Now we know, at least vaguely, what was behind the accusations against the CIA made in that June 26th letter from seven democrat House members.
After some months on the job, Leon Panetta learned of an inactive, never really implemented but potentially controversial, CIA program, initiated in the direct aftermath of 9/11, which proposed assassinating some important al Qaeda leaders. It would appear that such shenanigans were too Jack Bauer for the Bush Administration, so despite ink being spilled, findings being drafted, and probably warrior spooks training with silenced pistols off somewhere in the Virginia woods, nothing real ever came of any of this.
But good little Leon felt obliged to tattle anyway, and seven democrats thought the opportunity to play Gotcha! with the Agency was too good to miss. Ergo, the famous letter of June 26th. The Sunday Times dutifully clocked in yesterday with a deeply-troubled, chin-stroking article about the perfidy of Dick Cheney in concealing such dastardly doings.
The Wall Street Journal today actually supplies a lot more of the substance.
A secret Central Intelligence Agency initiative terminated by Director Leon Panetta was an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives, according to former intelligence officials familiar with the matter.
The precise nature of the highly classified effort isn’t clear, and the CIA won’t comment on its substance.
According to current and former government officials, the agency spent money on planning and possibly some training. It was acting on a 2001 presidential legal pronouncement, known as a finding, which authorized the CIA to pursue such efforts. The initiative hadn’t become fully operational at the time Mr. Panetta ended it.
In 2001, the CIA also examined the subject of targeted assassinations of al Qaeda leaders, according to three former intelligence officials. It appears that those discussions tapered off within six months. …
One former senior intelligence official said the program was an attempt “to achieve a capacity to carry out something that was directed in the finding,” meaning it was looking for ways to capture or kill al Qaeda chieftains.
The official noted that Congress had long been briefed on the finding, and that the CIA effort wasn’t so much a program as “many ideas suggested over the course of years.” It hadn’t come close to fruition, he added. …
(A) small CIA unit examined the potential for targeted assassinations of al Qaeda operatives, according to the three former officials. The Ford administration had banned assassinations in the response to investigations into intelligence abuses in the 1970s. Some officials who advocated the approach were seeking to build teams of CIA and military Special Forces commandos to emulate what the Israelis did after the Munich Olympics terrorist attacks, said another former intelligence official.
“It was straight out of the movies,” one of the former intelligence officials said. “It was like: Let’s kill them all.”
The former official said he had been told that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney didn’t support such an operation. The effort appeared to die out after about six months, he said. …
(I)n September 2001, as CIA operatives were preparing for an offensive in Afghanistan, officials drafted cables that would have authorized assassinations of specified targets on the spot.
One draft cable, later scrapped, authorized officers on the ground to “kill on sight” certain al Qaeda targets, according to one person who saw it. The context of the memo suggested it was designed for the most senior leaders in al Qaeda, this person said.
Eventually Mr. Bush issued the finding that authorized the capturing of several top al Qaeda leaders, and allowed officers to kill the targets if capturing proved too dangerous or risky.
Lawmakers first learned specifics of the CIA initiative the day after Mr. Panetta did, when he briefed them on it for 45 minutes.
What is really going on here is an attempt to gratify the democrat party’s bolshevik base with a little more witch hunting for Bush-Cheney war crimes, combined with the same party’s Congressional efforts to grab micromanagement control of US Intelligence operations.
Sensible people, and even Christopher Hitchens, have argued for some time that the battle with Congress over the CIA was lost long ago. It is past time to abolish the current agency, sell that campus at Langley for a football stadium, and establish a brand new unfettered agency operating covertly and free of Congressional oversight out of anonymous offices.