In a panel discussion this past Monday evening at the University of Minnesota, Seymour Hersh, the dean of all living investigative journalists, indicated that he will reveal in an upcoming book the story of a political assassination ring, staffed by military operatives, but ultimately controlled by Dick Cheney while he presided in the office of the vice president of the United States.
Hersh is apparently still gathering the facts, and the book may not appear for quite some time, but anyone not familiar with Mr. Hersh’s work should note that he has been doing this type of work for a very long time, and has been very effective, primarily because he gets the facts straight and gets the facts to the public. For those readers too young to remember, in 1969 Hersh first made his name as an investigative journalist (and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize) by investigating and revealing to the American public the details of the My Lai Massacre, which occurred in 1968 when a rogue unit of the United States Army maimed and killed hundreds of innocent civilians in two small hamlets in Viet Nam. Contemporary readers will be familiar with Hersh’s reporting on the Iraq war and the Iran security situation in the New Yorker during the past few years.
As reported by Eric Black writing for the Minnesota Post, Hersh stated:
After 9/11, I haven’t written about this yet, but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven’t been called on it yet. That does happen.
Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command — JSOC it’s called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him…
Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths.
“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. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.
Under the Bush Administration’s interpretation of the law, clandestine military activities, unlike covert C.I.A. operations, do not need to be depicted in a Finding, because the President has a constitutional right to command combat forces in the field without congressional interference.
The implication from Hersh’s comments (above, and others) is that during the reign of the George W. Bush administration there was a cadre of neocons, lead by Vice President Cheney, that operated above the law and in the shadows, outside of the visibility and without the oversight of the legally constituted entities that are a part of the American democracy’s system of checks and balances. The Executive branch of the United States government operated in an irresponsible and unlawful manner, and it was not audited, checked or challenged in any responsible, persistent manner by the Congress.
The lack of oversight and lack of integrity, and lack of backbone to challenge the administration of George W. Bush to conduct the business of government in an honest, open, fair and forthright manner, did result in the loss of various Congressional seats and ultimately lost a presidential election for the Republican party. Is this a lesson that will be retained, though? It remains to be seen.
Another lesson that should have been learned from the events of the past eight years should resonate with those who claim to be journalists or those who manage the gathering and dissemination of news: Don’t confuse your own intimidation by government authorities, your own lack of healthy skepticism, your own lack of perseverance when stonewalled in time of war, disaster or civil strife with patriotism, see it for what it is, moral and journalistic cowardice and a dereliction of duty.
The only way we are going to keep the Dick Cheney’s of the world out of the chief asssassin business is by being deligent about protecting our rights and demanding transparency and truthfulness from those who we send to govern us.