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Storied journalist says Cheney oversaw "executive assassination ring"

Seymour Hersh (top) is one of our greatest living journalists -- the Pulitizer Prize-winner broke the story of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam a generation ago, and he never let up. More recently he helped to break the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Now it sounds like he's working on the story of a lifetime, although I'm a little surprised by how much he let dribble out in a talk at the University of Minnesota:

At a "Great Conversations" event at the University of Minnesota last night, legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh may have made a little more news than he intended by talking about new alleged instances of domestic spying by the CIA, and about an ongoing covert military operation that he called an "executive assassination ring."

The specifics:

"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.

We'll have to see how far Hersh gets with his reporting, but this is definitely something to keep an eye on in the months ahead. As the Bush administration was winding down, insiders like Hersh and others said that what we knew in 2008 about the horrors of the Bush administration was only the tip of the iceberg, that much more would come out after 1/20/09. This looks like the beginning. If nothing else, these revelations -- if backed up -- should give some muscle to the demands for a Truth Commission so that America, and the world, gets to the bottom of what really happened between 2001 and 2008.

By the way, in case there's any ambiguity on the subject, President Gerald Ford in 1975 signed an executive order that said this: : "No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination." It's been upheld by every subsequent president. Apparently vice presidents are another matter.