Cheney accused of setting up CIA assassination squad in wake of 9/11
FORMER vice-president Dick Cheney set up a secret CIA assassination unit with orders to "do a Munich" following the 9/11 World Trade Centre attack on the United States in 2001, sources claimed yesterday.
It was reported that the unit, composed of special forces soldiers and CIA agents, was issued a simple task – hunt down and kill those who masterminded 9/11.
The template behind the operation was Israel's rumoured use of a hit squad to kill Palestinian terrorists who planned the killing of athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic games.
"It was straight out of the movies," one source was quoted as saying. "It was 'kill them all'."
The news is the culmination of several days of leaks about a secret CIA unit operated under the personal control of Mr Cheney for eight years behind the backs of Congress, defence chiefs and even CIA senior staff.
And it has led to demands by Democrats for a full inquiry into alleged abuses of power in the Bush administration's self-declared "war on terror".
Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein called for legal proceedings to be considered against Bush administration officials.
"The law is very clear," she said. "We were kept in the dark."
News of the existence of the squad was given to selected congressional leaders late last month by Leon Panetta, President Barack Obama's new CIA chief – along with the admission that he himself took months to find out about the unit.
Weekend revelations that the unit was set up and run by Mr Cheney led to the disclosure that its task was assassination – a policy illegal under US law.
But the sources insist that the unit was never operational and, instead, the US found success in using air strikes and unmanned drones to kill al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Africa.
The news that the unit had a potentially illegal mission, and that it was kept from Congress for eight years, has set alarm bells ringing on Capitol Hill.
"To have a massive programme that is concealed from members of congress is not only inappropriate, it is potentially illegal," said Democratic senator Dick Durbin.
Mr Cheney has made no comment since news of the squad emerged, but his former adviser, Mary Matalin, accused Democrats of demonising him to distract voters from an ailing economy, as "every time they get into trouble they dredge up the Darth Vader stories".
Meanwhile, Republicans urged the Obama administration to resist calls for an inquiry. "I hope the Attorney General doesn't feel the need to go back into it," said Republican Senator Jeff Sessions.
This looks increasingly unlikely. House speaker Nancy Pelosi has already accused the CIA of lying to oversight committees over the use of waterboarding torture techniques, and called for a "truth commission" to make a full investigation of the war on terror.
For many Americans, the news of the assassination squad hits a raw nerve.
In the 1960s and early Seventies, President Richard Nixon orchestrated a CIA "dirty tricks" programme aimed at the Democratic Party and oversaw the secret carpet bombing of Cambodia.
One result of this was the setting up of Congressional oversight committees to keep a close watch on the CIA, and the passing of a law making assassination illegal.
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