secret prisons, kidnapping, indefinite imprisonment with no trial? All of this caused by, what, 100 guys in a cave in Afghanistan? No matter how spectacular Sept. 11 was, can we have some perspective? Is it worth trashing our supposedly most deeply held values to track down 100 nutjobs? Besides, wouldn't it help to find these clowns first before we set out to kill them?"

steve_k2 said, "I bet there's a different assasination program that is and has been in operation."

And Muley63 wrote, "I don't believe that's what Cheney is hiding. We're at war with al-Qaeda, so I don't think many Democrats would have been against killing our enemies. It's got to be something else. Domestic spying? Spying on allies?"

biglio said, "the republicans really need to get an education, study some history, law and the constitution. The point here is that this program is against two laws, one that mandates congress to be informed of something like this and one that prohibits CIA to set up assassination squads... And last but not least for all the people that say that osama needs to be killed, this is exactly what the ARMY is doing and the drones and our military in afghanistan, pakistan and Irak..."

dsrobins wrote, "Eight years of lies, concealment and dishonesty. That's neatly summarizes the GWBush administration. Now is clearly the time to call for a bipartisan Senatorial level investigation of all the crimes they committed while in office..."

pbeaverson said, "...There are too many holes in the present story. Perhaps the revelation of the program to Panetta was directed by Cheney as a red herring...a diversion from the truth...When will we ever find out the truth? So much simply doesn't make sense."

ankhorite asked, "How many felonies need to come to light before President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder decide they don't intend to become accessories after the fact?...Prosecution is a necessity to protect us from future Administrations assuming that they too will be immune, and never answer for their crimes..."

normanx wrote, "... this is a smokescreen to hide the obvious: That there was a fully implemented and executed program that went outside the laws of this land and the constitution. Dick Cheney was an architect of this program and must be called to task. All those who deceive congress should be jailed. It's the law."

gmclocks said, "...the discrediting of the CIA by the Democrats must have Bin Laden and his associates laughing their heads off. Obama is killing them from the air and a few locals along with them. A targeted assassination team can do the same thing and reduce civilian casualties... You defeatists, wake up and take a real stance against enemies of your country..."

Then there was this exchange:

ABethesda wrote, "Too much Jason Bourne, not enough Constitution..."

To which crazyeagle replied, "Don't forget 24"

All comments on the article are here.

Now to a few of the comments on the Ignatius column.

dboz1970 wrote, "I agree with David. The responsible thing to do for the good of the Nation is to forget it ever happened. I would even go a bit further and erase all records that it ever happened. We need to look to the future. Surely the knowledge that there were ALMOST consequences for committing these illegal and possibly treasonous acts is deterrent enough and will force future administrations to act within the law."

But blackmask said, "The problem with your defense of the CIA is that as long as we say one thing, and then do something different, that makes us...liars. Look it up. That is fine, if that is ok with you, but you CANNOT have it both ways. You don't maintain moral high ground if, in fact, you are doing all the secretive, un-legislated, un-discussed, actions such as rendition to secret foreign torture prisons, etc. Again, the actions can be defended on their merits, but you can't have it both ways. Choose one."

childressp wrote, "What we're really talking about here are limits. I don't imagine you are advocating a CIA which has none, and Democrats in Congress are not advocating dismantling our intelligence capabilities. That leaves what we find acceptable limits to the CIA's activities..."

likovid said, "The central question should be regarding the law. If people broke the law, they should be prosecuted, over and above political considerations."

And Toosoonoldtoolatesmart wrote, "Thanks to David Ignatius for accurately illuminating the competing forces in the ideological war to undermine U.S. intelligence capabilities."

All comments on the column are here.


By Doug Feaver  |  July 16, 2009; 7:05 AM ET
Categories:  CIA , Intelligence  | Tags: Assassination, CIA, Intelligence, Panetta  
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Comments

I would appreciate it if someone could delete one of the two copies of my last message and this message. Thank you.

Posted by: markoller | July 20, 2009 1:37 AM | Report abuse

There is no Al Qaeda, and everyone at The Washington Post knows it. Every anonymous shill on the Post blogs knows it. Anyone who is not criminally blind knows that every Islamic terrorist act is perpetrated by the CIA, the Mossad, the British SAS and MI6, and the ISI.

I want the CIA to stop assassinating Americans on Israeli orders, including the bloodbath on 9/11/2001. Israel also ordered the CIA to assassinate President Kennedy. Kennedy was trying to prevent Israel from acquiring nuclear weapons and he wanted to dismantle the CIA. See "Final Judgement" at http://www.afrocubaweb.com/news/mossadjfk.htm Also download my Post home page at http://tinyurl.com/688m8q and my AOL propeller home page at http://www.propeller.com/member/markoller/

Most of all, I want America to declare its independence from Israel, and there must be drastic changes in our system of government.

Posted by: markoller | July 20, 2009 1:32 AM | Report abuse

There is no Al Qaeda, and everyone at The Washington Post knows it. Every anonymous shill on the Post blogs knows it. Anyone who is not criminally blind knows that every Islamic terrorist act is perpetrated by the CIA, the Mossad, the British SAS and MI6, and the ISI.

I want the CIA to stop assassinating Americans on Israeli orders, including the bloodbath on 9/11/2001. Israel also ordered the CIA to assassinate President Kennedy. Kennedy was trying to prevent Israel from acquiring nuclear weapons and he wanted to dismantle the CIA. See "Final Judgement" at http://www.afrocubaweb.com/news/mossadjfk.htm Also download my Post home page at http://tinyurl.com/688m8q and my AOL propeller home page at http://www.propeller.com/member/markoller/

Most of all, I want America to declare its independence from Israel, and there must be drastic changes in our system of government.

Posted by: markoller | July 20, 2009 1:25 AM | Report abuse

Talk about cognitive dissonance. Did any of you read about how the US conducted a Predator strike on a Taliban safe house in S. Waziristan just today? I suppose some of you imagine it makes a difference that the CIA uses a UAV instead of a hit team. It doesn't. Oh, by the by, Congress hasn't had a problem with such "assassinations" since 2002 when we offed a guy in Yemen for helping attack the Cole. And thanks to Feinstein & this paper, we know those CIA strikes are from a "secret" base in PK. Which means Bush kept Congress in the loop.

Or that seeking to kill a specific individual under any circumstance is somehow always illegal under US or the accepted Laws of War. It isn't.

Maybe if Mr. Feaver or another reporter wants to take up the task, he can explain the difference between an EO and a law, and maybe what is and isn't allowed under the decades old US interpretation of self-defense, which the Obama administration is operating under just like Bush. It might help some people. But for the truly cognitively dissonant, I'm sure it only takes the election of a Messiah to make "illegal" Bush policies like warrantless wiretaps, indefinite detentions, targeted killings, etc., magically legal.

Posted by: Vercingetorix | July 17, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Feaver, it is evident from most of the comments that some people in the US do not have any clue about the fact that outside the US there are sovereign nations, national and international laws and that the world is not the playground of the battle among different CIA factions, different Administrations policies, etc. CIA operatives illegally acting in foreign countries could be legally shot down by the police of those countries because they are attempting to kill someone "they" believe is a terrorist. How many CIA operatives illegally killed, inprisoned or tortured innocent people sold to them for a bunch of dollars by other people? The Nazi believed they could do whatever they wanted in foreign countries with impunity. And they did for a while, claiming to go after Germany's "mortal enemies". History is slow, but soon or later the phantoms of Buchenvald come back and tell people they were not the enemies of Germany, they were the enemies of Nazis.

Posted by: fse398 | July 17, 2009 1:02 AM | Report abuse

It's dangerous not having oversight. What if somebody within the agency decides that a particular congressman, or senator, or even the US President is acting against the agency's interests, no matter how warped and surreal these interests may be?

Posted by: edmondd | July 16, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

dboz1970 wrote:
"I agree with David.
The responsible thing to do for the good of the Nation is to forget it ever happened.
I would even go a bit further and erase all records that it ever happened.
We need to look to the future.
Surely the knowledge that there were ALMOST consequences for committing these illegal and possibly treasonous acts is deterrent enough and will force future administrations to act within the law."
==
To paraphrase that famous saying about history:
Those who find corruption of the law in government embarrassing and choose to bury even the knowledge of and memory of those lapses ...
are (without question) condemned to repeat them over and over again.
Apparently back in the '70s when we took these intelligence agencies to task for operating outside the law, they didn't get the message because they were easily summoned to repeat those illegal errors upon the siren call of the contemptable Dead-Eye Dick.
This time around, the hammer needs to be lowered with a boom, not a milquetoast "thud".

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | July 16, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

The President can provide a pardon as necessary --- but it serves our country better to let our court systems determine who may have broken the laws (and what specific laws they broke) along with that other possibility --- that some of those accused in fact are not guilty.

Posted by: JoeL17 | July 16, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

This looks to me like a prime example of the agency refusing to go along with a program they disagree with, by dragging their feet. After all, while the CIA under Bush was not the most effective agency in government, they were not so inept as to be unable to make something operational in SEVEN YEARS!

Posted by: lowercaselarry | July 16, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

The Question that is begging to be asked is:

To whom else outside of Al Qaeda Leaders, was this "BAND OF ASSASSINS", ordered to 'KILL'.

Maybe Cheney didn't like a few Senators, or Congressman, and turned up 'DEAD', one day. Go figure.

Was Cheney, still giving orders to his "PERSONAL ASSASSINS", right into the Obama Adm., after Jan. 20, 2009? The current CIA Director just learn about the program in JUNE.

It's amazing a 5 time 'DRAFT DODGER', could have his own 'PRIVATE ARMY'.

Posted by: austininc4 | July 16, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Assassination is like what, the godfather's family values?

Posted by: SarahBB | July 16, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

*Checks and balance, ignoring that is an ABUSE of power by cheney. Skip the propaganda/spin/lies.

Posted by: jama452 | July 16, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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