Peter Berger, a security analyst at the American Enterprise Institute thinks that, judging from Congressional reaction, the program must have involved much more than killing some Al Qaeda people.
By Sherman DeBrosse / The Rag Blog / July 27, 2009
We have learned that Vice President Dick Cheney, in 2002, recommended sending troops into the Buffalo area to apprehend the “Lackawanna Six.” These people were accused of involvement in terrorism, which Cheney thought was enough of an excuse to bypass legal barriers to the use of soldiers to seize property or carry out police functions.
One wonders if he was interested in creating a precedent for the use of troops in American cities on a more regular basis. We know that he and his friend Donald Rumsfeld have been involved in continuation of government planning since the Reagan presidency and we suspect that all these contingency plans involved a greatly expanded role for the military.
We also know that under the Bush-Cheney administration, a Northern Command was established and that special units from it are now functioning in the U.S. to protect military property and that of defense contractors.
Rather than obsessing over why Dr. Louis Henry Gates dissed a Cambridge policeman, the mainstream media and we citizens should be showing more interest in health care reform, and far more important, the actions taken by Dick Cheney and George Bush that endanger the very health of this democratic republic.
So far, the Obama administration has not taken these matters very seriously. When Barack Obama took power, he refused to support calls for a truth commission to look into violations of the law connected with detention, torture, and domestic surveillance. He promised to close the Guantanamo detention center but retained others and continued rendition. His Justice Department defended the Bush Administration’s use of the state secret privilege and it did nothing to protect whistle blowers, firing one employee who outed Bush Administration abuses. Now Obama is threatening to veto any legislation that would curb the state secret privilege.
In Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the CIA had repeatedly lied to Congress, but some evidence developed showing she knew something about torture before she claimed she had. She said little about it then because she had concluded only a change of administration would resolve the matter. It was also clear that the agency was not telling the Congressional leaders everything.
Leon Panetta, the new Director of the CIA, defended his agency against her charges. Then, in July, he told Congressional intelligence committees that after 9/11, the Bush administration opened a new covert operation that Congress had not been told about. Democrats expressed shock, but Republicans said it was an on and off operation of little consequence. However, Peter Berger, a security analyst at the American Enterprise Institute thinks that, judging from Congressional reaction, the program must have involved much more than killing some Al Qaeda people.
Panetta terminated the program and told the Congressmen that the agency had been misled about what was going on in the program. Apparently, the CIA was more interested in training people in Afghanistan to carry out these tasks. CIA people are telling the press that few were involved in the executive assassinations operation with the possible exceptions of general counsel John Rizzo and deputy director Stephen Kappes. The only part of the CIA involved in the military-directed assassinations program was the Special Activities Unit, which had a number of former Delta Force people.
Some CIA people are delighted to see Cheney in hot water and hope he pays a heavy price for his death squads. They see Cheney as abetting a long-term Pentagon plan to swallow up the CIA. This dispute continues in the Obama administration in disputes between Admiral Dennis C. Blair, Director of National Intelligence, and Director Panetta. Don’t expect Cheney to face too much heat. A serious investigation would be politically damaging for Obama, and Cheney has left a number of “stay-behinds” who are embedded deep in the national security and cabinet departments who can obstruct any investigation.
It was soon learned that Vice President Dick Cheney had ordered the CIA not to brief the Congress about it and that it involved finding and killing terrorists abroad. Some thought it was the same “executive assassination teams” that Seymour Hersh had uncovered in March. Some believed it also involved in domestic spying and the killing of several foreign leaders, an Iranian nuclear scientist, and a Hezbollah military leader.
After 9/11, teams sought to find and kill Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and Iraq. The precedent for this was the Phoenix Program during the Vietnam War. The assassination program was expanded into George Tenet’s Worldwide Attack Matrix . It targeted enemies in numerous countries, including, possibly, the United States.
Some have attributed the murder of Abu Seger, Saddam’s money man, to the executive assassination plan. He knew where Saddam had huge stashes of cash. He was beaten to death by interrogators, even though those who arrested him had already found $40 million in plastic bags in his bedroom. But that was chickenfeed. Some attribute a 2002 Iranian plane crash to the operation because the downed craft carried Ukranian and Russian scientists. At least five other Iranian plane crashes have been attributed to this operation.
The bungled assassination of a politician in Kenya created embarrassment and the apparent shelving of the program. One cannot help wondering if British scientist Dr. David Kelly was offed by these people. Kelly told a former British ambassador that if Iraq were invaded,” I will probably be found dead in the woods.”
Due to problems with the CIA, Cheney came to rely upon people from the Joint Special Operations Command. Most of the personnel came from Delta Force. The JSOC was created in the Reagan administration and could have been used on occasion for sabotage and assassinations. The present commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McCrystal, commanded JSOC beginning in September, 2003.
It, in turn, works with the Mossad’s “Kidon” Department, which does assassinations and kidnappings. Indeed, the Cheney program was based upon the successful Israeli program of preemptive assassinations. As the rift between the Rumsfeld Pentagon and the CIA widened, the agency began to back away from joint operations, seeing them as potential threats to its normal operations. Hersh maintains that the CIA withdrew early and all the wet work was done by the Pentagon’s people.
On the other hand, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, once a top aide to Colin Powell, told Rachel Maddow the CIA did get involved in the assassinations, though it noted that much of the work was probably done by people from Delta Force. He added that it was laughable to claim the CIA never lied to Congress.
Some knowledgeable Pakistanis believe that the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007, was carried out by elements within Al Qaeda and the Taliban that were indirectly controlled, probably through the Pakistan ISI, by Cheney’s assassination apparatus. She was shot in the neck and chest before the bomb went off. Perhaps the assassination was an effort to keep General Perez Musharraf in power, suggesting a professional hit.
Investigations of Bush era crimes will damage Democratic political prospects because the MSM lacks the integrity to separate these investigations from mere political witch hunts. In previous eras, there would have been some Republicans in national life who would have been very concerned about assassinations, the state secret privilege abuses, domestic spying, and more. Alas, that is not the case today. Almost all will simply parrot the McConnell-Boehner line that probing the Cheney-Bush abuses is nothing but politics. These matters go to the very fabric of our republic, and steps must be taken make certain these actions are not precedents for future abuses.
[Sherman DeBrosse, the pseudonym for a retired history professor, is a regular contributor to The Rag Blog and also blogs at Sherm Says and on DailyKos.]