Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


Seymour Hersh: Cheney left allies behind in national security posts and may still influence events

Seymour Hersh: Cheney left allies behind in national security posts and may still influence events
By Eric Black

Expanding again on remarks he first made at the University of Minnesota, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh says that former Vice Pres. Dick Cheney left friends and allies embedded in military and national security agencies who keep him apprised of developments and may enable him to still influence policy.

After yesterday’s post about Hersh’s appearance on CNN, in which he explained further what he meant three weeks ago in Minnesota, several MinnPost readers and commenters suggested that I also listen to what Hersh said Monday on the NPR program “Fresh Air.” Thanks for the suggestion. Here’s the full audio of that interview. The Cheney stuff is in the second half.

Hersh continues to clarify and explain what he meant about an “executive assassination wing” (he expresses regret over using that term, although he doesn’t retract anything he said) that reported to the office of Veep Cheney. The trained killers of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has been killing specific people (Hersh is now shying away a bit from the term “assassination”) for years. JSOC members are promoted or denied promotion based in part on how many kills they accomplish, Hersh said.

Two things that were different during the Bush-Cheney era, says Hersh, were that 1) the list of those to be killed was submitted for “final clearance” to Cheney’s office (no other vice president has ever had such a role), and 2) in the days after 9/11, these operations were “funded off the books” so that even the highest-clearance most secret congressional bodies didn’t have any opportunity for oversight through the appropriations process. When some of these members of Congress complained to Cheney that things were being done behind their backs, he replied, according to Hersh: “I’m not going to give you clearance. If you don’t like it, sue me.”

Article continues after advertisement

Terry Gross, the outstanding interviewer of the Fresh Air program, did obtain a statement from an unnamed JSOC spokester who said that Hersh was wrong. The carefully worded statement said that all U.S. military programs go up the chain of command, through the secretary of defense to the president and that the vice president is not part of the military chain of command. JSOC also said that “Congress  has oversight over all U.S. military operations, including special operations.”

But towards the end of the interview, Hersh revealed something additional. Gross asked him if people with knowledge of events during Bush-Cheney days are still reluctant to talk about them, for fear of retaliation by Cheney. Hersh replied:

“I’ll make it worse. I think he’s put people left. He’s put people back. They call it a stay-behind. It’s sort of an intelligence term of art. When you leave a country and, you know, you’ve been driven out the, you know, you’ve lost the war. You leave people behind. It’s a stay-behind that you can continue to have contacts with, to do sabotage, whatever you want to do. Cheney’s left a stay-behind. He’s got people in a lot of agencies that still tell him what’s going on. Particularly in defense, obviously. Also in the NSA, there’s still people that talk to him. He still knows what’s going on. Can he still control policy up to a point? Probably up to a point, a minor point. But he’s still there. He’s still a presence.”