Why would any country (but especially the USA) officially sanction assasinations?

I was taken aback by this article in today’s Washington Post
(hope this link works) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A41055-2001Sep16.html
which talks about lifting the 1976 ban on CIA assasinations. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention in 1976, but for ages I’ve thought that most high officials knew (and ordinary folk like me suspected) that CIA assasinations went on, but were NEVER officially sanctioned, and never discussed openly and never admitted! Why would we admit that we used to do this and now are contemplating official sanctioning? I mean,hey, “assasination” is another word for “murder” – how can anyone “sanction” it? And, aren’t our various options being too openly discussed in the media? Frankly, I wouldn’t care of a CIA hit man takes bin Laden, but wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t advertise that we’re thinking about it?

Let me put it to you this way-- war kills millions, assasination only one.

In this perspective, how bad does it seem now, in a conflict in which nobody is expendable?

Israeli assassination policies
Although this thread is specifically about Israeli polices re assassinations the respondents give some good historical backgound re US policy that may pertain to your question.

Remember a lot of these laws were passed under the shadow of Vietnam and Watergate. Carter won a lot of votes with the promise “I will never lie to you.”

I saw a program and it showed one of the gents in the Enola Gay (the one that dropped the A Bomb). He basically said don’t give me crap about morals that all war is immoral.

Is it any more moral to fireball Dresden where most people died from lack of oxygen than to nuke Hiroshima?

To some there is. To most people there is a sense of proportionalism. In other words it’s one thing to critisize the airlines or airline for its response (many might) but who would attack an individual worker just doing his job. For instance it is one thing to say United was at fault for letting the hijacker on its plane and it’s another to say Joe Schmoe let tha guy get by him so HE is responsible for all the deaths.

You see the difference? It is more bloodthirsty to go after one person than a group. Even though in reality there is not much if any difference

I’m not questioning the morality of assasinations – I don’t think there’s any other way to get these guys and that’s what I hope happens – CIA, Mossad, or get one of his own to turn on him. If we capture him alive and put him on trial, what a 3-ring circus that will be…not to mention more terrorist activity as a result. I’m questioning why the US or any country would admit that it goes on, officially sanction it, AND tell the media.

The American people will require justice for the recent terrorist attacks. It would be political suicide for the current administration to waffle on this.

Assume for a moment that Osama bin Laden is demonstrated to be the mastermind. If the government could put his head on a platter and say “we sent in special forces and they took him out”, that would be much more humane than carpet bombing large portions of Afganistan. Even the doves would have to be happy about that outcome. That provides a real incentive for the government to sanction assassination.

To keep this in GQ we have to limit ourselves to discussing facts (or at least likelihoods), not morality and ethics, which is a topic for GD. GD already has at least one thread on this general topic, Government sponsored assassinations: will they stop terrorism or fan the flames?

I see the general questions as being

  1. Did the U.S. government own up to assassinations before the Executive Order?
  2. Does the government now admit to assassinations it ordered in the past?
  3. If the E.O. is rescinded, is the government likely to own up to assassinations in the future? If so, why?

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