It is commonly believed by many Americans that the CIA would never forcibly remove an American president from office even if he posed a grave threat to national security. But one thing is undeniable: the CIA would not hesitate to remove a foreign leader from office if he posed a threat to U.S. national security.
Just ask the family of Rene Schneider. He was the commanding general of Chile’s armed forces under Salvador Allende, the socialist who was democratically elected president of Chile 50 years ago. The CIA and President Richard Nixon concluded that Allende posed a grave threat to U.S. “national security” and decided to remove him from office.
One option that the CIA could have exercised against Allende was, of course, assassination. Ever since the CIA was established in 1947, it has wielded the ultimate power to kill people with impunity, making a mockery, of course, of the notion that the U.S. government is a “limited” government.
As far back as 1952, the CIA was developing an assassiation manual for its assassins. It not only detailed various methods of assassination but also ways to conceal that it was a state-sponsored assassination. For example, one method of assassination in the manual was to throw the victim out of a high story window and make it look like it was a suicide.
Instead of assassination, the CIA chose to iniitate a domestic military coup against Allende, one that would violently remove him from office and replace him with a conservative unelected military general.
There was one big problem, however, with the U.S. coup scheme. That was Rene Schneider. As overall commander of Chile’s armed forces, he stood firmly against the U.S. plans for a coup.
Schneider’s reasoning was quite simple. He said that the Chilean constitution did not call for a coup as a way for removing a democratically elected president of the country. The constitution only permitted impeachment or the next election to accomplish that. Thus, Schneider said no to the CIA’s plans for a coup to remove Allende from office.
Obviously, a coup without the support of the overall commander of the Chilean armed forces became a problem. There was only one thing to do to achieve the coup — remove Schneider from office in order to remove Allende from office.
The CIA conspired with Chilean agents to violently kidnap Schneider. Despite the CIA’s claim that its plan was limited to kidnapping, that has to be a lie. In actuality, the plan had to have always entailed killing Schneider.
After all, once Scheider was kidnapped, then what? The CIA kidnappers wouldn’t have been interested in a ransom demand. And they couldn’t have returned Schneider to his normal life because that would have meant returning him to his official position. Thus, the only way to remove Schneider from the scene would have been to kill him.
And that’s precisely what happened. When the kidnappers tried to kidnap Schneider on the streets of Santiago, he, not surprisingly, was armed. He fought back and was shot dead by the kidnappers.
In normal terms, Schneider was a totally innocent man, a man who did nothing more than stand in favor of his country’s constitution. In the eyes of the CIA, however, by standing in the way of the coup, he became a threat to U.S. “national security” and thus subject to removal from office.
When the CIA’s conspiracy to kidnap and murder Schneider came to light, there was never a U.S. criminal prosecution against the CIA or the actual CIA officials who were engaged in the kidnapping conspiracy. Even if the CIA claimed that its conspiracy was limited to kidnapping, under what is called the felony-murder rule, it would have been criminally liable for the murder that took place in the course of the kidnapping.
The indictment was never issued because once the federal government was converted into a national-security state in 1947, it became understood, especially after the Kennedy assassination, that the CIA wielded omnipotent power to assassinate anyone, including Americans, so long as it was done to protect “national security.”
That was certainly the position of the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary, a position that was solidified in the CIA’s assassination of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son. When it comes to protecting “national security,” neither the courts nor anyone else will interfere with any CIA assassination. Its power in this area is total and complete.
The family of Rene Schneider discovered that. They filed a lawsuit in federal district court seeking damages for the wrongful death of their husband and father. Their suit was dismissed. Nothing could be permitted to interfere with the CIA’s omnipotent power of assassination for purposes of protecting “national security.”
Today, fifty years after the Schneider assassination and some 55 years after the Kennedy assassination and other assassination plots on the part of the CIA (e.g., Fidel Castro, Patrice Lumumba, etc.), the CIA has become a permanent part of America’s governmental structure. Moreover, its power of assassination is no longer concealed. It’s out in the open, despite the fact that nothing in the Constitution authorizes the federal government to assassinate people.
It’s not surprising that conservatives and liberals have made peace with the CIA’s permanent existence. Unfortunately, that mindset has also pervaded the libertarian movement and contributed to the corruption of the libertarian brand.
The core principle of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle, which holds that libertarians oppose the initiation of force against others. But that is precisely what the CIA has done since its inception, especially with its kidnapping, assassinations, and coup plots, schemes, and conspiracies.
In the early days of the libertarian movement, libertarians were virtually unanimous in opposing the CIA and calling for the eradication of what has to be the most evil agency in U.S. history.
Not anymore. The conservative-leaning libertarians who now play a dominant role in the libertarian movement have induced a large segment of the libertarian movement to make peace with the permanent existence of the CIA. If you don’t believe me, just peruse all the articles and books that have been published in the libertarian movement in the last 5 years. You might find a few carping about this or that action by the CIA but you will have a difficult time finding articles and books calling for the dismantling of this evil agency.`
One big exception, of course, is The Future of Freedom Foundation, where we remain steadfastly in favor of restoring America’s founding governmental system of a limited-government republic, which necessarily requires the dismantling, not the reform, of the CIA.