Think Progress 
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Last month, The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh revealed in Minnesota that former vice president Cheney presided over an “executive assassination ring .” “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,” Hersh explained.
Today, CNN interviewed Hersh and former Cheney national security aide John Hannah. Although he expressed regret for revealing the story (calling it a “dumb-dumb”), Hersh stood by his initial statements. “I’m sorry, Wolf, I have a lot of problems with it,” he said about the assassination scheme:
HERSH: I know for sure…the idea that we have a unit that goes around, without reporting to Congress… and has authority from the President to go into the country without telling the CIA station chief or the ambassador and whack somebody. … You’ve delegated authority to troops in the field to hit people on the basis of whatever intelligence they think is good.
Hannah replied that Hersh’s account of the assassination scheme “is not true.” Yet in the same breath, when asked about a “list” of assassination targets, Hannah echoed Hersh’s statements. Hannah said that “troops in the field” are given “authority” to “capture or kill certain individuals” who are perceived as a threat. “That’s certainly true,” he said:
Q: Is there a list of suspected terrorists out there who can be assassinated?
HANNAH: There’s clearly a group of people that go through a very extremely well-vetted process, interagency process…that have committed acts of war against the United States, who are at war with the United States or are suspected of planning operations of war against the United States, who authority is given to our troops in the field in certain war theaters to capture or kill those individuals. That is certainly true.
Hannah didn’t directly dispute Hersh’s claim that Congress wasn’t informed about the assassinations. “It is extremely hard for me to believe,” he said. Watch it:
Speaking about the program to MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean said, “It’s potentially a war crime , it‘s potentially just outright murder, and it could clearly be in violation of the Ford executive order” — referring to a 1976 Executive Order that said, “No employee of the United States government shall engage in or conspire to engage in political assassination .”