Obama Should Address CIA Assassinations
By Ian Allen* | intelNews | 01.24.2009
JUST HOURS AFTER ISSUING EXECUTIVE orders for the abolition of the use of torture against terrorism detainees and the closure of the Guantánamo detention facility, US President Barack Obama was already being praised as acting “in a manner consistent with our nation’s values, consistent with our Constitution and consistent with the rule of law”. One jubilant pundit publicly opined that the US has now “reclaimed its place among nations that respect the rule of law and human dignity”. Not so fast. Blinded by the glare of triumphant statements about reclaiming America’s lost moral ground, observers overlooked two US missile strikes that hit Pakistan on Friday afternoon, killing at least 20 people, according to international news agencies.
The missiles, which almost surely originated form unmanned CIA Predator drones, landed outside the small town of Mirali (North Waziristan) and the village of Gangikhel (Sough Waziristan). An unnamed “Pakistani security official” said the first missile strike killed “at least 10 suspected militants, including five foreign nationals”. But terrified local residents said that Khalil Malik, a local tribal elder who was killed in the strike “along with his brother and nephew […], was not known to have links with the Pakistani Taliban or other insurgent groups in the area”. In the second missile attack “at least 10 were killed and two injured” according to local villagers.
That these drone attacks by the CIA are authorized by the Pakistani government has been well known and well reported for quite some time. IntelNews is among several news outlets that have reported on a high-level US-Pakistani agreement by which “the US government refuses to publicly acknowledge the [US missile] attacks [on Pakistani soil] while Pakistan’s government continues to complain noisily about the politically sensitive strikes”. This, however, does not change the obvious fact that such strikes amount to deliberate assassinations of suspected terrorists, which are planned and implemented outside the framework of even elementary judicial oversight. Regardless of one’s feelings about terrorism, the democratic process, to which President Barack Obama and his Executive have pledged their allegiance, explicitly forbids the circumvention of longstanding legal norms, which specify concrete judicial means of arrest, detention, trial and punishment of accused criminals.
A country that wishes to claim its “place among nations that respect the rule of law and human dignity” does not have the luxury of being selective in implementing the rule of law to which it aspires. Moreover, we, the citizens of the United States, in whose name the government in Washington is fighting the “war on terror”, deserve the right to examine the evidence informing the decision-making behind CIA’s assassination policy. We should not be satisfied with vague speculations that “a high-value target may be among the dead”, as one unnamed “Pakistani security official” said in reference to Friday’s missile attacks.
At least 132 people are said to have died in 38 CIA missile strikes in Pakistan during the last few months. No evidence has so far been presented to justify these killings. What is more, we have no official proof of any attempts to arrest, extradite, interrogate, try and punish these individuals in accordance with US legal standards. Last Friday’s strikes were the first known attacks on Pakistan under Mr. Obama’s watch. The new President should consider whether to continue down that road of secretive policy planning and extrajudicial assassinations in a volatile area where “the CIA has dominated US strategy since 2001″. If regaining America’s moral stature involves banning torture in interrogations, then the extrajudicial assassination of terrorism suspects must inevitably be part of that evaluation.
* Ian Allen has spent nearly twenty-five years working in intelligence-related fields, and is now active in intelligence consulting. He has worked in North America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. He is currently living and working in South Korea. He is co-founder and Editor of intelNews.org. His latest writings for intelNews.org are available here