By Carol Gee
Seymour Hersh, perhaps one of the best investigative journalists in the news business, writes for The New Yorker magazine. His revelations about former Vice President Richard Cheney's activities over the years curl the hair of many readers. Hersh has been out and about for the past three weeks, and he is making news as he goes.
Hersh appeared Monday on Andrea Mitchell's news show on MSNBC, discussing his most recent article regarding recent happenings in the Middle East. The main point of his piece is that President Obama will likely be able to change the dynamics there. The headline was revealing "Seymour Hersh: Obama helped end Israel's Gaza offensive," from The Raw Story (3/29/09). Hersh also discussed the very real possibility for an agreement between Syria and Israel over the Golan Heights. And Syria's President Assad might want President to broker the deal. But Cheney could not stand the thought that Obama might have success as a peacemaker. So he tried to poison the new President's chances for deal effectively with Israel. To quote:
When former Vice President Dick Cheney learned that Obama had been putting pressure on the Israelis, he angrily disparaged him as "pro-Palestinian" and described him as someone who would "never make it in the major leagues."
Not content to write a book, join a think tank, or hold forth from his home in Virginia, Cheney has been making the rounds of the cable news shows trying to sabotage President Obama's success as President. And some have suggested that the public activity could be due to his increased concern about recent revelations of what he did as Vice President, i.e., "the best defense is a good offense."
Cheney suggested in recent weeks to CNN's John King that the country is now less safe with Obama as President. According to Glenn Greenwald in, "The outrageous offenses against Richard Cheney" (3/17/09), to quote, "Dick Cheney . . . accused Barack Obama . . . of lying to the public about his domestic politicies, taking advantage of the financial crisis to foist enlarged government on unsuspecting citizens, and leaving us all more vulnerable to slaughter by the Terrorists."
Greenwald's post was mostly about the subsequent media flap about Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' dismissive comments about Cheney's appearance on CNN. Greenwald rightly takes the reporters to task who were offended by Gibbs' Cheney characterization, saying "Of all people, journalists ought to be embarrassed to publicly play the role of decorum enforcers when it comes to how the politically powerful are treated."
Notably King did not ask Cheney anything about Seymour Hersh's most astonishing revelation, made at the University of Minnesota around the middle of the month. AlterNet, ran that story March 11, 2009: "Seymour Hersh: " 'Executive Assassination Ring' Reported Directly to Cheney Office#," To quote: "Under President Bush's authority, they've been going into countries ... finding people on a list and executing them and leaving." Blogger, emptywheel, that same day brought a great deal of clarity to the story with an explanation of how it worked, who in the government participated and where the operations took place. The title is as simple as it is shocking: "Cheney's Assassination Squads."
On the question of whether assassination squads are legal, the pertinent document is perhaps Executive Order 12333 signed by President Ford in 1975 and upheld by President Reagan in 1981 and others since then. It says, “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” There are a couple of exceptions that have to do with armed combat situations, or if specifically authorized by the President. Credit emptywheel for, "Pixie Dust and Cheney's Assassination Squads," (3/13/09). This story explores "pixie dust" as revealed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in 2006. "Pixie dust" is the practice of changing EOs without making any public record of the change. The post concluded,
It's all very nice that every President since Ford has upheld the prohibition on assassination in EO 12333. But in the era of pixie dust, that doesn't mean Bush also upheld it, even if it looks like he did.After the Iran-Contra scandal, legislation was enacted to require that CIA covert operations be authorized via a "Presidential Finding," and that the Gang of Eight in Congress be briefed about the operations and authorize special funding. But similar military operations, according to OLC memos, gave President Bush and the military authority to order such activities under the Authorization to Use Military Force, AUMF. Congress was, thus not told about the actions of the military's Joint Special Operations Command , JSOC. Important details of the history of covert operations since the Reagan administration are in another in the very useful series by emptywheel (3/23/09), "Cheney's Assassination Squads and Iran-Contra Findings." To quote:
I've been talking about how Cheney had clearly integrated lessons learned from all his previous [Iran-Contra] scandals and I'm glad that Hersh has now confirmed that.
But consider what this means in regards to the disclosure that the covert ops going on in Iran and the rest of the Middle East. The "lessons learned" meeting concluded that:
- It is desirable to run covert ops off the books by finding funding from non-congressional sources
- To succeed such ops must avoid any revelations to Congress and most revelations to the CIA and Defense
- Such ops should be run out of the VP's office directly
Richard Cheney, native to my home state of Wyoming, needs to go back to his own home now. His time in the public eye should be over, unless we can observe him getting the justice he is due. Otherwise, he needs to just move on.
(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)