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Murder with Impunity in Russia … and the U.S.


Last Friday, the Washington Post published an excellent editorial about murder and the rule of law. The editorial described how Russian prosecutors secured convictions of five men for murdering Boris Nemtsov, a popular critic of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, but criticized Russian officials for failing to pursue the people who ordered the killings.

The editorial, entitled “No Justice After the Cold Blooded Murder of a Russian Opposition Leader,” suggested that the assassination may have been orchestrated by Russian officials and criticized the judge presiding over the case for his lack of “curiosity” about who ordered the killing.

The Post pointed out:

The rule of law means, at its most fundamental level, that no one is above the law…. The sad fact is that Yeltsin failed to build a state based on rule of law, and Mr. Putin did not seriously try. Though a Russian judicial system exists and post-Soviet laws are on the books, enforcement can at times be arbitrary in the extreme, and the powerful enjoy an exalted position, beyond reproach and beyond questioning.

Even though the Post might not realize it, its editorial, however, says much more about the United States than it says about Russia.

After all, if Russian officials did in fact orchestrate Nemtsov’s assassination, I don’t think many people would be surprised. That’s what oftentimes happens in countries ruled by authoritarian or totalitarian regimes.

What should be disconcerting to the Post and every American citizen is that state-sponsored assassinations with impunity have been made a permanent feature of the U.S. government ever since the conversion of the federal government to a national-security state in the latter part of the 1940s.

Here in the United States, U.S. officials engage in state-sponsored assassinations and other felonies with the same impunity that Russian officials presumably engage in. Nothing ever happens to U.S. officials who engage in such crimes. They’re certainly not prosecuted. If victims or victims’ families sue for damages, the federal courts summarily dismiss their cases, holding that U.S. officials have the power to assassinate anyone they want, so long as it relates to “national security.”

Consider, for example, the murder of two American citizens in Chile in 1973, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi. They were executed by forces belonging to Chilean military strongman Augusto Pinochet. Their crime? They had committed no crime, unless you believe, as Pinochet and U.S. officials believed, that believing in socialism, communism, liberalism, or progressivism was a crime, one warranting the death penalty.

Actually though, Horman and Teruggi were “guilty” of more than just being leftists, at least in the eyes of U.S. national-security state officials. Teruggi had openly opposed the U.S. invasion of Vietnam and the ruthless war that U.S. officials were waging in that country. That’s why U.S. officials were maintaining a secret file on him. For opposing the U.S. government’s foreign intervention in Vietnam, Teruggi was considered a communist, communist sympathizer, or a traitor.

For his part, Horman had discovered U.S. complicity in the coup that ousted the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, from power and installed the brutal unelected military dictatorship of Pinochet. U.S. officials were determined to keep U.S. involvement in the coup secret, as reflected later by CIA Director Richard Helms’ perjurious testimony before Congress in which he falsely denied CIA complicity in the events leading up the coup. Since Horman was threatening to blow the cover on U.S. involvement in the coup, he had to be silenced.

Before anyone cries “Conspiracy theory!” which is the term the CIA invented as a way to distract attention away from the Kennedy assassination, ask yourself this question: What are the chances that the Pinochet regime would have murdered two American citizens on its own initiative? The answer is: None. The U.S. government was Pinochet’s partner, ally, and enabler. There is no way that Pinochet would have dared antagonize the U.S. government by unilaterally killing two American citizens and risk losing the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money that were flooding into the coffers of the regime.

There is something else to consider before one cries “Conspiracy theory!” — something that is quite important. The State Department conducted a top-secret investigation into the murder of Horman and Teruggi and reported, in a top-secret document, that U.S. intelligence officials had in fact played role in the murder of both men.

What was that role? That top-secret document didn’t state what the role was but there can be only one logical answer: U.S. intelligence officials asked their Chilean counterparts to kill Horman and Teruggi for them.

That top-secret State Department document recommended further investigation and action. That recommendation went nowhere, just like it would have gone nowhere in Russia, China, North Korea, Egypt, or some other national-security state.

That’s not the only murder U.S. intelligence officials engaged in as part of their regime-change operation in Chile. There was the murder of Gen. Rene Schneider, the commanding general of Chile’s armed forces. What did he do to warrant being killed? He refused the CIA’s request for a military coup in Chile. His position was that the Chilean constitution did not provide for a coup to oust a democratically elected president from office. The CIA’s position was that a nation’s national-security establishment has a solemn duty to remove a democratically elected president from office whose policies are threatening national security regardless of what a nation’s constitution says.

CIA officials and other U.S. officials conspired, both here in the United States and Chile, to have Schneider removed from office. Their position has always been that the conspiracy was limited to a kidnapping scheme. It is more likely that the conspiracy was actually to kill Schneider and that the kidnapping story was just a cover. After all, there is no way that they could have returned Schneider to society after the coup.

And that’s what happened. During the kidnapping, Schneider fought back with a pistol, and the murderers shot him dead.

Of course, it doesn’t really matter though whether the U.S. conspiracy consisted of kidnapping or murder. That’s because the law holds that when a murder is committed in the course of kidnapping, the conspirators are criminally liable for the murder.

Were CIA officials and other U.S. officials ever indicted by a federal grand jury for kidnapping, murder, and conspiracies to kidnap and murder? Are you kidding? This is the CIA we are talking about, a part of the federal government that wields the power to kidnap and murder anyone it wants with impunity, just like in many totalitarian or authoritarian regimes.

What about the U.S. federal courts? They are as scared as that Russian court in the Novgorod case is. When relatives of Horman and Schneider sued for wrongful death, the U.S. federal courts summarily dismissed their cases, citing sovereign immunity and such ridiculous made-up legal doctrines like “the political question doctrine” or “respect” for another branch of the federal government or the president’s prerogative of running “foreign policy” the way he wants. The federal courts have made it clear that the CIA and other U.S. officials wield the omnipotent, non-reviewable power to kidnap and murder anyone they want, just like the Post implies is the case in Russia.

I could go on. The CIA’s kidnapping of Abu Omar in Italy in 2003 and his forcible transfer to Egypt, another brutal military dictatorship like Pinochet’s, for the purpose of torture. The CIA’s kidnapping of Mahar Arar in 2002 and his forcible transfer to Syria for the purpose of torture. (Yes, that Assad, the one they are now trying to remove from power for being a tyrant.) The CIA’s assassinations of American citizens Anwar al-Awlaki in 2011 and, later, two of his children. The CIA’s ongoing assassination program in the Middle East today.

How does the Washington Post editorial board feel about “No Justice After These Coldblooded Murders” committed by U.S. officials? I don’t know. But I do find it fascinating that so much of the U.S. mainstream press is so easily able to recognize wrongdoing when it comes to Russia or other authoritarian or totalitarian regimes but has an impossible time recognizing wrongdoing committed by their own government.

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.