The CIA: a continuing threat to U.S. persons or interests?

The Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair reassured the House Intelligence Committee yesterday that he understands that killing Americans is a “very sensitive issue” and that the agency must always “get specific permission” to do so.

I wonder how much comfort that provides to the family of Jim and Veronica “Roni” Bowers and their two children, six-year-old son Cory and infant daughter Charity, who under the CIA’s watch were shot down by the Peruvian Air Force while flying over Peru in 2001. Veronica Bowers and her daughter Charity were killed. The video below shows what happened:

ABC News reports:

…for almost nine years, the CIA misled Congress, the White House and the dead woman’s parents about how and why the agency defied the rules established to make sure innocent people were not killed.

“I want to know the truth,” Garnett Luttig, father of Roni Bowers, told ABC News. “I want to know why. I wonder why my baby’s gone. Don’t they understand that?”

Said Gloria Luttig, Roni’s mother, “I want somebody to have to stand up and say I was responsible. I want him to know what a mother’s heart is like.”

On Wednesday, the CIA said its nine-year long investigation had determined that 16 CIA employees should be disciplined, including the woman then in charge of counter-narcotics.

Many of them are no longer with the CIA, and one of those involved said his discipline was no more than a letter of reprimand placed in his file, which he was told would be removed in one year.

So what are we to understand from DNI Blair? That while the CIA engages in extrajudicial killings, it does so with great caution but if mistakes are made, those responsible certainly face the risk of receiving a letter of reprimand?

Either we live in a land governed by law or we don’t. A determination by an intelligence operative is by no stretch of the imagination a substitute for due process.

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