Obama Should Address CIA Assassinations

By Ian Allen* | intelNews | 01.24.2009
CIA Missile Strikes
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


13 Responses to Obama Should Address CIA Assassinations

  1. FOD says:

    Your argument is correct only if one accepts the premise that terrorists are mere criminals. While that is the traditional view, US policy after 9/11 is to treat terrorists as enemy combatants. Enemy combatants (whether lawful or unlawful) are subject to the rules of war, not criminal rules. That means they are fair game, anytime, anywhere, subject to the rules of war. Convince me that they are mere criminals, then I’ll support an assassination ban., and we can send in the FBI. Until then, they are targets.

  2. intelNews says:

    Thanks for your response. I think this issue is far more complicated than the criminal/enemy combatant distinction. Personally, since 1981, I have never seen a legal justification for extrajudicial assassinations either before or after 9/11. In other words, executive order 12333, which bans CIA assassinations, still stands, regardless of whether the targeted individuals are termed enemy combatants or criminals. If it doesn’t stand any more, or if it has been amended or replaced by a different policy, someone needs to let the American people know. I for one think this matter cannot be overlooked, considering the high moral ground that Barack Obama appears to be taking. [IA]

  3. @FOD: Your argument is a straw man. Allen makes a nuanced point with important implications. You dismiss about 80%of the context, select what you think matters, and dismiss the argument based on your narrow criteria.

    And I don’t think you fully understand the “rules of war”, either. Where there is not enough evidence to adduce that someone is an enemy combatent — lawful or unlawful — you cannot make the legal distinction that they aren’t subject to the GC articles and so cannote justify the decision to assassinate.

    Your statement that “they are fair game, anytime, anywhere subject to the rules of war” is reckless. From your tone, it seems you think every male wearing a dishdasha in South Asia is a valid target.

    On your blog, you say you think independently. I say you drank the Kool-Aid. (My ad hominem for your straw man.)

  4. FOD says:

    Not a straw man at all. It’s fundamental to the policy debate, and still in play as evidenced by this week’s strikes…
    According to a NYT article on the subject, Justice O’Connor grappled with the same issue in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld when she wrote that the court’s ruling, was informed by its understanding of ”longstanding law-of-war principles.”

    ”If the practical circumstances of a given conflict are entirely unlike those of the conflicts that informed the development of the law of war,” Justice O’Connor added, ”that understanding may unravel.”


  5. Kian says:

    @ FOD: Don’t feed the trolls

  6. analyst says:

    I must say that I almost disagree with Ian. Well you could say the UAVs are under Air Force control.

    I agree with I rather take these High Value (8 of 20 leaders killed by preadtor strikes.) targets alive, to gain better info but to be quite honset there really isn’t another choice.

    The pakistani goverment is hostile to US forces in the area. Also the Pakistani forces seem unrealiable in the area. Remeber when the Taliban “caught 100 or so Pakisatni soldiers.”

    It is a very difficult situtaion and no acting is not an option. Although this new approach the CIA is usuing (not the preadtor strikes) I am loving, if you look at Haydens recent comments.

    Seems the broke Taliban is chasing ghosts and shadows where there are none. Although I still belive we should at least attempt a dialouge with the taliban which we are.

    after all the Taliban isn’t enemy number 1.

  7. analyst says:

    “almost always disagree with Ian.” But this disagrement is very good as it gives me a different perspective.

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  9. Those were U.S. military drones. If you’ll look up the 15[] series of MOS you’ll realise really quickly that these were ordered by the CIA as Intelligence agencies do and passed through the executive chain of command to the military chain of command directing the order that was passed through enlisted personnel to load, launch and fire these rockets. Learn to read some and then maybe our reporters won’t come across as the ignorant douchebags they are.


  10. Tshadow says:

    Your post reflects the dismal transition to a mindset that prefers globalist acceptance over the very base oath of the President – to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

    The original intent of the IC has been replaced with party politics and globalist objectives to give a few that warm and fuzzy feeling they crave.

    Take Saddam for example. If the goal was to overthrow him, then the failure can be traced back to President Clinton who had the chance to help the locals do what they wanted – with minimal interference.

    With Bush, the order to assassinate could have been given after setting up the structure of self-governance by Iraqis.

    But no – to make the minority of politicians feel fuzzy about “justice” America had to shed thousands of lives of our brave, not to mention who-knows how many non-Americans.

    Tell me – does it give you a warm fuzzy feeling you seem to crave? Was it worth it?

    I seriously question the patriotism of people that put globalist “justice” interpretations over America’s national security interests.

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  13. robert_13 says:

    A terrorist cell here in the U.S. happens to be right next door to your family. Your most beloved, unsuspecting relative goes next door to borrow something. A U.S. drone blows the house and your relative away. You’re fine with that. So is everyone else in the U.S. despite this happening in multiple locations around our country because, after all, these drones are protecting us from terrorists, aren’t they?.

    So how politically likely, not to mention morally acceptable, do you think this scenario is? If you’re Christian, do you believe no innocent middle eastern Christians have ever been “collateral damage”? Would it make any legitimate moral difference if they were innocent Muslims instead?

    Do you realize that no matter what religion or brand of morally responsible secular humanism you subscribe to, one thing they ALL have in common as the essential root of morality is the Golden Rule? Can you can find anything implied in the Golden Rule that says it’s OK over there, but not over here? Oh, or maybe the Golden Rule only applies domestically, but not internationally?

    So let’s boil this down to the real nitty-gritty. Maybe you’re just plain amoral? Or is it simply that you can’t think past your own nose? Enlighten me, please!

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