Cheney's Secret CIA Program
Worse Than Foreign Assassinations?
Dick Cheney, the former vice president, ordered a highly classified CIA operation hidden from Congress because it pushed the limits of legality by planning to assassinate al-Qaida operatives in friendly countries without the knowledge of their governments, according to former intelligence officials.
I'd like to know more about that Kenya incident. Put it this way, when 15 year-old kids who committed no crime other than being valuable to an Afghan warlord seeking a bounty ended up at Guantanamo, I can only imagine what the fever dreams of Dick Cheney led to out in the world.
Peter Bergen, a senior security analyst at the New America Foundation, said that the secret operation must have gone further than that to have created such a backlash in Congress: "If it's an assassination programme of al-Qaida leaders that is hardly surprising. Clinton had an assassination programme against bin Laden. There have been 27 drone missile strikes against al-Qaida alone this year."
It could be the case that Congress is merely upset about not being properly informed, also a crime under the National Security Act of 1947, and not the contents of the program. But two things stick out. It's completely unclear why this action, out of all the others, would be hid by the Bush Administration from Congress. Most terror policies were justified under the concept that we were at war with Al Qaeda, and the executive has broad discretion to carry out the policies he sees fit to protect the nation. I don't agree with the expansiveness of that view, but this kind of assassination ring would fall squarely inside that construct, no? Why would the Bush White House not be afraid to argue that we can torture suspects in the war on terror but terrified to explain that we can take out Al Qaeda safe houses with targeted strikes, the way that the Clinton Administration clearly did in the past? Why would it be so radioactive that Leon Panetta couldn't hear about it for six months after being made CIA Director?
But two former ranking CIA officials have told TIME that there's another equally plausible possibility: The program could have required the Agency to spy on Americans. Domestic surveillance is outside the CIA's purview -– it's usually the FBI's job – and it's easy to see why Cheney would have wanted to keep it from Congress.
The Cheney Administration ran so many secret programs that only him and David Addington, in all likelihood, know which program corresponds to which set of briefings or lack of disclosure from Congress. In fact the Inspector General report stated that the wiretapping program had little effectiveness precisely because of all the secrecy. So when every newspaper in the world reports about targeted assassinations within a day of the disclosure of some secret program hid by Cheney, I'm immediately dubious of the information, or rather the disinformation.
Digby is the proprietor of Hullabaloo.