This article originally appeared on TomDispatch.
We’ve just passed through the CIA assassination flap, already fading from the news after less than two weeks of media attention. Broken in several major newspapers, here’s how the story goes: the Agency, evidently under Vice President Dick Cheney’s orders, didn’t inform Congress that, to assassinate al-Qaeda leaders, it was trying to develop and deploy global death squads. (Of course, just about no one is going to call them that, but the description fits.) Congress is now in high dudgeon. The CIA didn’t keep that body’s “Gang of Eight” informed. A House investigation is now underway.
We’re told that the CIA–being the president’s private army and part of the executive branch of our government–has committed a heinous dereliction of duty. In fact, not keeping key congressional figures up to date on the developing program could even “be illegal,” according to Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin. (Not that Congress, when informed of Bush administration extreme acts, ever did much of anything anyway.)
This story, however, has a largely unexplored strangeness to it that has only been discussed on the fringes of the mainstream media (or in the press of other countries). After all, during the eight years this CIA assassination program was supposedly in formation, US military special ops death squads were, as far as we can tell, freely roaming the planet conducting (or botching) assassination missions, and the CIA’s own robot assassins, airborne death squads, were also launching operations— sometimes wiping out innocent civilians–from Yemen and Somalia to Pakistan. They continue to run such operations in the skies over the Pakistani tribal borderlands near Afghanistan. So we still await an explanation of just why the CIA spent close to eight years, under vice presidential oversight, getting its death squads almost operational, but never — we’re told–off the ground.