Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Not Like the Movies

The CIA’s secret program — well, not so secret any more — to kill Al-Qaeda leaders sounds fine on paper… if it’s a Hollywood blockbuster script. But there are several problems with it. Well, for one thing, it’s probably illegal; assassination has been ruled out as a technique since the Ford administration. Second, it’s not something that can be done as easily as it sounds.

“It sounds great in the movies, but when you try to do it, it’s not that easy,” a former intelligence official said. “Where do you base them? What do they look like? Are they going to be sitting around at headquarters on 24-hour alert waiting to be called?”

And finally, there’s the fact that there’s a difference between conducting a war with missiles, artillery and soldiers and sending in a team of hit men to go after a specific target.

Hina Shamsi, an adviser to the Project on Extrajudicial Executions at New York University, said that any calculation about inserting an assassination team would have to consider the following: the violation of the sovereignty of the country where the killing occurred; the different legal status of the C.I.A. compared with the uniformed military; and whether the killing would be covered by the law of war.

It also raises the not so small point that if we do it, doesn’t that give license to Al-Qaeda and other terrorists — and not just foreign ones, I might add — to come after our leaders? Terrorists usually don’t target individuals; their goal is social disruption, not a personal vendetta. But if we send in Chuck Norris and the Delta Force to take out Osama bin Laden and his minions, what’s to stop them from changing their plans?

The Secret Service has enough on their hands dealing with the home-grown wingnuts who are out to get President Obama; adding the element of making the War on Terror personal doesn’t make their job any easier.