Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
Here's the RSS feed or subscribe to our FFF Email Update to receive Hornberger’s Blog daily.

Why Should CIA Murderers Be Protected by Secrecy?

by

Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen is upset with the New York Times for disclosing the identity of a CIA agent, Michael D’Andrea, who is a “covert operative running the CIA’s Iran operations.” In an article in the Post, he says that the information put D’Andrea’s life at risk.

Of course, we’ve all grown up under the notion that it vital to America that CIA agents remain secret and that their identities and names never be disclosed to the public. That’s because all of us have been born and raised under a national-security state system and are taught from the first grade on up never to question it. And we’re taught that our “free” society depends on the CIA and its secret murders, kidnappings, and other felonies committed around the world, including here in the United States.

What nonsense. When a free society depends on the commission of murders, kidnappings, and other felonies, something is clearly amiss. Perhaps that is why our American ancestors not only failed to delegate the power to kidnap and murder to federal officials in the Constitution but also expressly forbade it in the Bill of Rights, which forbids any U.S. official from depriving any person of life or liberty without due process of law.

There is one and only one reason why the CIA wants the identities of its agents to remain a secret. It’s because CIA agents are murdering people and committing other violent felonies against people, and they don’t want victims and victims’ families to be able to retaliate against the murderers and other CIA felons.

Thiessen implicitly acknowledges the potential for retaliation even though he obviously doesn’t get the import of what he is saying. He complains that the Times reported that “operatives under his direction played a pivotal role in 2008 in the killing of Imad Mugniyah, the international operations chief for Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group based in Lebanon.” Citing a former CIA official, Thiessen writes that “publication of this information puts D’Andrea’s life at risk.”

Notice that Thiessen doesn’t ask the important question, perhaps because it just doesn’t even occur to him: Under what legal authority did the CIA kill Mugniyah. Under what legal authority does the CIA kill anyone?

It’s really nothing more than murder. Immunized murder to be sure. But murder nonetheless.

When you go out and murder people, you take the risk that someone is going to retaliate against you by trying to murder you. If you don’t want to take that risk, you shouldn’t be out murdering people. The fact that these people want to remain secret is proof positive that deep down they know it’s murder.

After all, there are countless people in life who are responsible for legally killing others, and we don’t keep their identities secret for fear of retaliation. There are jurors who mete out the death penalty to criminal defendants, judges who sentence people to death, and people who carry out the executions.

We don’t keep their identities secret. Why not? Couldn’t family or friends of the people they put to death retaliate against them, just as family and friends of the CIA’s victims might retaliate against the CIA agents who kill people? Why keep the identity of the CIA killers secret while publicly disclosing the names of jurors, judges, and executioners?

The difference is that while the judicial killings are legal, the CIA’s killings are immunized murder. That is, the judicial killings follow a legal process by which a person who is accused of a crime is given the opportunity to be heard, an opportunity to defend himself, and an opportunity to show that he’s not guilty. The CIA’s killings, on the other hand, provide no due process to the victim. It’s just plain murder.

Perhaps Thiessen would respond that CIA assassins are not murderers but rather “assassins.”

What’s the difference? Assassination is murder, and assassins are murderers.

Consider, for example, Lee Harvey Oswald, the “communist” Marine who U.S. officials have long claimed assassinated President Kennedy. He was charged with murdering the president. That’s because assassination is murder.

Or consider the Pinochet regime’s assassination of former Chilean official Orlando Letelier and his young assistant Ronni Moffitt on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1976. If assassination isn’t murder, then why did the Justice Department charge the assassins with murder? Why were they tried and convicted for murder?

The answer is: because assassination is murder … even when it’s committed by the CIA, which long ago became an omnipotent agency within the federal government, one that wields the power to kill people with impunity and immunity.

One might be tempted to say that the CIA is above the law. It’s much worse than that. The CIA is the law. Whatever felonies it commits — murder, kidnapping, burglary, trespass, rape, or whatever — is automatically considered legal, especially by everyone in Washington, including those in the Justice Department and the federal judiciary, all of whom are too scared to do anything about it. As New York Congressman Charles Schumer candidly put it recently, “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”

The Letelier-Moffitt assassinations are a good example. Letelier and Moffitt were assassinated as part of what was called Operation Condor, which was an international assassination ring directed by the dictatorial regime in Chile of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, which the CIA helped install into power and then train. The CIA was a partner in Operation Condor. It provided the technological and communications equipment to the operation. It also put the head of Operation Condor, Manuel Contreras, on the CIA’s payroll.

Yet, when the Justice Department went seeking indictments against Letelier’s and Moffitt’s assassins, they left the CIA out of the indictment, notwithstanding the fact that under the law a partner in a criminal enterprise is criminally responsible for the crimes committed by the partnership.

Perhaps it should also be noted that the man who orchestrated the assassination, an American citizen named Michael Townley, had admittedly sought employment with the CIA, was given a sweetheart deal in the murder case, and was later put into the Federal Witness Protection Program, where the federal government has protected him ever since. Even though the CIA and the Townley have long denied that the CIA hired him to work for the agency, something they would do even if Townley was CIA, they cannot deny that Townley worked for Operation Condor, which the CIA was a partner in.

Or consider the execution of two Americans, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, during the U.S.-instigated Chilean coup that installed Pinochet into power. A secret State Department investigation determined that U.S. intelligence had played a role in their murders. That role undoubtedly entailed asking Pinochet’s goons to kill the two Americans for the same reason that tens of other thousands of people were killed, including Letelier and Moffitt — because they were leftists or communists or socialists and, therefore, considered to be threats to “national security.” The State Department’s secret report recommended further investigation into the murders of Horman and Teruggi.

Somebody powerful, however, obviously put the quietus on that State Department report. That’s because the CIA, as a practical matter, is authorized to murder anyone it wants, with impunity and immunity.

Consider two kidnapping episodes involving the CIA. One involved the CIA’s kidnapping of Canadian citizen Mahar Arar. Somehow the CIA struck a secret deal with the Assad regime in Syria to torture Arar, who they violently delivered into Assad’s clutches. (Yes, that Assad regime, the one that is so brutal that CIA and other U.S. officials are now killing people in Syria in an attempt to oust Assad from power.)

How did the CIA make a secret torture deal with a regime that is considered an official enemy of the United States? We don’t know. And the mainstream media has never asked. Everyone is too scared to ask. And everyone knows that CIA wouldn’t answer anyway.

Another example involved the kidnapping of a man in Italy and his violent rendition to Egypt’s brutal pro-U.S. military dictatorship. Why Egypt? Because it is as good at torture as Syria is. And the Egyptian military dictatorship is a partner of the U.S. government in the “war on terrorism.” It’s willing to torture anyone that the CIA wants to be tortured.

Kidnapping, like murder, is a felony. So is conspiracy to kidnap. There is no doubt that these two conspiracies to kidnap originated in the United States. Did the Justice Department seek criminal indictments, as Italian officials did? Nope. That’s because the CIA is the law. Not in Italy, where they were convicted of a felony, but yes here in the United States.

Many years ago, the CIA conspired to kidnap and murder a totally innocent Chilean official named Gen. Rene Schneider, who, as overall commander of Chile’s armed forces, was standing in the way of the CIA’s planned coup. While the CIA has long denied that they planned to kill Schneider as part of the kidnapping, the denial rings false because, as a practical matter, they couldn’t have let him return to Chilean society after their coup. Schneider was shot dead during the kidnapping. Under what the law calls the felony-murder rule, the CIA was criminally responsible for Schneider’s murder during the kidnapping.

There is no doubt that the conspiracy to kidnap and murder Schneider originated in Washington or Virginia or both. Yet, the CIA was never indicted. Moreover, when Schneider’s sons sued for damages for the CIA’s murder of their father, the federal courts threw them out on their ear. The assassination, the federal courts said, was a “political question” that the federal courts didn’t have jurisdiction to deal with. Like everyone else, the federal courts are not about to interfere with the CIA and its murders and kidnappings. With its power to kill and kidnap, it is the omnipotent part of the federal government.

Even President Lyndon Johnson, who wasn’t exactly a paragon of ethical values, acknowledged that assassination was murder when, in describing the CIA’s assassination program in the Caribbean, referred to it as a “damned Murder Inc.”

Thirty days after the Kennedy assassination, an assassination that has all the earmarks of a sophisticated regime-change operation similar in principle those the U.S. national security state conducted in Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Chile, Indonesia, Congo, and other countries (See my ebook Regime Change:  The JFK Assassination), former President Harry Truman had a remarkable op-ed published in the Washington Post, one that is still worth reading today. He said that when he brought the CIA into existence, he intended for it to be strictly an intelligence-gathering agency, not one that had the power to engage in covert operations, including kidnapping, regime change, and assassination. The fact that Truman, who truly understood the nature and operations of the CIA, wrote the op-ed 30 days after the Kennedy assassination could not have been a coincidence.

Truman stated that the CIA had become a sinister force in American life and that it should be limited to intelligence-gathering and prohibited from engaging in covert activity, including assassination. He was right but only half-right. The CIA should never have been permitted to come into existence and, at the very least, should have been put out of existence at the end of the Cold War. It has no place in a society that purports to be free. It should be abolished forthwith rather than just reined in.

 

 

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.