Dick Cheney Had a Death Squad
- Bob FertikWant to meet our members? Click 'Join' above!
Seymour Hersh, the legendary investigative reporter who exposed My Lai and Abu Ghraib, exploded another bombshell at the University of Minnesota on Tuesday: Dick Cheney had his own Death Squad (h/t Alternet).
"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 [Cheney] ...
"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.
Is anyone surprised? We've all seen the movies about assassination teams. And we know there is nothing - absolutely nothing - that Dick Cheney wouldn't do.
Hersh didn't identify the countries, but the NY Times article he cited focused on Afghanistan, where commando operations have killed numerous civilians and enraged Afghan president Hamid Karzai. But Afghanistan doesn't really fit Hersh's description because U.S. troops have been fighting there since 2001; they are not "going in... and leaving." That sounds more like the cross-border raids from Afghanistan into Pakistan, which are well-known. Hersh's revelation suggests similar operations went into other countries, but these remain secret.
So will Congress investigate Cheney's death squads? Who has jurisdiction? After all, Cheney pretended he was a "fourth branch" of the government, neither in the Executive nor the Legislative branches. Of course he was always part of the Executive.
"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.”
If Cheney's death squads were comprised of Special Forces, then it's a military operation. Obviously the lines of authority were drawn carefully to bypass the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but the Times says the officer in charge of JSOC Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, obviously a senior military officer. And the order to suspend operations in Afghanistan was "supported" by Gen. David Petraeus, also a military officer.
So the Armed Services Committees need to hold hearings: that's Carl Levin (D-MI) in the Senate and Ike Skelton (D-MO) in the House.
Hersh also exploded a second bombshell, which is even scarier for those of us here in the U.S.A.
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.
That's all he said, which isn't much. But the idea of the CIA operating inside the US against people deemed "enemies of the state" by George Bush and Dick Cheney is terrifying. What exactly did they do??? We need to know more - lots more.
This one clearly falls under the jurisdiction of the Intelligence Committees. That's Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in the Senate and Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) in the House.
Congress, it's time to get to work.
Update 1: Attytood says this should be reviewed by Pat Leahy's Truth Commission. He adds,
in case there's any ambiguity on the subject, President Gerald Ford in 1975 signed an executive order that said this: "No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination." It's been upheld by every subsequent president. Apparently vice presidents are another matter.
Who was Ford's Chief of Staff? Dick Cheney! Makes it kinda hard for Cheney to plead ignorance...
Update 2: Scott Horton explains how Presidents give themselves (or their Vice Presidents) the power to assassinate:
The practice of targeted killings is controlled by Executive Order 12333, issued by President Reagan in 1981, which provides “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” There are two exceptions to this rule. One is that as a basic principle of the law of armed combat, it is permitted to strike against the command-and-control apparatus (including both political and military leaders) of a hostile force in connection with armed conflict. The other is that the President may, by special action, authorize such an operation. The operation that Hersh describes almost certainly would have required a presidential finding which concluded that it was in the nation’s national security interest, and authorized the operation to go forward. Hersh suggests that the entire process was delegated to the Vice President, however, which may have required a more extensive modification of E.O. 12333. President Bush issued a complete revamping of EO 12333 on July 30, 2008—and he directed that the details of his revision be withheld from the public. The publicly disclosed text of Bush’s action in 2008 focus on a structural reorganization, bolstering the authority of the intelligence czar, largely at the expense of the director of central intelligence. There has been continuous speculation that Bush also made changes in the operational guidelines on this occasion, or perhaps in an earlier secret order or finding.
Update 3: Marcy Wheeler says Bush paid no attention to Executive Orders like E.O. 12333, so that was not a constraint on Cheney's actions.
Update 4: Marcy Wheeler thinks Yassir Arafat might have been a victim, but if his mysterious illness was unnatural, it would be the result of a spy operation, not a military one.
Update 5: Raw Story's Muriel Kane adds:
Stories have been coming out about covert Pentagon assassination squads for the last several years. In 2003, Hersh himself reported on Task Force 121, which operated chiefly out of the Joint Special Operations Command. Others stories spoke of a proposed Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group.
Update 6: Rep. Dennis Kucinich asked for an investigation of Cheney's Death Squad by Chairman Edolphus Towns of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.