Political life after 9/11 often seems to imitate fiction. Increasingly, pulp fiction, alas.
According to Seymour Hersh–who's probably the most respected investigative reporter of our time and who has sources in government that would make a James Bond criminal syndicate green with envy–the US government entered into the assassination business big time after 9/11, and without any oversight or legal guidelines. It really sounds likes something out of "The X-Files", only with an infinitely less entertaining villain.
The symbolism is overwhelming and seems to prove every anti-W joke right: These momentous and politically explosive covert operations were approved not by the Commander in Chief but the Vice President.
“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.
"It’s complicated because the guys doing it are not murderers, and yet they are committing what we would normally call murder. It’s a very complicated issue. Because they are young men that went into the Special Forces. The Delta Forces you’ve heard about. Navy Seal teams. Highly specialized.
"In many cases, they were the best and the brightest. Really, no exaggerations. Really fine guys that went in to do the kind of necessary jobs that they think you need to do to protect America. And then they find themselves torturing people.
"I’ve had people say to me — five years ago, I had one say: ‘What do you call it when you interrogate somebody and you leave them bleeding and they don’t get any medical committee and two days later he dies. Is that murder? What happens if I get before a committee.?’
"But they’re not gonna get before a committee.”
In response to this explosive revelation, Cheney's ex-national security advisor assured the public in a CNN interview that
There is clearly a group of people that go through a very extremely well-vetted process, inter-agency process, as I think was explained in your piece, that have committed acts of war against the United States, who are at war with the United States, or are suspected of planning operations of war against the United States, who authority is given to the troops in the field and in certain war theaters to capture or kill those individuals. That is certainly true.
I'm relieved to hear that these killings around the world were "extremely well-vetted." Hopefully, the vetting wasn't being done by the crack observers of Muslimdom who packed Gitmo with innocent people. Or the Beltway security officials who don't know the difference between Shia and Sunni. Much less the experts who brought us the Iraqi WMD fiasco.
Why should we worry? You only need checks & balances, due process and transparency for serious stuff. This only concerns life and death, rule of law, and the sovereignty of foreign nations.
How is it that we've reached a point of such lawlessness and deeply immoral and muddled thinking that our government can treat assassinations on foreign soil as trivial matters not requiring even the barest legal oversight?