Surprisingly little interest has been shown in the apparently authoritative report in The New York Times that President Bush has given a licence to kill to the Central Intelligence Agency in respect of some twelve AlQueda terrorists described as the worst of the worst, and that these men can be takenout without any further reference to him. That news is disturbing enough but what is even worse is that apparently the CIA can add further names to the list without consulting the President. The reports have not been denied by the White House or the CIA, simply greeted with No comment. Killings of this kind are tantamount to state assassination, banned in 1976 by President Ford in response to public concern about covert action by the CIA against foreign nationals. They represent an implementation of the principle of preemptive action against terrorists which has been adopted by the United States even though there is no provision for it in international law. The twelve terrorists on the list approved by Mr Bush are designated as enemy combatants, though the United States is not legally at war.
Licence to kill
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