Category Archives: Assassination

Joe Klein’s sociopathic defense of drone killings of children

open quoteOn MSNBC’s Morning Joe program this morning, which focused on Monday’s night presidential debate, the former right-wing Congressman and current host Joe Scarborough voiced an eloquent and impassioned critique of President Obama’s ongoing killing of innocent people in the Muslim world using drones. In response, Time Magazine’s Joe Klein, a stalwart Obama supporter, offered one of the most nakedly sociopathic defenses yet heard of these killings. This exchange, which begins at roughly the 7:00 minute mark on the video embedded below, is quite revealing in several respects.

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(1) Klein’s justification – we have to kill their children in order to protect our children – is the exact mentality of every person deemed in US discourse to be a “terrorist”. Almost every single person arrested and prosecuted over the last decade on terrorism charges, when asked why they were willing to kill innocent Americans including children, offered some version of Joe Klein’s mindset.

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Leaving aside the sociopathic, morally grotesque defense of killing 4-year-olds with a “joystick from California”, Klein’s claims are completely false on pragmatic grounds. Slaughtering Muslim children does not protect American children from terrorism. The opposite is true. That is precisely what causes the anti-American hatred that fuels and sustains terrorism aimed at Americans in the first place, as even a study commissioned by the Rumsfeld-era Pentagon recognized almost a decade ago.

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This exchange is a perfectly vivid expression of the Obama legacy. Here we have a standard Democratic/progressive pundit who is one of the media’s most stalwart Obama fanatics defending indiscriminate slaughter of Muslim children. Meanwhile, it’s left to a former right-wing, Gingrich-era congressman to raise objections, call for more public scrutiny, and cite the moral and strategic dangers, one of the very few commentators on MSNBC – the progressive network – who has ever voiced such passionate criticism of Obama’s ongoing killings.close quote (Read more)

The Terrifying Background of the Man Who Ran a CIA Assassination Unit

open quoteA federal investigation alleged Enrique Prado’s involvement in seven murders, yet he was in charge when America outsourced covert killing to a private company.

It was one of the biggest secrets of the post-9/11 era: soon after the attacks, President Bush gave the CIA permission to create a top secret assassination unit to find and kill Al Qaeda operatives. The program was kept from Congress for seven years. And when Leon Panetta told legislators about it in 2009, he revealed that the CIA had hired the private security firm Blackwater to help run it. “The move was historic,” says Evan Wright, the two-time National Magazine Award-winning journalist who wrote Generation Kill. “It seems to have marked the first time the U.S. government outsourced a covert assassination service to private enterprise.”

The quote is from his e-book How to Get Away With Murder in America, which goes on to note that “in the past, the CIA was subject to oversight, however tenuous, from the president and Congress,” but that “President Bush’s 2001 executive order severed this line by transferring to the CIA his unique authority to approve assassinations. By removing himself from the decision-making cycle, the president shielded himself — and all elected authority — from responsibility should a mission go wrong or be found illegal. When the CIA transferred the assassination unit to Blackwater, it continued the trend. CIA officers would no longer participate in the agency’s most violent operations, or witness them. If it practiced any oversight at all, the CIA would rely on Blackwater’s self-reporting about missions it conducted. Running operations through Blackwater gave the CIA the power to have people abducted, or killed, with no one in the government being exactly responsible.” None of this is new information, though I imagine that many people reading this item are hearing about it for the first time.

Isn’t that bizarre?

The bulk of Wright’s e-book (full disclosure: I help edit the website of Byliner, publisher of the e-book) tells the story of Enrique Prado, a high-ranking CIA-officer-turned-Blackwater-employee who oversaw assassination units for both the CIA and the contractor. To whom was this awesome responsibility entrusted? According to Wright’s investigation, a federal organized crime squad run out of the Miami-Dade Police Department produced an investigation allegedly tying Prado to seven murders carried out while he worked as a bodyguard for a narco crime boss. At the time, the CIA declared him unavailable for questioning; the investigation was shut down before he was arrested or tried.

There’s a lot more to the story — Wright’s e-book is almost 50 pages long — but this bit is of particular note:

The reporting on Prado’s activities at Blackwater produced no evidence that the firm’s employees had ever killed anyone on behalf of the CIA. But I spoke to Blackwater employees who insisted that they had. Two Blackwater contractors told me that their firm began conducting assassinations in Afghanistan as early as 2008. They claimed to have participated in such operations — one in a support role, the other as a “trigger puller.” The contractors, to whom I spoke in 2009 and 2010, were both ex-Special Forces soldiers who were not particularly bothered by assassination work, although they did question the legality of Blackwater’s involvement in it.

According to the “trigger puller,” he and a partner were selected for one such operation because they were Mexican Americans, whose darker skin enabled them to blend in as Afghan civilians. The first mission he described took place in 2008. He and his partner spent three weeks training outside Kabul, becoming accustomed to walking barefoot like Afghans while toting weapons underneath their jackets. Their mission centered on walking into a market and killing the occupant of a pickup truck, whose identity a CIA case worker had provided to them. They succeeded in their mission, he told me, and moved on to another. This contractor’s story didn’t completely fit with other accounts about Prado’s unit at Blackwater. The e-mail written by Prado and later obtained by the Times seemed to indicate that the unit wouldn’t use Americans to carry out actual assassinations. Moreover, two CIA sources insisted that the contractors I spoke to were lying. As one put it, “These guys are security guards who want to look like Rambo.”

When I asked Ed O’Connell, a former Air Force colonel and RAND analyst with robust intelligence experience in Afghanistan, to evaluate these contractors’ claims, he first told me they were almost certainly a “fantastical crock of shit.” But a year later, in 2011, after a research trip in Afghanistan for his firm Alternative Strategies Institute, O’Connell had changed his assessment. He told me, “Your sources seem to have been correct. Private contractors are whacking people like crazy over in Afghanistan for the CIA.”

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The President’s Kill List

open quoteWhat is wrong with the President sitting in a room, looking at lists and portraits of people—a Somali man, a seventeen-year-old girl, an American citizen—and deciding whom to kill? That, according to long and troubling articles in both the Times and Newsweek, is a job Barack Obama has assigned himself. His aides, notably John Brennan, his counter-terrorism adviser, portray it as a matter of taking responsibility—if we are going to assassinate someone, or call in a drone strike to take out a camp in Yemen, the President should make the call—as if our only alternative were some sort of rogue operation, with generals or C.I.A. agents shooting at will. But responsibility involves accountability, which is something, in this case, that appears to be badly lacking. Obama has not taken on a burden, but instead has given the Presidency a novel power.

The “kill list” story is a reminder of how much language matters, and how dangerous it is when the plain meaning of a word is ignored. Each might include a mini-glossary: “baseball cards,” for the PowerPoint slides with the biographies and faces of targets; “Terror Tuesday,” meetings where targets are sorted out; “nominations” for death-marked finalists; “personality strikes” that aimed to kill a person, and “signature strikes” that went after a group of people whose names one didn’t know because of the way they seemed, from pictures in the sky, to be acting. (From the Times piece, written by Jo Becker and Scott Shane: “The joke was that when the C.I.A. sees ‘three guys doing jumping jacks,’ the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp, said one senior official.”) Signature strikes were also known as TADS, for terrorist-attack-disruption strikes, or just as “crowd kills.” Both articles explore Obama’s halting efforts to confine signature strikes to Pakistan, rather than Yemen and Somalia, and how he ultimately didn’t, really. This is the kind of attack that, in one incident mentioned by Daniel Klaidman in his Newsweek piece, led to “persuasive” reports of dozens of women and children dying. A lawyer who saw that on “Kill TV,” the feed that let the military and lawyers watch strikes, said later, “If I were Catholic, I’d have to go to confession.”

More disturbing than childish names for brutal things are the absurd meanings ascribed to more sober terms. The key ones are “civilians and combatants,” and “due process.”close quote

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2012/05/the-presidents-kill-list.html#ixzz1yRg068CQ

Israel teams with terror group to kill Iran’s nuclear scientists, U.S. officials tell NBC News

open quoteBy Richard Engel and Robert Windrem
NBC News

Updated: 11:14 a.m. ET — Deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group that is financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service, U.S. officials tell NBC News, confirming charges leveled by Iran’s leaders.

The group, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, has long been designated as a terrorist group by the United States, accused of killing American servicemen and contractors in the 1970s and supporting the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran before breaking with the Iranian mullahs in 1980.

The attacks, which have killed five Iranian nuclear scientists since 2007 and may have destroyed a missile research and development site, have been carried out in dramatic fashion, with motorcycle-borne assailants often attaching small magnetic bombs to the exterior of the victims’ cars.close quote (Read more)

Israel’s Mossad trained assassins of Iran nuclear scientists, report says

open quoteMossad officials are training Iranian dissident activists to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists, a NBC News report citing U.S. officials said on Thursday. The report noted, however, that Washington was not directly involvement in the alleged attacks.

The report by NBC News followed Iranian accusations that Israel and the U.S. had been orchestrating attacks against Iranian scientists and military officials associated with Iran’s nuclear program. close quote (Read more)

Predictions for 2012

1) Starting tonight, Ron Paul will begin winning caucuses. This will be followed by either an assassination, or, in the long term, prosperity. Remember, they killed Bobby Kennedy after he began winning primaries. The chances of this are probably small. I do think there are powerful people and institution who would consider it.

If Ron Paul is assassinated, it’ll be followed by isolated instances of violence against federal institutions. These will be used to discredit anything libertarian. Government will declare new powers for itself, and the gigantic anti-terrorism apparatus will turn its full attention to Americans. An assassination would also be followed by large scale tax protests which would cripple the state. They will resort to printing money and slander tax protesters as domestic terrorists.

If, on the other hand, Ron Paul wins the primary, he will defeat Obama. Democrats will defect en masse to support him. The media mud slingers will realize their impotence. The markets will celebrate, perhaps with the exception of large commercial banks. They will threaten to blow-up the economy as revenge upon a public that elected Ron Paul. We will call their bluff.

2) At least one country will leave the Euro Zone. The EU will remain intact, but calls to end it will grow louder and more insistent. The turmoil in Europe will continue to create the illusion of economic stability in the U.S. and capital will flow away from the headlines, but once things have stabilized there, expect the much bigger and much more destructive problems of the U.S. to resume their unfolding. The prices of precious metals will resume their climb. Let’s hope Ron Paul is in power so the crisis isn’t used to lead us further down the road to serfdom.

3) SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, a thinly veiled attempt to censor the internet will fail. However, it’s proponents will very quickly put another piece of legislation on the table. They will not stop until it is passed.

4) A massive troop reduction will occur in Afghanistan. It will be done for political reasons. The media will spend weeks praising Obama.

5) A galvanizing incident will be provoked or staged in Iran. There will be an outbreak of hostility, but the United States, despite the propaganda from neo-con politicians and the media will not fully commit to a war.

See also, predictions for:
2011
2010
2009
2008

Obama Lawyers: Killing U.S. Citizens Allied With Al Qaeda is an Executive Decision

open quoteThe U.S. may target and kill U.S. citizens when they take up arms with al-Qaeda, top lawyers in the Obama administration said Thursday.

CIA counsel Stephen Preston and Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson were questioned at a national security conference about the drone strike that killed American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, but they would not comment on it specifically. They did say U.S. citizens don’t have legal rights when they side with al-Qaeda.

Johnson maintained that only the executive branch, not the courts, can decide who qualifies as an enemy on a battlefield. Unfortunately for U.S. citizens, the secret, peremptory nature of such executive decisions is not up to a review of any kind and do not require that any evidence be put forth proving the individual’s guilt or association with al-Qaeda.close quote (Read more)

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Here is a list of who voted for this monstrosity in the Senate. The seven no votes came from:

Coburn (R-OK)
Harkin (D-IA)
Lee (R-UT)
Merkley (D-OR)
Paul (R-KY)
Sanders (I-VT)
Wyden (D-OR)

The 93 other senators voted for it. Terror! Terror! Terror! “War is the health of the state.”

Third Iranian nuclear scientist shot dead

open quoteWestern security agencies are most likely behind the killing of an Iranian scientist in an operation that underlines the complexities of the conflict over Iran’s nuclear programme, analysts say.

Gunmen shot university lecturer Darioush Rezaie, 35, dead in eastern Teheran on Saturday, the third murder of a scientist since 2009.

One was killed by a car bomb detonated remotely.

Iran’s responses to such incidents looked confused, but in Rezaie’s case it was more muddled as the authorities spoke in strikingly different voices from the start.

London-based analyst Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of Cornerstone Global Associates, said: “Assassinations will continue to be a tool used in this covert war. While it’s impossible to tell with certainty whether Rezaie was an active nuclear scientist, his death appears to be another episode in that war.

“The Iranian narrative has been confused about Rezaie’s work. This adds credence to the speculation that he has been involved in the nuclear programme.”close quote (Read more)

On Osama’s Death

I consider myself fortunate to be in Ukraine on a Fulbright Scholarship. It shelters me from the sensationalism surrounding the announcement that “Osama bin Laden, the terror mastermind killed by Navy SEALs in an intense firefight, was hunted down based on information first gleaned years ago from detainees at secret CIA prison sites in Eastern Europe.”

The reaction has been impossible to avoid altogether, as Twitter, Facebook, and many of the blogs I read exploded with videos of euphoric celebrations beside the White House and in Times Square, affirmations of America’s greatness, wishes by otherwise nice young women to see the bullet riddled corpse, and praise given to all soldiers and veterans, including praise from President Obama.

I remain bewildered by the changing and contradictory justifications for our many wars: the well being of Iraqis and Afghans (and now, Libyans), preventing the use of weapons of mass destruction, establishing democracies, Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn Rule (We broke it, so we own it). Didn’t President Bush announce in 2006 that the pursuit of Osama Bin Laden was no longer a goal of our war efforts in Afghanistan?

Timing and political expedience seems to have swung our rationale back to the pursuit of Osama Bin Laden.

Should we pause to consider the return on our investment of money, blood and reputation? I am two and half years removed from my last day in the military, and life-times removed from the world view I had when I first commissioned as an infantry officer in March 2000.

My doubts centered on the realization that my membership in the military, though full of adventure and challenge, just like the television commercials promised, did not provide a valuable service. For this reason, I politely decline President Obama’s thanks.

The military, myself included, makes America less safe from terrorism, debt, and tyrrany. I began to consider the ancient and noble institution of the Army a gigantic toy for politicians who, with the thinnest pretenses, went adventuring all over the world.

I no longer consider myself at war with Afghanistan or Al Quaida, though I understand that many Americans do. I consider war to be very much the business of demagogue politicians who pretend to defend Americans from Muslims, and demagogue Islam-o-fascists who pretend to defend Muslims from Americans. I wish we could make them fight one another directly without the involvement of so many others, but this would never happen. They are cowards who work hard to convince better men to do the fighting.

I’d like to point out the difficult fact that Afghans killed by errant artillery strikes or nervous, undisciplined soldiers, or what a friend of mine calls “Nobel Peace drones,” are just as innocent and just as human as the New Yorkers who were killed when three skyscrapers collapsed on September 11, 2001.The tragedy is firstly that many innocent people get killed, and secondly, that so many good people are easily convinced to sacrifice blood and money. It is best to have as little to do with our wars as possible.

In contrast to the revelers on the National Mall, my pride and identity now have little to do with national pride and national identity. I am as sovereign an individual as the tax code allows me to be.

The only aspect of this announcement I find comforting is that now politicians will likely be confronted with meek requests to undo the TSA, warrant-less wiretaps, secret prisons, suspensions of habius corpus, the department of homeland security, and the wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere. They will have to again justify these institutions, which they will do very easily. I will take minor comfort when the questions are asked.

I retain hope that America can regains the liberties it lost in the name of our many wars. However as I watched the exuberant masses intoxicated with national pride at the announcement of Osama Bin Laden’s death, I thought of not of the importance of restoring our lost liberties, but of running away; escaping and hiding from the collectivist madness — somewhere where neither my person nor my wealth nor my pride nor my identity can ever be dragged into such a barbaric enterprise again.