It was a very quiet bombshell last week: Seymour Hersh mentioned during a University of Minnesota panel Q & A last Tuesday that the CIA ran an "executive assassination ring" throughout the Bush years that reported directly to former Vice President Dick Cheney. To wit:
After 9/11, I haven’t written about this yet, but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven’t been called on it yet…
Hersh, who has been holding the U.S. government's feet to the fire since he exposed the My Lai Massacre and its cover-up in 1969, went on to describe a second area of extra-legal operations, which he called the Joint Special Operations Command:
It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. … Congress has no oversight of it… It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.
In response to these shocking allegations – which I can't help but believe, given the Bush administration's immoral record – today Rep. Dennis Kucinich called for a congressional inquiry. (Hersh said he may write a book on the topic when he has marshaled enough evidence to convince even the most hardened skeptics of its veracity.)
Here's the full text of Kucinich's letter, dated Friday, calling for the probe, which he sent to sent to House Oversight Chairman Edolphus Towns:
Dear Chairman Towns:
As you may already be aware, recent media reports indicate that investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh, while answering questions before a public audience at the University of Minnesota divulged information about what he calls an “executive assassination ring” operating under the George W. Bush Administration.
If substantiated, the allegation would have far reaching implications for the United States. Such an assertion from someone of Hersh’s credibility that has a long and proven track record of dependability on these issues merits attention. Mr. Hersh is within a year or more of releasing a book that is said to include evidence of this allegation. However, we cannot wait a year or more to establish the truth. As such, I request that the Full Committee immediately begin an investigation to determine the facts in this matter.
Mr. Hersh made the allegation before an audience at the University of Minnesota on Tuesday, March 10, 2009. He stated, “Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving.”
Mr. Hersh continued, “It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently," he explained. "They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office…Congress has no oversight of it.”
If true, these operations violate longstanding U.S. policy regarding covert actions and illegally bypass Congressional oversight. Current statute governing covert action (50 U.S.C. 413b) requires a presidential finding and notification to the appropriate congressional committees. Additionally, Executive Order 12333 clearly states that “[n]o person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in or conspire to engage in assassination.”
I urge the Committee to explore Mr. Hersh’s allegation. Please do not hesitate to call on me or my staff if we can be of assistance.
Dennis J. Kucinich
Member of Congress