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NYT Knew About CIA Program In 2002

From the archives of the New York Times:

This March 20, 2001 file photo, shows President George W. Bush, right, and George J. Tenet, left, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, stop to pose standing the CIA seal in the main entrance of agency headquarters in Langley, Va.

Bush Has Widened Authority of C.I.A. to Kill Terrorists

By JAMES RISEN and DAVID JOHNSTON

December 15, 2002

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 — The Bush administration has prepared a list of terrorist leaders the Central Intelligence Agency is authorized to kill, if capture is impractical and civilian casualties can be minimized, senior military and intelligence officials said.

The previously undisclosed C.I.A. list includes key Qaeda leaders like Osama bin Laden and his chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, as well as other principal figures from Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups, the officials said. The names of about two dozen terrorist leaders have recently been on the lethal-force list, officials said. "It’s the worst of the worst," an official said.

President Bush has provided written legal authority to the C.I.A. to hunt down and kill the terrorists without seeking further approval each time the agency is about to stage an operation. Some officials said the terrorist list was known as the "high-value target list." A spokesman for the White House declined to discuss the list or issues involving the use of lethal force against terrorists. A spokesman for the C.I.A. also declined to comment on the list.

Despite the authority given to the agency, Mr. Bush has not waived the executive order banning assassinations, officials said. The presidential authority to kill terrorists defines operatives of Al Qaeda as enemy combatants and thus legitimate targets for lethal force.

Mr. Bush issued a presidential finding last year, after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, providing the basic executive and legal authority for the C.I.A. to either kill or capture terrorist leaders. Initially, the agency used that authority to hunt for Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan. That authority was the basis for the C.I.A.’s attempts to find and kill or capture Mr. Bin laden and other Qaeda leaders during the war in Afghanistan.

The creation of the secret list is part of the expanded C.I.A. effort to hunt and kill or capture Qaeda operatives far from traditional battlefields, in countries like Yemen.

The president is not legally required to approve each name added to the list, nor is the C.I.A. required to obtain presidential approval for specific attacks, although officials said Mr. Bush had been kept well informed about the agency’s operations.

In November, the C.I.A. killed a Qaeda leader in a remote region of Yemen. A pilotless Predator aircraft operated by the agency fired a Hellfire antitank missile at a car in which Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, also known as Abu Ali, was riding. Mr. Harethi and five other people, including one suspected Qaeda operative with United States citizenship, were killed in the attack.

Mr. Harethi, a key Al Qaeda leader in Yemen who is suspected of helping to plan the bombing of the American destroyer Cole in 2000, is believed to have been on the list of Qaeda leaders that the C.I.A. had been authorized to kill. After the Predator operation in Yemen, American officials said Mr. Bush was not required to approve the mission before the attack, nor was he specifically consulted.

Intelligence officials said the presidential finding authorizing the agency to kill terrorists was not limited to those on the list. The president has given broad authority to the C.I.A. to kill or capture operatives of Al Qaeda around the world, the officials said. But officials said the group’s most senior leaders on the list were the agency’s primary focus.

The list is updated periodically as the intelligence agency, in consultation with other counterterrorism agencies, adds new names or deletes those who are captured or killed, or when intelligence indicates the emergence of a new leader.

The precise criteria for adding someone to the list are unclear, although the evidence against each person must be clear and convincing, the officials said. The list contains the names of some of the same people who are on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s list of most wanted terror suspects, although the lists are prepared independently.

Officials said the C.I.A., working with the F.B.I., the military and foreign governments, will seek to capture terrorists when possible and bring them into custody.

Counterterrorism officials prefer to capture senior Qaeda leaders for interrogation, if possible. They regard killing as a last resort in cases in which the location of a Qaeda operative is known but capture would be too dangerous or logistically impossible, the officials said.

Under current intelligence law, the president must sign a finding to provide the legal basis for covert actions to be carried out by the C.I.A. In response to past abuses, the decision-making process has grown into a highly formalized review in which the White House, Justice Department, State Department, Pentagon and C.I.A. take part.

The administration must notify Congressional leaders of any covert action finding signed by the president. In the case of the presidential finding authorizing the use of lethal force against members of Al Qaeda, Congressional leaders have been notified as required, the officials said.

The new emphasis on covert action is an outgrowth of more aggressive attitudes regarding the use of lethal force in the campaign against terrorism. Moreover, such operations have become easier to conduct because of technological advances like the development of the Predator, which has evolved from a camera-carrying surveillance drone into an armed robot warplane controlled by operators safely stationed thousands of miles from any attack.

The development of the armed Predator drone has made it much easier for the C.I.A. to pursue and kill terrorists in ways that would almost certainly not have been tried in the past for fear of the potential for American casualties. In the strike in Yemen, for example, Mr. Harethi was living in a remote, lawless region where the Yemeni government had little control. Not long before the Predator strike, Yemeni forces attacked Qaeda operatives in that same area and were beaten back with many casualties.

The more aggressive approach to counterterrorism is showing results.

George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, said in a speech last week that more than one-third of the top leadership of Al Qaeda identified before the war in Afghanistan had been killed or captured.

One recent success, he said, came with the capture of Al Qaeda’s operations chief for the Persian Gulf region who had been involved in the planning of the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in East Africa as well as the bombing of the Cole in 2000. Since September 2001, Mr. Tenet added, more than 3,000 suspected Qaeda operatives or their associates have been detained in more than 100 countries.

But the decision by the Bush administration to authorize, under certain circumstances, the killing of terrorist leaders threatens to thrust it into a murky area of national security and international law that is almost never debated in public because the covert operations are known only to a small circle of executive branch and Congressional officials.

In the past, the Bush administration has criticized the targeting of Palestinian leaders by Israeli forces. But one former senior official said such criticism had diminished as the administration sought to move aggressively against Al Qaeda.

Still, some national security lawyers said the practice of drawing up lists of people who are subject to lethal force might blur the lines drawn by government’s ban on assassinations. That prohibition was first ordered by President Gerald Ford, and in the view of some lawyers, it applies not only to foreign leaders but to civilians. (American officials have said in the past that Saddam Hussein would be a legitimate target in a war, as he is a military commander as well as Iraq’s president.)

"The inevitable complication of a politically declared but legally undeclared war is the blurring of the distinction between enemy combatants and other non-state actors," said Harold Hongju Koh, a professor of international law at Yale University and a former State Department official in President Bill Clinton’s administration. "The question is, what factual showing will demonstrate that they had warlike intentions against us and who sees that evidence before any action is taken?"

Don’t the Democrats in Congress read the New York Times. This was on the front page.

Of course we are not surprised that the New York Times had already leaked this supposedly highly secret program. (That was never implemented.)

And, needless to say, we are not surprised that The Times would pretend to be shocked by the recent revelation of the same (non) program in recent days. They will do anything to forward the DNC’s agenda. After all, that is their job.

But that Congressmen would pretend they don’t hang on every word from their flagship media outlet is impossible to believe.

(Thanks to Clarice and Lucianne for the heads up.)

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Tuesday, July 14th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

7 Responses to “NYT Knew About CIA Program In 2002”

  1. Ivan Yurkenov

    I think Eric Holder needs to be “renditioned” to a torture-friendly country if he moves forward with his “show trial”!

  2. retire05

    If ever there was a clear cut case for keeping sensitve intel from Congress, this is it. It only took Congress (Jay Rockefeller?) two weeks to leak this information to the every willing to bash our nation New York Slimes.

    But this story, along with the Sotomayer confirmation hearings, will keep the eye off the ball, i.e. the ever crashing economy and the failure of Obama’s stimulus.

  3. Reality Bytes

    So “Bush Crimes” reruns pass as news? Wow, think of the syndication potential. Get TVLand on the phone!

  4. canary

    Obama knew and encouraged Bushes actions to hunt down & kill terrorists, in October 2002. Chicago speech “”…I supported this Administration’s pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance” and would “willingly take up arms myself to prevent such a tragedy from happneing again.”” Barack Obama Oct. 2002
    the audacity of hope. pg 294.

    Thank you Lord and God. You will rescue your people from the jaws of the beast. Let them be caught in their own traps. Their lying words return to them as sharp arrows.

  5. Liberals Demise

    Anyone tell San Fran Nan or is she still in denial?
    I mean if the NY Slimes knew……………




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