Sen. Rand Paul’s talking filibuster succeeded in calling attention to the issue of government-sanctioned assassinations. But this issue is far from new. The US has been using the threat of assassination for decades. The only thing that has changed is the means of killing.
Following World War II, our CIA and military planned assassination attempts of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, Cuban President Fidel Castro, Congo President Patrice Lumumba, Dominican President Rafael Trujillo and many more. We succeeded in having both Chilean President Salvador Allende and Chilean Armed Forces Chief Rene Schneider killed.
These plots ranged from poisons to snipers to small invasion forces.
When the CIA operations eventually came to light, President Ford issued an order banning the involvement of US government employees in such plots. The ban was renewed by President Carter and President Reagan.
Confronted with Islamic terrorism, President Clinton signed an order creating a list of specific terrorists targeted for capture or assassination. Then, in 2001, Congress gave President Bush the power to use all appropriate and necessary force against those involved with the terrorist attacks of 9/11. We’ve been carrying out assassinations of terrorist targets ever since.
One can make a strong case that the drone strikes are needed to eliminate terrorist leaders in nations that refuse to make arrests. Drone strikes are certainly better than invading those countries with troops! Nevertheless, the US needs to have a transparent policy with regard to drone strikes. We need to have oversight so that this means of assassination is not abused and so that the possibility of collateral damage is minimized.
Without such oversight, drones and other weapons intended for “surgical strikes” are bound to be misused. Imagine if Richard “The Dick” Cheney was able to control such power again. Imagine someone worse!