Dead Men Tell No Tales: The CIA and the Awlaki Assassination

by Tom Burghardt
Global Research
October 12, 2011

On September 30, the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) assets under the Agency’s control, assassinated the alleged “external operations” chief of the Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets, also known as Al-Qaeda, Anwar al-Awlaki, and a second American citizen, Samir Khan, the 25-year-old editor of Inspire magazine, in a drone strike in Yemen.

As The Washington Post reported last month, the “commingling” of CIA officers, JSOC paramilitary troops and contractors “occupy an expanding netherworld between intelligence and military operations” where “congressional intelligence and armed services committees rarely get a comprehensive view.”

Or any “view” at all, which is precisely what the CIA and Pentagon have long desired; an oversight-free zone where American policymakers operate, as Dick Cheney infamously put it, on the “dark side,” a position fully-embraced by the “hope and change” administration of Barack Obama.

Awlaki’s state-sponsored killing, like the May 2 murder of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, resurface many unanswered questions concerning the 9/11 attacks, the so-called trigger for America’s global “War on Terror.”

But before turning to those issues, it is necessary to take a detour and examine administration actions; specifically the deliberations undertaken by Obama’s national security team which culminated in Awlaki’s death.

White House “Death Panel”

Unlike the fantasies of the corporate-controlled Tea Party who charged during the run-up to the White House sell-out of health care reform that the administration would create “death panels” to deny care to the elderly, it has since emerged that Team Obama has stood-up the authentic article.

According to The Washington Post, President Obama’s Justice Department “wrote a secret memorandum authorizing the lethal targeting” of Awlaki. The Post reports that the memorandum “was produced following a review of the legal issues raised by striking a U.S. citizen and involved senior lawyers from across the administration. There was no dissent about the legality of killing Aulaqi.”

That memorandum, according to The New York Times, was drafted in June 2010, some six months after Awlaki had been placed on the White House hit list, by Office of Legal Counsel attorneys “David Barron and Martin Lederman.”

Both former OLC lawyers are prominent “liberals” from prestigious universities; Barron at Harvard and Lederman at Georgetown University.

Ironically enough, in several scholarly articles they had railed against the previous administration’s adaptation of the “Unitary Executive Theory” promulgated by “torture memo” authors Jay Bybee and John Yoo.

Under Bush, OLC opinions were used to justify everything from warrantless wiretapping, the domestic deployment of the military to arrest Americans, to the torture and indefinite detention of “terrorist” suspects at the Guantánamo Bay prison gulag and CIA “black sites.”

This of course begs the question: if Awlaki’s murder was “legal,” why then was the authorization to do so reached in camera by officials following a deliberative process which can’t be shared with the public because of “national security”?

The answer should be chilling and shocking to all Americans: because the nucleus of a death squad state recalling those stood-up in Chile and Argentina during the “dirty war” period of the 1970s may now exist.

Reuters disclosed that Americans “are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions, according to officials.”

“There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel,” reporter Mark Hosenball wrote, “which is a subset of the White House’s National Security Council. … Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.”

According to Reuters, “targeting recommendations are drawn up by a committee of mid-level National Security Council and agency officials. Their recommendations are then sent to the panel of NSC ‘principals,’ meaning Cabinet secretaries and intelligence unit chiefs, for approval.”

A “former official” told Hosenball that “one of the reasons for making senior officials principally responsible for nominating Americans for the target list was to ‘protect’ the president,” i.e., provide Obama legal cover under the thin veneer afforded by “plausible deniability.”

McClatchy News reported that “broadly speaking” White House orders to kill Awlaki were based on claims that “the nation’s inherent right of self-defense [is] recognized under international law.” However, “international law also imposes limits: Targeted killing is banned except to protect against ‘concrete, specific and imminent’ danger.”

And although the administration now claims that Awlaki was targeted for death because “his role in AQAP had gone ‘from inspirational to operational’,” Reuters disclosed that “officials acknowledge that some of the intelligence purporting to show Awlaki’s hands-on role in plotting attacks was patchy.”

In fact, the White House has failed to provide any proof whatsoever that Awlaki posed an “imminent danger” to the United States, although there is considerable evidence that he was on the radar of U.S. and allied secret state intelligence agencies for more than a decade, had close ties to several of the 9/11 hijackers and could have been picked up and indicted at any time.

Instead, federal law enforcement officials gave Awlaki a green light to leave the United States, unlike thousands of innocent Muslim-Americans swept-up and detained by the FBI in the post-9/11 hysteria that followed the attacks.

A “former military intelligence officer who worked with special operations troops to hunt down high-value terrorism targets,” told the right-wing Washington Times: “I think it’s pretty easy to understand why they didn’t take him alive. Would you want to deal with the hassle of trying to put him on trial, an American citizen that has gotten so much press for being the target of a CIA kill order? That would be a nightmare. The ACLU would be crawling all over the Justice Department for due process in an American court.”

That about sums up the dominant mindset of an Empire in sharp decline: the rule of law and due process for criminal suspects reduced to a “hassle.”

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U.S. Military Men members of Knights of Malta

By Stephen C. Webster
January 21st, 2011

Seymour Hersh

Veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh has broken some massive stories in his day, but uncovering secret societies within the highest echelons of America’s military would probably be the biggest of his career.

Well, get ready for the media storm, because that’s essentially what Hersh told an audience in Doha, Qatar recently, according to a report published earlier this week by Foreign Policy.

Speaking at a campus operated by Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, Hersh said he was working on a new book that details “how eight or nine neoconservative, radicals if you will, overthrew the American government.”

“It’s not only that the neocons took it over but how easily they did it — how Congress disappeared, how the press became part of it, how the public acquiesced,” he continued, according to the published quotes.

Hersh also lamented President Obama’s continuance of the Bush administration’s worst abuses.

“Just when we needed an angry black man, we didn’t get one,” he reportedly said.

The Foreign Policy report added that in 2003, those “in the Cheney shop” were not concerned about the havoc the invasion of Iraq was destined to cause.

“[The] attitude was, ‘What’s this? What are they all worried about, the politicians and the press, they’re all worried about some looting?” Hersh was quoted as saying. “Don’t they get it? We’re gonna change moseques into cathedrals. And when we get all the oil, nobody’s gonna give a damn.’ That’s the attitude. We’re gonna change mosques into cathedrals. That’s an attitude that pervades, I’m here to say, a large percentage of the Joint Special Operations Command [JSOC].”

He further claimed that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Vice Admiral William McRaven and others in the JSOC were members of the “Knights of Malta” and “Opus Dei,” two little known Catholic orders.

“They do see what they’re doing — and this is not an atypical attitude among some military — it’s a crusade, literally,” Hersh reportedly continued. “They see themselves as the protectors of the Christians. They’re protecting them from the Muslims [as in] the 13th century. And this is their function.”

He added that members of these societies have developed a secret set of insignias that represent “the whole notion that this is a culture war” between religions.

It was President George W. Bush who first invoked images of a holy war in the Middle East, when he suggested soon after Sept. 11, 2001 that the US was on a “crusade” in the region.

The “Knights of Malta” were a Catholic order founded in 1085 as a group of monks who cared for the wounded. It evolved into a military order that safeguarded Christian pilgrims from Muslims during the nine “Crusades,” where Europe’s Christian states laid siege to Muslims for control of Jerusalem.

“Opus Dei,” popularly depicted in the Hollywood film “The DaVinci Code,” was founded in 1928 and officially accepted as part of the Catholic church in 1947. The group’s website claimed their principle calling was to bring about a “Christian renewal” around the world.

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