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The CIA Plan to Kill Al Qaeda Leaders:

I see that I'm quoted by Mark Mazetti and Scott Shane in their New York Times article today, CIA Had Plan to Assassinate Qaeda Leaders (July 13, 2009). I'm trying hard to maintain radio silence and not blog to let my shoulder heal up, but let me say something very brief about this.

First, I'm delighted, of course, that the CIA post 9-11 was formulating plans to try and kill Al Qaeda leaders wherever they might be; if they weren't, I would certainly have a big question about what exactly the CIA value-added to national security is. Why would you have a CIA if they weren't trying to figure out covert ops to kill Al Qaeda leaders after 9-11? As for the distinction between inserting small teams or using Predators, recall that the US only began using Predators as a weapons platform in a semi-improvised way after 9-11. The obvious tactic was small team insertion, and only when it became clear that Predators could work, did the US move to that strategy.

Second, as to the international law issues involved in targeting Al Qaeda leaders, I will simply refer you over to a new paper, soon to appear as a book chapter in a volume edited by Benjamin Wittes on reforming counterterrorism policy, on targeted killing. That paper has a particular point, however. It says that of course the US targeted killings of Al Qaeda terrorists is a legal act of self defense under international law. (You can get a free pdf download, here, at SSRN, "Targeted Killing in US Counterterrorism and Law.")

The longer term question to which the paper mostly addresses itself is whether, in the face of withering international legal criticism, from UN special rapporteurs, human rights groups, academics, etc. - what we might call the international "soft law" crowd - the US, and specifically the Obama administration, will insist on the traditional doctrines of self defense, including against terrorists who find safe haven in states that are unwilling or unable to deal with them. The problem specifically for the Obama administration is that on the one hand it has - correctly in my view, for strategic, legal, and humanitarian reasons - embraced targeted killings via Predator strikes.

On the other hand, a lot of the administration's international legal apparatus is highly sympathetic to the "soft law" position, and in other circumstances would like to embrace positions that, however noble in the abstract, would effectively rule out targeted killing as the US pursues them. And particularly rule them out in future situations in which Al Qaeda is not involved, in which there is no AUMF, no Security Council resolutions, etc., to point to. It is important for the administration to keep in mind that the US will eventually face different terrorist enemies - there is, so to speak, life - and death - after Al Qaeda.

The paper is concerned with defending the US legal space for targeted killing undertaken as self defense, but not within the context of an armed conflict as defined under international humanitarian law. If that seems like a mouthful, I'll just refer you to the paper.

Finally, the US domestic law question of assassination. The title of the article uses the word assassination. This is unfortunate, not because it is not accurate in the sense we ordinarily use the term, but because US law and regulation contains a ban on "assassination." Assassination in that specific legal sense is prohibited - but also not defined in US law or regulation. However, successive administrations dating from the 1980s have taken the position - e.g., the speech in 1989 to which the article refers - that a targeted killing is not (prohibited) "assassination" if it meets the requirements for self-defense under international law, including self defense against terrorists. As then-Dept of State legal advisor Abraham Sofaer put it, the assassination ban does not apply to otherwise "lawful killings undertaken in self defense against terrorists." I don't know if this is open access online; it was issued in the Military Law Review in 1989, and Judge Sofaer and others have told me that it was vetted with DOD and the White House as being US policy and interpretations of law. I am not aware of anything that has overturned it as US interpretation of the US assassination ban.

Okay, I'm trying very hard not to blog at the moment and give my should some time to heal, so I am going to post this up and ... Exeunt Left. Or possibly exit right.

DangerMouse:
Hmmm... let's see. A predator can kill Bin Laden, or we can suck coffee with the libs in the "soft law" crowd.

Gee, real tough choice there.
7.14.2009 11:07am
Cornellian (mail):
I thought the assassination ban only applied to government officials, not private citizens.
7.14.2009 11:09am
Melancton Smith:
Wasn't this from an executive order by Pres. Ford and reference to heads of state?
7.14.2009 11:20am
MCM (mail):
Hmmm... let's see. A predator can kill Bin Laden, or we can suck coffee with the libs in the "soft law" crowd.

Gee, real tough choice there.


Did you even read the god damn post or did you just automatically go into moron mode? Wow.
7.14.2009 11:20am
Anderson (mail):
Someone up on this issue care to explain something to me?

An al-Qaeda member is in, say, Paris.

Do we claim the authority to assassinate him in Paris, without obtaining French permission?

What if he's a French citizen?

Do we also concede the right of other nations to assassinate their enemies on U.S. soil without our permission? Does it matter if they're citizens?

Obviously, if it doesn't work both ways, it's not "law" in any meaningful sense.
7.14.2009 11:21am
Will's Post (mail):
And followers. Lets continue to kill them too.
7.14.2009 11:21am
LarryA (mail) (www):
Not a new discussion. Seems like back in the Revolution, when we were using rifles and the British less-accurate muskets, they thought it terribly unfair of us to intentionaly aim at officers.

When my turn at being an officer came, however, I was under no illusion that the North Vietnamese Army shared that sentiment.
7.14.2009 11:22am
alkali (mail):
I'm not sure that the Congressional Dems are raising the issue of legality of the assassinations. There are requirements that key Congressional leaders be notified of covert actions, which may not have been followed here, and there are certainly prudential concerns about assassinating residents of countries that are allies of or friendly to the US.
7.14.2009 11:23am
MCM (mail):
Do we claim the authority to assassinate him in Paris, without obtaining French permission?

What if he's a French citizen?


If he's important enough, you just do it and pretend to be sorry IF the French find out.
7.14.2009 11:23am
Tennessean (mail):
Curiosity struck me, and someone who knows Latin may correct me, but I looked up "exeunt." I always knew (from context) that it meant, roughly, exit from stage. Apparently, you must have two or more to exeunt.

(Thus the thrill of offering a pedantic correction on the Internet is mine!)
7.14.2009 11:25am
MCM (mail):
tennessean is right. sadly, the correct form here is, i think, merely "exit".
7.14.2009 11:28am
Anderson (mail):
Tennessean is correct. It takes two to exeunt.
7.14.2009 11:29am
Kenneth Anderson:
There is a discussion of why it's okay to go after someone in a failed state but not in Paris or London in the paper - I hate to suggest that anyone download and read it but many of the issues are actually discussed there.

Tennessean - watch out or a "smart bomb" might be headed your way!
7.14.2009 11:29am
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Anderson,

In your Paris hypo, I would say that it would not be a case of a country unable to deal with the problem, unwilling perhaps. In which case you set up an operation to grab him. I have no problem with rendition to the US, though I do have problems with rendition to other countries.

As for the international nicities, if you can get away with it, it's legal. Soft power folks would like to think otherwise, but I have yet to be convinced that they represent anything more than a closed society of chattering classes.
7.14.2009 11:31am
Bruce Hayden (mail):
There are requirements that key Congressional leaders be notified of covert actions, which may not have been followed here
I think that we would first have to see who was assassinated, and then work backwards. And if no one was assassinated, then arguably this whole exercise is moot.

Interestingly, the one type of assassination that we do know has happened under both administrations is by Predator drone. I am assuming that it is acceptable to Congress, since it has been well disclosed in the press for years. But the problem with administration is by Predator drone is that there is often a bit more collateral damage than if an operative only hit the target himself, and spared everyone around them.
7.14.2009 11:32am
rosetta's stones:
Of course there's a legal question here, but the targeted killings, whether by Predator strikes or Spec Ops teams, are completely analogous, even as this latest "revelation" is being presented as something "other".

We're killing people we don't like. And there's no search warrants involved. No habeus corpus. No JAG lawyers (ok, no more than usual anyways).

They're dying because Obama says they should die.

I think what we're seeing here is that poor Nan-Nan was caught in a lie re waterboarding, and her knowledge of it, and the San Fran kooks are subject to throw her out over that lie, if they take a notion, as we know. So Panetta's helpfully throwing her a convenient lifeline... about alleged CIA deception (in the face of the above obvious analogy). This at least gives her something to hang onto, and she can invoke the evil CIA during her primary, and work-in some evil Cheney riffs, to boot.
7.14.2009 11:40am
Anderson (mail):
There is a discussion of why it's okay to go after someone in a failed state but not in Paris or London in the paper - I hate to suggest that anyone download and read it

Alas, my download capacity is limited on the computer I'm supposed to be working at.

But if assassinations are limited to failed states, I'm in agreement. The difficulty arises perhaps in states that are weak but not "failed." Say, Yemen?

As for the international nicities, if you can get away with it, it's legal. Soft power folks would like to think otherwise, but I have yet to be convinced that they represent anything more than a closed society of chattering classes.

Thank you, Thrasymachus.
7.14.2009 11:44am
Tony Tutins (mail):
My coworkers sidelined by carpal tunnel syndrome started using Dragon Naturally Speaking speech recognition software instead of keyboarding. Perhaps K. Anderson would like to try it.

I note in passing that Mr. Anderson did not comment at all on the "secret VP death squad" issues in his post. Perhaps discussing them would be off-topic? Just an idea.

Tennessean is correct. It takes two to exeunt.

So, exeunt is a dance, like the tango? I'm so confused.
7.14.2009 11:48am
rarango (mail):
Tony Tutins beat me to it. That was a great set-up line, Anderson.

With respect to the basic question, I do not have a problem with what Soronel Haetir says--it is the admittedly unsavory but realistic approach. Intelligence about terrorists is fleeting and a rapid response is required. Unless there is some expiditious way to get review and approval, I come down on the "realist" versus "soft law" side.
7.14.2009 11:54am
PQuincy1:
Exeunt is simply the past plural 3rd person for of "to go out", "ex-, out" + "eo, ire", to go:

Exit = he, she, it went out
Exeunt = then went out

As for the substance: it's probably premature to criticize either the CIA/Panetta or Congress here (and of course, we may well never know).

One issue is that the chairs and ranking members of Congressional intelligence committees, by law, are to be briefed on all intelligence operations. It's called "Congressional oversight" and it's not very controversial, in general (though I admit the details get sticky). So, part of this, I'd guess, is Congress jumping up and down about its own perogatives. These do matter, you know...without oversight, the Executive Branch could do a lot of harm in four years, and if they keep what they're doing secret, the contraint of potential impeachment is removed, as well. Some in this forum may implicitly trust the Executive Branch (at least when populated by someone whose name is followed by an "R") to inherently do the right thing. The rest, though, are libertarians and have no such illusions about Presidents of either party.

We also don't know at all what the content of Cheney's super-duper-secret program was: if it was a program to target known Al-Quaeda operatives in failed states, it's hard to see why it needed to be ultra-double-special-secret, after all. Are those indulging in Congress-bashing here really confident that that was the extent of what Cheney's was ordering hidden?
7.14.2009 11:59am
ShelbyC:

Tennessean is correct. It takes two to exeunt.


It takes two to exit, as well. One person exits.
7.14.2009 12:00pm
[insert here] delenda est:
Exuent just means exit all. So KA should have closed comments to give effect to his stage direction, or should seek treatment for his multiple personality disorder.

Also, I think Soronel Haetir has confounded 'legal' with 'fine and dandy'. 'What you can get away with because no-one can stop you' may not be strictly 'legal', but as s/he points out, for many purposes in traditional international law it certainly was fine and dandy.

The whole context of KA's paper is that the sphere of 'What you can get away with because no-one can stop you' is shrinking.
7.14.2009 12:00pm
MCM (mail):
The thing is, PQuincy1, there don't seem to have actually been any operations in operation.
7.14.2009 12:01pm
Ugh (mail):

First, I'm delighted, of course, that the CIA post 9-11 was formulating plans to try and kill Al Qaeda leaders wherever they might be; if they weren't, I would certainly have a big question about what exactly the CIA value-added to national security is. Why would you have a CIA if they weren't trying to figure out covert ops to kill Al Qaeda leaders after 9-11?


You're not serious are you?
7.14.2009 12:01pm
Kazinski:
I don't think there should be a distinction between failed states and first world countries, the distinction should be how accessiable the person is. If someone is in Paris plotting terrorists acts against the United States, and either French authorities will not act, or they are deep underground and French authorities can't act in time to get him, well then kill them.

If they are in Somalia, and a friendly warlord, has the capability of picking them up and handing them over then by all means, detain them and get all the intelligence you can from them.

So the rule should be if you have some certainty that you can arrest/detain them then do so, if you can't then kill them if you can.

And I'd say exactly the same for the French operating here, or even a tin pot dictator, if we were harboring persons committing acts of terrorism, i.e. targeting civilians.
7.14.2009 12:03pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
One issue is that the chairs and ranking members of Congressional intelligence committees, by law, are to be briefed on all intelligence operations. It's called "Congressional oversight" and it's not very controversial, in general (though I admit the details get sticky). So, part of this, I'd guess, is Congress jumping up and down about its own prerogatives. These do matter, you know...without oversight, the Executive Branch could do a lot of harm in four years, and if they keep what they're doing secret, the constraint of potential impeachment is removed, as well.
Again, we need to see who was assassinated by whom, where, and when, or at least what assassinations were attempted, before we can get into the question of whether or not CIA failed to brief Congress on an intelligence operation.
7.14.2009 12:04pm
zuch (mail) (www):
DangerMouse:
Hmmm... let's see. A predator can kill Bin Laden, or we can suck coffee with the libs in the "soft law" crowd.
Fallacy of bifurcation. Not to mention "straw man" and other similar and obvious defects in rational argumentation.

Cheers,
7.14.2009 12:08pm
Anderson (mail):
You're not serious are you?

Oh, yes he is.

Though I do confess myself puzzled why we would want to kill, rather than capture and interrogate, Qaeda members. I was just reading about Ed Lansdale on his Philippines assignment, where some army folks brought him a Huk insurgent's head, and Lansdale picked it up and started yelling questions at it.

When the startled soldiers pointed out that the head could not answer questions about insurgent strength, etc., Lansdale retorted, "it could if you dumbasses hadn't cut it off!" or words to that effect.

Assassinations seem supercool to movie buffs, but grabbing and interrogating are much smarter.
7.14.2009 12:16pm
Anderson (mail):
Not to mention "straw man" and other similar and obvious defects in rational argumentation.

Dude, it's DangerMouse. I'm just waiting for the abortion analogy.
7.14.2009 12:18pm
DennisN (mail):
Tony Tutins:

So, exeunt is a dance, like the tango?


Latin is a dance, like a tango.


Kazinski:

I pretty much agree with your statement above, but don't place as much emphasis on detaining or arresting an enemy. The individual should be neutralized in as expeditious a manner as possible. If he has intelligence value, then he may be worth arresting. Otherwise, he is of more value and less risk, dead.

As far as operating in other nations, that is technically an act of war, although it can usually be papered over by diplomats, plausible deniability, and the virtue of being the biggest dog on the block. The operatives must know they are playing without a safety net. "If captured or killed, the Secretary will disavow..." In any event, we may not be able to save your arse.
7.14.2009 12:19pm
PC:
Again, we need to see who was assassinated by whom, where, and when, or at least what assassinations were attempted, before we can get into the question of whether or not CIA failed to brief Congress on an intelligence operation.

One possibility:
The first hit attempt was in Kenya, was botched, and the deltas had to be bailed out by the Ambassador who had not been briefed on what was going on under his nose. The program was suspended after that but never quite terminated.
7.14.2009 12:21pm
Ugh (mail):

Oh, yes he is.


I was just wondering if he thinks the people in the Directorate of Intelligence sit around all day and pick their noses, since, apparently, they have no national security value-add.

Not to mention the CIA hasn't exactly covered itself in glory with respect to its past operations, to this very day.
7.14.2009 12:22pm
Anderson (mail):
he has intelligence value, then he may be worth arresting. Otherwise, he is of more value and less risk, dead.

Explain this to me, if you will, this concept of "al-Qaeda member without any intelligence value."

Particularly how one makes that determination in advance of interrogation.

Perhaps it's the CIA's secret telepathic technology that Cheney valiantly sought to protect from a Congress sure to use such powers for evil, not good.
7.14.2009 12:22pm
Anderson (mail):
Sit around all day and pick their noses, or conduct assassinations. What other choice is there?

(I mean, besides studying the WMD capacities of unfriendly nations. Wouldn't want anyone doing that.)
7.14.2009 12:25pm
mcbain:
This is why it is sad that people don't want to recognize that Gitmo was an ugly solution to an ugly problem. You can capture and interrogate people, and then? We clearly did not have the stomach to hang them like the laws of war would permit, so what exactly should have been done?
7.14.2009 12:29pm
Smooth, Like a Rhapsody (mail):
He does not allow comments, but someone needs to tell Lindgren that in his 12:14 blog post, he in multiple places refers to "Obama" when he clearly means "Osama".
7.14.2009 12:30pm
Ellen K (mail) (www):
Just thinking, should we be at all alarmed that we currently have a chief executive that considers many of us enemies to his plans. How far do you think he is willing to take that? In short, if you want someone who agrees with you to have such power, do you also want someone who disagrees with you to have the same power? If I were Fox News, I think I would soften up the delivery....
7.14.2009 12:30pm
Anderson (mail):
You can capture and interrogate people, and then?

Oh, I dunno. We could create a "judicial" branch of government, kinda parallel to the legislative and executive, and then we could put these people on trial for violating the laws against terrorism enacted by that legislative branch. I hear that actual statutes like that exist.

Then the executive branch could execute any capital convicts and incarcerate anyone sentenced to imprisonment.

A radical notion, I realize, but times like these call for radical measures.
7.14.2009 12:35pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
I would agree that if the Kenya operation ran and failed, then it probably should have been brought to the attention of the appropriate members of Congress. I am less agreeable to the requirement that Congress needed to be aware of a program that was apparently never active after that.

I won't concede though that the Church Commission or the legislation that came from that prohibiting assassination would make it illegal for our Executive to order such an assassination during a time of war. Rather, I would suggest that this is so deep into a President's Article II powers, that any such legislation would be an overreaching by Congress.

So, my position is that the CIA probably had to inform Congress (through its designates) about any assassination attempts, but that it wasn't illegal for the Army's Delta Force to have made such an attempt.
7.14.2009 12:36pm
Anderson (mail):
Rather, I would suggest that this is so deep into a President's Article II powers

Which of the Framers do you contend recognized assassination as a legitimate tactic of war?

Do you have any citations to support that contention?

Was assassination generally recognized as such a tactic when the Constitution was ratified?

Just curious -- thanks!
7.14.2009 12:39pm
mcbain:

A radical notion, I realize, but times like these call for radical measures.


Quite radical, did the US military become a law enforcement agency? Did practical conciderations of assuring due process to those who are captured on the battle field enter your mind?

We could certainly try people without due process but then what would be the point of that?
7.14.2009 12:44pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
ShelbyC: 'Yes you can,' I say as I exit.

Anderson: Seeing terrorism as a legal or police issue, rather than as an issue of self-defense is exactly the definition of 9/10-thinking.
7.14.2009 12:45pm
Careless:

He does not allow comments, but someone needs to tell Lindgren that in his 12:14 blog post, he in multiple places refers to "Obama" when he clearly means "Osama".

Which makes it so much more amusing

That there was extensive planning within the CIA to capture or kill Obama was so well known that I blogged about it in 2005:
7.14.2009 12:50pm
SG:
Though I do confess myself puzzled why we would want to kill, rather than capture and interrogate, Qaeda members.

Well, in ye olde times capture and interrogation often was a reasonable policy. Live capture exposes our people to far more danger, but the intelligence gathered could make it worth it, if the logistics could be worked out.

But now that illegal combatants taken prisoner have a right to decline interrogations without repercussion and also have a right to a day in court where they can see the evidence against them, it's very possible that a live capture could result in intelligence flowing in the opposite direction. Killing them outright has far less downside. This is a logical (and quite predictable) outcome of the policies you've advocated for.
7.14.2009 12:50pm
corneille1640 (mail) (www):

Exeunt is simply the past plural 3rd person for of "to go out", "ex-, out" + "eo, ire", to go:

Exit = he, she, it went out
Exeunt = then went out

My understanding is that "exit" and "exeunt" are present indicative, not past.

Unfortunately, I have nothing substantive to add to the actual post.
7.14.2009 12:51pm
J_B:
The issue is what triggers a congressional briefing on a CIA operation. CIA top brass must hold brainstorming sessions where raw ideas emerge and are subsequently refined until implemented or dismissed at some point past conception. Congress (especially this one) would love to tout their oversight duties by reminding the CIA that a particular idea is contrary to domestic/international law. Undoubtedly, the CIA already considers legality in some way at some step in the process. Congress may question legality at the point of operation, but, in this case, is trying to extend its authority all the way to the CIA boardroom.
7.14.2009 12:53pm
PC:
Seeing terrorism as a legal or police issue, rather than as an issue of self-defense is exactly the definition of 9/10-thinking.

So Predator drones could have prevented 9/11? Could we have used some hellfire missiles to take out the terrorists in a Florida apartment complex? How would that work exactly?
7.14.2009 12:56pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
Which of the Framers do you contend recognized assassination as a legitimate tactic of war?

Was assassination generally recognized as such a tactic when the Constitution was ratified?
As someone pointed out earlier, the Brits considered our targeting of their officers to be unsporting, and really contrary to the Rules of War, as they believed to be. Of course, by now, assassination has become accepted in certain instances during time of war. Remember Admiral Yamamoto, specifically targeted and assassinated by a flight of P-38 Lightnings on April 18, 1943 at the specific order of President Roosevelt? As someone pointed out, in Vietnam, our officers were specifically targeted in ambushes. And, apparently we still have that problem in Iraq and Afghanistan, since identifiable emblems of rank have almost entirely disappeared from the field uniforms of our troops.

Also, I think that you would need to be able to adequately distinguish why assassination by Predator drone (or P-38 Lightning) is acceptable, but a more surgical assassination by our troops is not. Both Presidents Bush (43) and Obama have repeatedly authorized the former, and they have become almost routine.

Even if our founders would have been mortified about assassination of designated enemies in a time of war, that still doesn't answer the question of whether such is within the core of the President's Article II powers. As noted above, President Roosevelt apparently had no questions here when he order the murder of Admiral Yamamoto.
7.14.2009 12:58pm
Matthew K:
Careless:

Someone might also want to tell him that the 9/11 commission had a much more nuanced view of those supposed chances in 1998 and 1999.


It'll be interesting to see how this story develops. The NYTimes article makes the program sound pretty half assed, and why Congress wouldn't be informed is a bit of a mystery.
7.14.2009 12:59pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
Color me unimpressed.

There is a difference between planning and doing. Making concrete plans if often necessary to decide if someting is necessary, possible, worth the effort, etc. I would hope that the CIA develops (and ultimately rejects) a lot of plans on all sorts of subjects - so many that it would be a full time job for the Congressional committees just to keep themselves informed. Operations are, of course, a different matter.

The whole point of the story (as told by Leon Pannetta and the Congressional leadership) is that this was all the fault of Dick Cheney, the Evil Genius, who ran roughshod over te poor, helpless middle management of the CIA, forcing them into a life of crime. If they can't show more backbone and resourcefulness than we demand of illiterate high school dropouts in the drug trade, maybe the CIA victimized CIA middle managment needs to look for a less demanding line of work.
7.14.2009 1:04pm
rosetta's stones:


Seeing terrorism as a legal or police issue, rather than as an issue of self-defense is exactly the definition of 9/10-thinking.




So Predator drones could have prevented 9/11? Could we have used some hellfire missiles to take out the terrorists in a Florida apartment complex? How would that work exactly?


Sure, if Osama and Zawahiri had died in a Predator attack during the 90's, it might have precluded 9/11. Such was certainly possible.

A missile attack in Florida might have been heavy handed, but certainly FBI communications pre 9/11 should have been more robust than those "the wall" seemed to mandate.

It's hindsight, but Al Qaeda was more than a legal and police problem, even as we treated them as that.

And yes, if it's a defense issue, we'll kill those we have need to kill, like Yamamoto mentioned above. Obama realizes this, apparently.
7.14.2009 1:09pm
ShelbyC:
Somebody should email Lingren (I can't) and tell him that in his post on the topic,


That there was extensive planning within the CIA to capture or kill Obama was so well known that I blogged about it in 2005:


Obama should read Osama, I believe.
7.14.2009 1:10pm
MarkField (mail):

Anderson: Seeing terrorism as a legal or police issue, rather than as an issue of self-defense is exactly the definition of 9/10-thinking.


So much for originalism.
7.14.2009 1:11pm
rosetta's stones:
I'd also remind the pettifoggers bleating against "assasination" that the only reason Hitler survived until late in the war was because we wanted him to survive, as he was more useful to us alive than dead. Otherwise, he'da been as dead as disco.

Remember, the Czech partisans took out Heydrich, one of Hitler's top dogs, with the Allies' assistance. They'da got to Hitler too, if they wanted.
7.14.2009 1:17pm
mcbain:

the only reason Hitler survived until late in the war was because we wanted him to survive


Where are you getting this from?
7.14.2009 1:20pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
MarkField wins the thread.
7.14.2009 1:39pm
DennisN (mail):
Anderson:


he has intelligence value, then he may be worth arresting. Otherwise, he is of more value and less risk, dead.

Explain this to me, if you will, this concept of "al-Qaeda member without any intelligence value."


Good point. My underlying point, obviously expressed imperfectly, was that termination vs capture ought to be a tactical judgement. In general, we don't try to capture enemy soldiers, we try to kill them. We capture those that are convenient.

In general, I'd rather have a dead terrorist and lose his intel value than leave him running loose, but individual cases may be judged differently.
7.14.2009 1:39pm
J.R.L.:

Oh, I dunno. We could create a "judicial" branch of government, kinda parallel to the legislative and executive, and then we could put these people on trial for violating the laws against terrorism enacted by that legislative branch. I hear that actual statutes like that exist.

Then the executive branch could execute any capital convicts and incarcerate anyone sentenced to imprisonment.

A radical notion, I realize, but times like these call for radical measures.


An excellent approach, indeed, to handle any such cases involving US citizens.
7.14.2009 1:49pm
wfjag:

Though I do confess myself puzzled why we would want to kill, rather than capture and interrogate, Qaeda members.

Well, Anderson, the "capture and interrogate" idea was tried. It went by the name "rendition." Are you now advocating rendition of AQ members or other suspected terrorists? Anyone have problems with rendition?
7.14.2009 1:52pm
J.R.L.:

There is a difference between planning and doing. Making concrete plans if often necessary to decide if someting is necessary, possible, worth the effort, etc. I would hope that the CIA develops (and ultimately rejects) a lot of plans on all sorts of subjects - so many that it would be a full time job for the Congressional committees just to keep themselves informed. Operations are, of course, a different matter.

It always cracked me up when people whined that the Bush administration had developed war plans for Iraq before 9/11. I sure hope they did. I also hope they had developed detailed war plans for Belgium, Fiji, Canada, and every last square mile of this Earth. It would be irresponsible not to be prepared.
7.14.2009 1:53pm
DennisN (mail):
mcbain:

the only reason Hitler survived until late in the war was because we wanted him to survive

Where are you getting this from?


It is my understanding (I can't cite sources, here.) that there were a number of plans underway to assassinate Hitler. At some point it was judged that assassinating him would not end the war, and Germany would more likely have a more competent leader. At that point the plans were killed.

So he may have been worth more to us alive, than dead.

This is always a dilemma with decapitation strikes. After you've hit the Supreme Leader, who's on First?

Decapitating Al Qaeda pre 9-11 may have been successful. Now, the organization has evolved into something less centralized and no one is even sure if they have a head.
7.14.2009 2:00pm
curious and busy:
If someone knows this, can you tell me with cites? Sorry, at lunch break with no time to look up properly.

Does the Ford policy against "assassinations" even apply in the first place to nongovernmental actors, and if not, why do you even need the 1989 opinion to get "out of" that policy? I had thought that the 1989 policy allowed targeting a government leader who doubled as a terrorist sponsor, e.g., Qadaffi/Khadafy/whatever speelling. But how do nongovernmental targets even come under the Ford order?

That's not to say there aren't other barriers, legal and prudential, against killing bad guys, as several commenters have noted. But am I wrong about the Ford thing?
7.14.2009 2:04pm
rosetta's stones:


the only reason Hitler survived until late in the war was because we wanted him to survive





Where are you getting this from?


It's pretty much settled history, I'd think, and even the History Channel has picked up on it as I recall, and they're late to the party on about everything.

See Operation Foxley, which the Brits specifically rejected, with one SOE officer claiming that Hitler's strategic military incompetence was worth more than a batallion of SOE agents in Germany.

The Brits and US were receiving ULTRA intercepts of Hitler's movements, and tracking him was a relatively easy matter. If we'da wanted him dead, he'da been dead.
7.14.2009 2:05pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
Note the difference between Hitler and Yamamato:
To boost morale following the defeat at Guadalcanal, Yamamoto decided to make an inspection tour throughout the South Pacific. On 14 April 1943, the US naval intelligence effort, code-named "Magic", intercepted and decrypted a message containing specific details regarding Yamamoto's tour, including arrival and departure times and locations, as well as the number and types of planes that would transport and accompany him on the journey. Yamamoto, the itinerary revealed, would be flying from Rabaul to Ballalae Airfield, on an island near Bougainville in the Solomon Islands, on the morning of 18 April 1943.

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox to "Get Yamamoto." Knox instructed Admiral Chester W. Nimitz of Roosevelt's wishes. Admiral Nimitz consulted Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., Commander, South Pacific, then authorized a mission on 17 April to intercept Yamamoto's flight en route and down it.

A squadron of P-38 Lightning aircraft were assigned the task as only they possessed the range to intercept and engage. Eighteen hand-picked pilots from three units were informed that they were intercepting an "important high officer" with no specific name given.

On the morning of April 18, despite urgings by local commanders to cancel the trip for fear of ambush, Yamamoto's two Mitsubishi G4M fast transport aircraft left Rabaul as scheduled for the 315-mile trip. Shortly after, 18 P-38s with long-range drop tanks took off from Guadalcanal. Sixteen arrived after wave-hopping most of the 430 miles (692 km) to the rendezvous point, maintaining radio silence throughout. At 09:34 Tokyo time, the two flights met and a dogfight ensued between the P-38s and the six escorting A6M Zeroes.

First Lieutenant Rex T. Barber engaged the first of the two Japanese transports which turned out to be Yamamoto's plane. He targeted the aircraft with gunfire until it began to spew smoke from its left engine. Barber turned away to attack the other transport as Yamamoto's plane crashed into the jungle.
7.14.2009 2:15pm
Mike G (mail):
It is hard for me to see how we're not leading to a point where our army can be sued for damage it causes and combatants have presumed civil rights in battle. It's hard for me to see how we survive under such circumstances.
7.14.2009 2:36pm
Anderson (mail):
It went by the name "rendition."

Uh, no. Turning people over to Syria or Egypt for torture is not the only alternative to letting them go.

Re: the persistent "why does the military have to enforce the law" meme above, it seems fairly obvious that once someone is a prisoner and has been interrogated (by military or CIA), it's no skin off our backs to transfer him to civilian custody for trial.

Terrorism *is* a crime. That's why we have laws making it a crime. Where we can't enforce the laws, as in failed states, the NW Province, etc., military force is an acceptable alternative. If the Taliban had extradited Osama to us, we would have put him on trial and executed him, not for war crimes, but for murder pure &simple.

Re: Yamamoto, I have never quite understood why shooting down a Japanese plane, over territory conquered by Japan, while we were at war with Japan, was an "assassination." Enemy officers are legitimate targets.
7.14.2009 2:37pm
mcbain:
thanks. I read about operation Foxley, but always thought that it was killed more because of feasibility issues than a larger strategic concern.
7.14.2009 2:40pm
rosetta's stones:
I agree with you, Anderson. Killing the enemy isn't an assassination.
7.14.2009 2:41pm
mcbain:
Anderson,

Since due process cannot practically be provided to those who were captured by the military, what exactly would transferring them to the civilian custody accomplish?
7.14.2009 2:47pm
Anderson (mail):
and combatants have presumed civil rights in battle

Who said that?

... Re: assassinating Hitler, Wikipedia teacheth that the plan was "submitted in November 1944," but it rested on killing Hitler at the Berghof, to which he didn't return after July 1944. The Brits' desire to kill Hitler did not imply their actual ability to do so. Too bad Stauffenberg wasn't a jihadist.
7.14.2009 2:50pm
Anderson (mail):
Since due process cannot practically be provided to those who were captured by the military

Why not? We couldn't use anything from a CIA/military interrogation against 'em in court, but we could turn them over to FBI interrogators, whose track record is not too shabby.

The notion that Qaeda members must be Mirandized on the battlefield is I think an artifact of Cornerite thinking, not to be confused with anything the Supreme Court has held or is ever likely to hold. Miranda warnings can be reserved for when a suspect enters civilian custody.
7.14.2009 2:53pm
rosetta's stones:
The Brits' desire to kill Hitler did not imply their actual ability to do so. Too bad Stauffenberg wasn't a jihadist.

You are correct. Any clear plan to kill Hitler, as with Heydrich, would likely involve a suicide mission, and yes the Brits had an actual ability to do so.

See: Dieppe.

See: RN mini submarine attacks on Kriegsmarine units in Norway.
7.14.2009 2:59pm
RPT (mail):
"Shelby:

Somebody should email Lingren (I can't) and tell him that in his post on the topic,

That there was extensive planning within the CIA to capture or kill Obama was so well known that I blogged about it in 2005:

Obama should read Osama, I believe."

To Andy McCarthy, there is no difference between them. Maybe Lindgren, too?
7.14.2009 3:06pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

An excellent approach, indeed, to handle any such cases involving US citizens.

wait a minute: the US's visa requirements have deterred enough foreign tourists. Please do not suggest that foreign visitors will not enjoy the protections of our legal system. Not to mention the 25 million legal immigrants residing here (as of 2007).
7.14.2009 3:07pm
Anderson (mail):
See: Dieppe.

Dieppe wasn't *supposed* to be a suicide mission. That was just a little joke on the Canadians. Jolly good fun!

(First time I've seen Dieppe cited as an example of competence. Non-German competence, anyway.)
7.14.2009 3:12pm
Lou Gots (mail):
Bruce Hayden beat me to it on the Yamamoto shoot-down. "Assassination" refers to treacherous murders of individual targets, not to intentional killing of high-value individuls. Enemy military men flying in marked military aircraft do not become protected persons because of their particular value. The British Commanders at Baltimore and New Orleans, Ross and Pakenham, were both killed lawfully by American riflemen. It was not as though someone had crept up and poisoned their grog.

What about Heydrich, shot by partisans while riding in uniform, in a military vehicle? It depends. If the partisans had conformed to the international law requirements for asserting the privileges of belligerency, (uniform or equivalent badge, bearing arms openly, part of responsible command sructure) that was a good shoot also.

These principles extend to nominally civilian command and control assets, particularly when these are part of the command structure of their country's armed forces, such as the German Fuehrer, Japanese Emperor or American President. The usual rules regarding necessity, proportionality, collateral damage and indiscriminate weapons apply.
7.14.2009 3:13pm
J.R.L.:
Since due process cannot practically be provided to those who were captured by the military, what exactly would transferring them to the civilian custody accomplish?

I stand by my (admittedly unresearched) contention that only US citizens should receive the protections of our due process.
7.14.2009 3:15pm
J.R.L.:

wait a minute: the US's visa requirements have deterred enough foreign tourists. Please do not suggest that foreign visitors will not enjoy the protections of our legal system. Not to mention the 25 million legal immigrants residing here (as of 2007).

Membership has its privileges!
7.14.2009 3:17pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Of course liberals and the ACLU lawyers against killing terrorists. They are their biggest benefactors, just like the Communists once were to them years ago.
7.14.2009 3:19pm
RRRoark (mail) (www):
After the 1972 Olympics and the Red Army Factions attacks on US installations, teams were formed that specifically targeted terrorist leaders in Europe, he Mideast and Africa. They sought out and destroyed specific named individuals. This was allowed under the definitions of assassination that were contained in Ford's executive order 11905 on the subject of political assassination. These teams were disbanded after Jimmy Carter's executive order 12306 which was aimed at neutering our intelligence services and was widely (within the community) read as redefining assassination as going after any specific named target. Basically giving any known leader of terrorists status as a "political figure."
7.14.2009 3:21pm
davod (mail):

Former CIA Director: No One Told Me Not To Tell Congress

"By Mark Memmott - NPR 1:50 PM ET | 07-13-2009

The man who ran the CIA from 2006 through January says he wasn't told by then-vice president Dick Cheney not to brief Congress about a covert program aimed at members of al-Qaida, NPR's Mary Louise Kelly reports.

Gen. Mike Hayden's statement is at odds with a New York Times report Sunday that said the CIA:

Withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency's director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

Hayden tells Mary Louise that "I never felt I had any impediment in briefing Congress."
7.14.2009 3:22pm
Anderson (mail):
treacherous murders of individual targets, not to intentional killing of high-value individuals

Ah, a clear distinction, just what we needed!

... Good link, Davod, but the question then turns to Hayden's credibility. And whether "wasn't told by Cheney" is a casuistry (told by Addington? etc.).
7.14.2009 3:25pm
Anderson (mail):
Oh, and OT, anyone following Sotomayor has to check this out:

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), seeking to discredit Judge Sonia Sotomayor's judicial philosophy, cited her 2001 "wise Latina" speech, and contrasted the view that ethnicity and sex influence judging with that of Judge Miriam Cedarbaum, who "believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices."

"So I would just say to you, I believe in Judge Cedarbaum's formulation," Sessions told Sotomayor.

"My friend Judge Cedarbaum is here," Sotomayor riposted, to Sessions' apparent surprise. "We are good friends, and I believe that we both approach judging in the same way, which is looking at the facts of each individual case and applying the law to those facts."

Cedarbaum agreed.


Too funny. dKos has already noted the Annie Hall resemblance.
7.14.2009 3:27pm
J.R.L.:
Good to see that Sotomayor has recanted her statement then. She should have done it a long time ago and avoided all this nonsense.
7.14.2009 3:48pm
Bad (mail) (www):
Personally, if we're going to set up covert Jason Bourne-like operatives in sovereign, even allied, nations who are going to assassinate people, I think that's something Congress should probably know about. Because whether its a good idea or not, it's at a minimum a HUGE s*%tstorm for international law that we might want to be forewarned about.

And, no: saying "we had order to kill Bin Laden, so it was public knowledge" simply doesn't cover it, whatever McCarthy and Lindgren rather laughably claim as a defense.
7.14.2009 3:56pm
wfjag:

It went by the name "rendition."

Uh, no. Turning people over to Syria or Egypt for torture is not the only alternative to letting them go.

Uh, no, I referred specifically to "rendition", and not "extraordinary rendition." They are different.

Rendition essentially is kidnapping and keeping someone on ice while they are interrogated -- and, usually more important, while all the info on the hard drive of their computer is obtained and any other records they have is obtained (including the necessary decoding). Frequently it does involve moving the person to another country, since one of the goals is to keep the person's contacts from realizing that he (or she) has been kidnapped. If done successfully and quickly, that person's contacts and identified, and they too can be the subject of renditions.

There was never any goal in extraordinary rendition of transferring persons to countries that torture. In each case, assurances were obtained that that would not be done. These may have been wink and nod assurances, but the formalities of legalistic reasoning were followed. Interestingly, but for the success of "soft law" type arguments and advocates in the EU, it is likely that no one would have been transferred to Syria or Egypt. The persons kidnapped were not sent there because they would be tortured, they were sent there to be held where they would not be able to communicate with their contacts.

To go back to my question: Do you endorse rendition? You have said that AQ members persons should have due process rights, but you have also endorsed the capture and interrogation of AQ members. There are inherent conflicts between your positions. So, which are you endorsing? Or, do you not see the contradictions? Outside of a theoritical, legalistic setting, you will not be able to both grant quasi-US criminal law due process rights (or even minimal notice and opportunity to be heard due process rights) and to be able to hold someone and interrogate them effectively.
7.14.2009 3:59pm
Anderson (mail):
Rendition, in the non-extraordinary sense, involves apprehending people who are the subjects of arrest warrants in other countries. If the apprehension is illegal, it's extraordinary rendition. We have no more right to grab someone off the street in Paris than we do to shoot someone on the street in Paris.

There was never any goal in extraordinary rendition of transferring persons to countries that torture.

That is bullshit, and repeating such bullshit weakens your argument and credibility.

You have said that AQ members persons should have due process rights, but you have also endorsed the capture and interrogation of AQ members. There are inherent conflicts between your positions.

Perhaps you will trouble to explain them, then. I do not see why the national-security goal of detaining and interrogating suspected terrorists is incompatible with turning them over to civilian authorities for investigation and then either release or prosecution. Has that been held not to meet fundamental standards of due process?
7.14.2009 4:15pm
MarkField (mail):

I stand by my (admittedly unresearched) contention that only US citizens should receive the protections of our due process.


You can stand there all day, but that won't make it true. Under current law and the plain text of the 5th/14th Amendments, due process applies to all "persons", not just citizens.
7.14.2009 4:45pm
rosetta's stones:
Dieppe wasn't *supposed* to be a suicide mission. That was just a little joke on the Canadians. Jolly good fun!

(First time I've seen Dieppe cited as an example of competence.


No, I didn't cite Dieppe as an example of "competence", which it most certainly wasn't, but rather as an example of a suicide attack, which it most certainly was. No strategic goals were either envisioned or achieved... it was death seemingly for death's sake, and I've seen no historical analysis that disputes this.

So, much like Dieppe, or the aforementioned minisub attacks, the Brits were certainly capable of executing a suicide mission to kill Hitler, if they'd chosen to do so as a part of strategy. And, it certainly would not have cost 1,000 dead Canadians.
7.14.2009 5:51pm
Anderson (mail):
it was death seemingly for death's sake, and I've seen no historical analysis that disputes this

Okay, but it wasn't *intended* as such, and I thought your point was that it exemplified British willingness to launch suicide attacks. No one seriously contends that Mountbatten *intended* a miserable failure.
7.14.2009 6:06pm
rosetta's stones:
Dieppe did exemplify Brit willingness to launch suicide attacks, meaning a Hitler snuff was well within their means, as you seemed to discount earlier.

Now, we seem to be tangling things up a bit here re the Dieppe raid itself. It was a miserable failure from its inception, because it had no strategic goals, either envisioned or accomplished. Again, I've read no historical analysis that disputes this.

Some claim there was a political angle(s) to Dieppe, and there sure as hell better have been, because the military angle was non-existent, and bloody.
7.14.2009 6:17pm
Connecticut Lawyer (mail):
Bruce Hayden asked the question up above that none of the Miranda-rights-for-everyone folks seem to want to answer.

What is the legal distinction between killing a targeted individual with a laser guided bomblet fired from a Predator missile, and killing him up close and personal via hit squad?

As for killing terrorists on the streets of Paris, well, I keep thinking about the 9/11 conspirator that some German court freed on a technicality. I don't recall whether they prosecuted him again or let him go. I only recall thinking how nice it would be if he had a fatal accident crossing the street.
7.14.2009 6:54pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
I am not sure why there would be a difference between killing those in uniform and those not in uniform. After all, one of the reasons that al Qaeda has placed itself mostly outside the Geneva Convention is that its fighters do not wear uniforms, have rank emblems, etc. Arguing that it is acceptable to kill enemies in uniform, but not who aren't wearing uniforms, makes no sense, esp. in view of the nature of the enemies we are fighting here.

Rather, I would suggest that while that sort of distinction may have made sense in the past, when fighting enemies who conformed to the Rules of War (such as the Geneva Convention), those who do not fight accordingly, by not doing so, have eliminated that distinction to their disadvantage here - if we can't distinguish between the soldiers and their civilian commanders through the former wearing uniforms, then no one on that side should be able to avail themselves of that distinction, and all members of al Qaeda are liable to be killed on sight.
7.14.2009 6:56pm
Ursus Maritimus:
The paper is concerned with defending the US legal space for targeted killing undertaken as self defense

Prepare for the Yoo experience.
7.14.2009 7:11pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
Maybe I need to rephrase my previous post.

It may make sense to distinguish between civilian leadership and military through the use of uniforms, when the party involved utilizes such, as we do. Our civilian leadership does not wear uniforms, while our military does. And thus, one could argue that there would have been a distinction between a targeted killing of Admiral Yamamoto and maybe the targeted killing of the Emperor. But even this distinction is questionable, when the rulers of a country wear military uniforms, as Hitler often did, and, indeed, the British Royal family do to this day.

Arguably Hitler made this distinction even harder, by making a number of strategic, and maybe even tactical, decisions that would normally have been made by flag officers in other countries. But then, LBJ is supposed to have done the same in Vietnam. Interestingly, the argument against assassinating Hitler was that he was making such poor decisions at those levels, and that the decisions would likely be better, regardless of who took over the country if he had dies.

In any case, getting back to al Qaeda, there doesn't appear to have been any distinction there between the civilian leadership and the fighters. At least early on, top members, including OBL and his immediate staff, were apparently making strategic, and often even tactical, decisions for the group, often at the level of field grade officers in other military organizations.
7.14.2009 7:16pm
PlugInMonster:
This thread stinks of 9/10 mentality. Most of you make me sick to my stomach.
7.14.2009 7:29pm
ReaderY:
I'm shocked, shocked.
7.14.2009 7:43pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
PlugInMonster

I think that you may be able to make the 9/10 argument with those pushing this story, but I would suggest much less so for those commenting here.
7.14.2009 7:46pm
rosetta's stones:
Bruce, Hirohito wore uniforms often. They chose not to attempt killing him as well, and one of Doolittle's B-25's allegedly flew over his palace without dropping any bombs for just that reason. Not to mention they kept him alive after the war, for political reasons, even though he deserved to swing just like all the other war criminals.

I guess that brings up another tail to these targeted killings. Why was it once acceptable for our military to set up a court out in the field, hold a proceeding, convict a guy and hang him immediately, but now we're suddenly getting squeamish about the military engaging in targeted killings? I don't get it.
7.14.2009 7:53pm
cubanbob (mail):
"Anderson (mail):
It went by the name "rendition."

Uh, no. Turning people over to Syria or Egypt for torture is not the only alternative to letting them go.

Re: the persistent "why does the military have to enforce the law" meme above, it seems fairly obvious that once someone is a prisoner and has been interrogated (by military or CIA), it's no skin off our backs to transfer him to civilian custody for trial.

Terrorism *is* a crime. That's why we have laws making it a crime. Where we can't enforce the laws, as in failed states, the NW Province, etc., military force is an acceptable alternative. If the Taliban had extradited Osama to us, we would have put him on trial and executed him, not for war crimes, but for murder pure &simple.

Re: Yamamoto, I have never quite understood why shooting down a Japanese plane, over territory conquered by Japan, while we were at war with Japan, was an "assassination." Enemy officers are legitimate targets.
7.14.2009 2:37p"

Lets get this straight your argument is that killing licit combatants is OK but killing illicit combatants is not OK? We summarily executed (and rightfully so) enemy combatants caught on a battlefield out of uniform. Illegal combatants have no rights at all. We need to take the shackles off and finish off our enemies. As for the example of a terrorist in France, fear not the French will disappear him faster than we will. Harboring such a terrorist can be considered a hostile act. We would turn a blind eye if it happened here and the French did it. International law is not law and the UN is not a world parliament. International law is a set of treaties that the signatories abide by as long as it beneficial to the signer and nothing more.
7.14.2009 7:54pm
Crafty Hunter (www):
The passage "... was formulating plans to try and kill Al Qaeda leaders ..." should contain "... try TO kill ..." and not the ghastly contruct "... try AND kill ...", which when you think on it makes no sense whatsoever.

Also, the passage "... give my should some time to heal ..." suggests that one hopes your would will hold up under the strain of compensating for your should, and that your might and your maybe should be fed well so that they last longer.

This post has been brought to you by the Department of Hopelessly Lost Causes.
7.14.2009 8:05pm
Crafty Hunter (www):
P.S. As might be expected when fulfilling the office of Grammar Nazi, I misspelled "construct" as "contruct", so we can laugh at each other equally.
7.14.2009 8:07pm
rosetta's stones:
As for the example of a terrorist in France, fear not the French will disappear him faster than we will.

No lie. The French have no use for the lawyerly ACLU foolishness, when it comes to national security. Heard anything much about that dozen or so terrorists we released to them years back? I'd love to hear what happened to those guys.

Back in the 70's, I believe it was Mitterand or maybe it was D'Estaing, who decided to end overt commie subversion in France once and for all, and disappeared a bunch of them. Supposedly the CIA provided intelligence and help, although not participating directly in the disappearings, supposedly.

And we complain because ol' drunk Joe waved around a list of names. Ha.
7.14.2009 8:19pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
We need a professional and competent intelligence agency.


Unfortunately, we have the CIA.

1 failed operation (maybe) in 8 years. Impressive.

Maybe they didn't tell Congress because they were embarrassed at being total failures? Occams Razor and all that.

Of course, the only thing more useless than the Operations Directorate is the Intelligence Directorate. (Read its 1960 era estimates on Soviet economy for some good fantasy, for instance.) If they did pick their noses, it would be an improvement.
7.14.2009 8:27pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
Re: Yamamoto, I have never quite understood why shooting down a Japanese plane, over territory conquered by Japan, while we were at war with Japan, was an "assassination." Enemy officers are legitimate targets.
Because it was personal. A very specific individual was targeted for death, all the way from the highest levels in our country. Eighteen P-38s were dispatched with the express purpose of shooting down, and killing, the individual who was the mastermind behind Pearl Harbor, and also was probably considered Japan's premier Admiral. And, it does appear that Lieutenant Barber was successful there, as Yamamoto was found dead from bullet wounds, presumably from Barber's P-38.

It was also to ask the question of what is an assassination, and how does it differ from other killings, and in particular, targeted killings, during a time of war.
7.14.2009 9:06pm
MarkField (mail):

Illegal combatants have no rights at all. We need to take the shackles off and finish off our enemies.


The Duke of Alba would be so proud.
7.14.2009 9:46pm
BubaRooni:
The 'soft law' crowd seems well represented in this discussion.

The modern nation state kills it's enemies in order to protect it's citizens and it's interests when threatened. Kind of it's raison d'etre.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!!! I can hear the indignation already...

We all know that some restraints are necessary to the states conduct in pursuing it's ends but, these are truly ghastly mental twists, bends and leaps being made by lawyers to justify lawyers.

Crudely and inelegantly boiled down to: 'The state can't kill a bad guy if he's a citizen of another country or in another country UNLESS he gets a lawyer first. Unless he is in a failed or semi failed nations state AND he gets a lawyer. Unless he is first mirandized AND he gets a lawyer.'

Just another reason the volk will adopt 'First Against the Wall When the Revolution Comes' with respect to lawyers.

Now, go do something semi-respectable like chase an ambulance. Leave this dirty, complicated national security stuff to the adults.
7.14.2009 10:13pm
MnZ (mail):
Bad said:

Personally, if we're going to set up covert Jason Bourne-like operatives in sovereign, even allied, nations who are going to assassinate people, I think that's something Congress should probably know about. Because whether its a good idea or not, it's at a minimum a HUGE s*%tstorm for international law that we might want to be forewarned about.

And, no: saying "we had order to kill Bin Laden, so it was public knowledge" simply doesn't cover it, whatever McCarthy and Lindgren rather laughably claim as a defense.


There was no "setting" up - only vague plans for these types of operations. This looks like yet another cynical attempt by the NYT and the Democrats to manufacture a scandal.
7.14.2009 10:34pm
cubanbob (mail):
Illegal combatants have no rights at all. We need to take the shackles off and finish off our enemies.



The Duke of Alba would be so proud.

Typical lib, stupid, arrogant and willfully ignorant. Can't reply with facts and logic, replies with snarly idiocy. If you not so busy, look up the difference between civilian, unarmed and unresisting and an illegal combatant. Might actually learn something.
7.15.2009 12:41am
davod (mail):
I know the comments regarding Dieppe were at a tangent to the main discussion but some appear not to know why Operation Jubilee took place.

It has been a while since I read an official account but I did manage to find something at the Combinedops web site which gels with my memory - Dieppe

There was pressure from the Russians to do something in the West to take the heat off them. The link also says there was also pressure from some in the USA to do something in Europe otherwise there would be a push to concentrate on Japan.

The raid, and that is what it was, a division size raid, on Fortress Europe, was to hold Dieppe, or parts of it, for two tides then withdraw.

That it was a disaster is a given now, but the lessons learned were a benefit for the landings in North Africa and on D-day.
7.15.2009 4:32am
rosetta's stones:
There was pressure from the Russians to do something in the West to take the heat off them. The link also says there was also pressure from some in the USA to do something in Europe otherwise there would be a push to concentrate on Japan.

The raid, and that is what it was, a division size raid, on Fortress Europe, was to hold Dieppe, or parts of it, for two tides then withdraw.

That it was a disaster is a given now, but the lessons learned were a benefit for the landings in North Africa and on D-day.


I agree, there had to be a political motive for Dieppe, as any military/strategic value was non-existent. It was a suicide mission, and to no good cause.

It is impossible to come to the conclusion that the Nazis would not have sufficient reserve mobile force available to smash any raiding force of this era, particularly one centered on a channel port, which by definition possessed all transportation infrastructure necessary to enable the mobile force's quick deployment, even if in-place defenses were insufficient, and they weren't. Impossible to believe otherwise. Such a raiding force was doomed the moment it embarked, before the sun ever rose.

Disagree that US pressure was behind this effort, however. FDR may have gone along with it, but clearly the force composition indicates who was driving the bus, and it wasn't the US.

This was pretty much the once mighty but now tottering British Empire's last solo action, and you'll likely never see this written down anywhere (least not until Brit archives are finally opened, and that likely won't be in our lifetimes), but deep down in the bowels of Winnie's bunker, I believe he had it in mind that he might just be able to catch the Hun with his pants down, steal a channel port, and quickly exploit it. He had about a 6-12 month window following Pearl Harbor to make his gambit. After that, the cursed Yanks would be in charge of the show, as only they would be able to logistically support the deployment of 150,000 troops within one daylight operation, as on 6/6/44.

Not sure Winnie learned any amphibious warfare lessons from Dieppe, because he clearly didn't learn any lessons from his WWI Dardanelles gambit/disaster, which should have informed him re Dieppe. The US had been evolving amphibious warfare throughout the 30's, in anticipation of an eventual war with Japan. That blowhard Turner is called out as some kind of Pacific War genius, but he was just a blowhard executing doctrine that had been worked out over many years before the war. A courageous and decisive blowhard, yes, and also one clever enough to learn the lessons Churchill seemingly never did. The US military probably forgot more than the Brits ever knew about amphibious warfare, and that's likely one of the reasons FDR steered us away from firm support of Dieppe. The US military learned the lessons way back in 1915, even as Churchill ignored that lesson that his Gallipoli disaster brought on. Dieppe was non-value added to the US, and seemingly nothing was going to educate the Brits.

There were those in the US who wanted a full scale invasion of Europe in 1942, and plenty more who thought it well feasible in 1943 (and I agree with that group). But a raid, with no strategic foundation? Foolish and suicidal, and to no good reason.
7.15.2009 8:49am
davod (mail):
"I agree, there had to be a political motive for Dieppe, as any military/strategic value was non-existent. It was a suicide mission, and to no good cause."

Do you have a problem reading English.

"The raid, and that is what it was, a division size raid, on Fortress Europe, was to hold Dieppe, or parts of it, for two tides then withdraw."

Something like this raid would have occurred anyway.

It was not a suicide mission.
7.15.2009 9:29am
rosetta's stones:
No, I read English well, thank you. Well enough to know that a strategically pointless raid is nothing but a suicide mission. And when your force is doomed before it finishes its first cup of morning coffee... it's a suicide mission.

And no, nothing like that raid "would have occurred anyway". At least it wouldn't have in this case, had the Brits learned the lesson taught them 30 years earlier.
7.15.2009 10:12am
rosetta's stones:
From your link:

Almost 4,000 Canadian and British had been killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The Canadians lost two thirds of their force, with 907 dead or later to die from their wounds. Major-General Roberts unfairly became the official scapegoat and was never to command troops in the field again. Year after year, on August 19th, a small box arrived in the post for him. Its contents a small piece of stale cake - a cruel reminder of his attempt to boost morale at the pre-raid briefing "Don't worry boys. It will be a piece of cake!"

Poor sap, but I agree, he was made scapegoat for others' stupidity. My father served in the Canadian army in Sicily, Italy and Belgium, and believe me, there was no love lost for Brit stupidity among the Canadians, and that Dieppe suicide mission was a big part of that void of lost love.
7.15.2009 10:18am
Lou Gots (mail):
Perhaps it is a civilian thing. We are still struggling with targeted killing of specific individual, such as Admiral Yamamoro, Obergruppenfuerher Heydrich, General Ross or Lord Pakenham.

Targeted individuals do not enjoy any special immunity. Their killing is on a legal par with the killing of a nameless ranker. Anyone who holds otherwise is encouraged to supply authority for such proposition. Not merely hissing out the word, "assassination" will suffice. Targeted killing does not become "assassination" because of the target, but because of the method. Some targeted killings are assassinations, and some are not.

Now criminal organizations such as AlQaida present cases alike to the above examples in some ways and unlike them in others. It is true that many of our present adversaries are unprivileged belligerents. If we catch them, we may treat them as accused war criminals, separated from, and more closely confined than, innocent P.O.W.'s. However, once taken into captivity, they are protected persons. They may be convicted and punished for their crimes, but not abused or summarily killed. While they are at large, they may be targeted and killed like any combatant.

The only reason we are having this discussion is that our technology has greatly expanded our opportunities for targeted killing. Why anyone would consider this a bad thing is most inscrutable. Information, intelligence and PGM technologies have transformed the balancing of military necessity with collateral damage. No longer must we flatten a city to strike a particular objective. The humanitarian consequences of this progress are profound.
7.15.2009 11:42am
Benjamin Davis (mail):
Hey just inform Congress of what you are doing or going to do. No Darth Vader weirdness, no secret hand signals, no euphemistici "we need to go to the dark side". That is all crap.
Best,
Ben
7.15.2009 11:50am
DennisN (mail):
MarkField:

Illegal combatants have no rights at all. We need to take the shackles off and finish off our enemies.



The Duke of Alba would be so proud.


There is sound reasoning behind the GC and HC granting of rights to formal military and not to illegal combatants. The reason is to provide a bright line separating State Actors (Lawful Combatants) and civilians (Unlawful Combatants.) This allows at least the the protection of civilians. If you can't tell the civilians from the military, because the military are submerging themselves in the civilian population, then the whole population becomes a legitimate target.

Illegal combatants need to be treated savagely, to protect the non combatants.

As for the question about why it was acceptable to shoot illegal combatants out of hand during WW-II (as was apparently done with German spies in the Ardennes), and it isn't now; the answer boils down to politics. The nation was united during WW-II, and not about to put up with crap. Legal or illegal, no one challenged using harsh means to win. An action had to be truly egregious (e.g raping a civilian) for it to draw enough ire to be considered for prosecution.

In essence, there was no dispute. Where there is no dispute, the lawyers tend to stay home.

Even during WW-II, it was not common to execute spies out of hand, and that only in the heat of combat. In the present campaign, the tempo of combat is leisurely enough (Tell that to SP4 Snuffy when he's under fire, eh?) that we have the leisure to capture and try. If we were in a situation where we had tens of divisions in contact, the units were sorely pressed, and the enemy (pick an enemy) was infiltrating terrorists into our lines, then terrorists caught on the ground would be shot out of hand, and few would bat an eye.


Lou Gots:
Perhaps it is a civilian thing. We are still struggling with targeted killing of specific individual, such as Admiral Yamamoro ...


When I put the crosshairs on the forehead of Private Schultz, and squeeze the trigger, it is a targeted killing. I singled out a specific individual, because of his specific characteristics, and killed him. As you said, you don't get immunity when you pin stars on your collar, or wear a top hat or a keffiyeh.
7.15.2009 2:33pm
MnZ (mail):

Hey just inform Congress of what you are doing or going to do. No Darth Vader weirdness, no secret hand signals, no euphemistici "we need to go to the dark side". That is all crap.
Best,
Ben


Yeah, because Congress needs to know every single thought of every single government employee at all times.

I half wish that the CIA would call the Democrats bluff. They could overwhelm Congress with every half-developed idea that the CIA had and say, "We are not going do anything until you review it all."
7.15.2009 11:30pm

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