A few weeks back, CIA Director Leon Panetta admitted to Congress that there was an ultra-hush-hush double-secret-probation classified CIA program that he had shut down. Furthermore, Congress had never been told about it -- supposedly at the behest of Dick Cheney.
On Thursday, it came to light that the program evidently involved the Central Intelligence Agency contracting out the assassinations of al Qaeda leaders to the notorious private firm, Blackwater. (The firm has become so controversial that it has since changed its name to the rather new-agey and almost unpronounceable Xe).
These latest developments provoke three questions:
1) Isn't it the CIA's job to take out terrorist thugs like al Qaeda operatives? The long-time American prohibition against foreign assassinations was, ahem, aimed at foreign heads of state and key personnel (following such CIA-backed misadventures such as the 1963 coup in South Vietnam). Al Qaeda leaders don't count; they aren't leaders of sovereign nations. So the CIA should be able to go ahead and do this.
2) Has the CIA fallen on such hard times that even assassinations have to be outsourced now? Really? That whole spy business doesn't seem as cool as it used to be -- or even purportedly still is, as fans of Burn Notice might attest. If you can't trust the CIA to take out your enemies -- by any means necessary -- who can you trust?
3) Finally, WHY DIDN'T ANYTHING HAPPEN!?!? You've got the Central Intelligence Agency. You've got a bad-ass contractor firm (so bad-ass, they were even mock-portrayed on one episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit). Each supposedly has experience on getting done the not-so-nice things that have to be done, but no one wants to really admit that this country has to do them. Yet, based on the New York Times report, the agency and the firm never managed to capture or kill any of the targets on the predetermined list! And that was when the program wasn't being called off and on over three different CIA directors.
So, there's a war on terror going on -- or at least there was at the time (it's called something else now). But the agency whose mission it is to take out the worst of the worst couldn't do it -- even when working with the most bad-assed contracting crew around!
Sad doesn't even begin to describe this sorry state of affairs.