Former CIA director says axed assassination program ‘valuable’
Former Director of the CIA Michael Hayden told a Washington, D.C. radio station Tuesday morning that the CIA’s assassination program was “valuable,” but did not rise to a level of importance for him to even brief members of the Bush administration, let alone Congress.
“I was never directed by the vice president, as some have alleged about this program, not to brief this or frankly anything else to Congress,” he told WTOP 103.5 FM, during an interview. “If Congress feels that we should have told them more about this program, my only response would be that this program didn’t meet a threshold for me to even brief inside the Executive Branch.”
He added: “Without confirming or denying what the nature of the program is, the fact that three different directors over the course of seven years returned to the issue, I think you’d have to say, ‘Yes, it was valuable.’”
“The CIA [assassination] program had been shelved by Tenet, but it was revived under his successor, Porter Goss,” noted The Washington Post’s David Ignatius. “And it was renewed, once more, under the next CIA director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden. The aim during Hayden’s watch was to focus on the surveillance capability, with the understanding that it ‘could develop into something else’ if targets were identified, according to one former official. This official says Hayden had only two or three meetings about the program, the last in spring 2008.”
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the CIA’s failure to notify Congress of the program “a violation of law.”
The program’s reliance on the independent contracting group formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide “helped with planning, training and surveillance for the program,” noted the Associated Press. “It was begun shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but never became fully operational.”
Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, speaking to an audience at the University of Minnesota in March, claimed that a task force with the Joint Special Operations Command, which reported directly to Cheney, was essentially “an executive assassination ring” that’s “been going on and on and on” without oversight.
“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,” he said. “That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.”
Huffington Post’s Sam Stein speculated that the “executive assassination ring” may be what the CIA was hiding by not briefing Congress.
“Panetta said the existence of the program was kept secret from lawmakers at the instruction of then-Vice President Dick Cheney, according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein [...]” reported National Public Radio. “Although the program reportedly never got beyond the discussion stage, Democrats in Congress were outraged that oversight committees were never advised that such ideas were being considered.”