Some time in early or mid-1949 a CIA officer named Bill (his surname is blacked out in the file, which was surfaced by John Kelly in the early 1990s) asked an outside contractor for input on how to kill people. Requirements included the appearance of an accidental or purely fortuitous terminal experience suffered by the Agency’s victim.
Bill’s friend – internal evidence suggests he was a doctor – offered practical advice: “Tetraethyl lead, as you know, could be dropped on the skin in very small quantities, producing no local lesion, and after a quick death, no specific evidence would be present.” Another possibility was “the exposure of the entire individual to X-ray.” (In fact these two methods were already being inflicted on a very large number of Americans in lethal doses, in the form of leaded gasoline and radioactive fallout from the atmospheric nuclear test program in Nevada.) “There are two other techniques,” Bill’s friend concluded bluffly, which “require no special equipment beside a strong arm and the will to do such a job. These would be either to smother the victim with a pillow or to strangle him with a wide piece of cloth, such as a bath towel.”
As regular as congressmen being taken in adultery or receiving cash bribes, every year or two the Central Intelligence Agency has go into damage-control mode to deal with embarrassing documents like the memo to Bill, and has to square up to the question – does it, did it ever, have its in-house assassins, a Double O team.
It just happened. In mid-July the news headlines were suddenly full of allegations that in the wake of the 9/11/2001 attacks, vice president Dick Cheney had ordered the formation of a CIA kill squad and expressly ordered the Agency not to disclose the program even to congressional overseers with top security clearances, as required by law. As soon as CIA offials disclosed the program to CIA director Leon Panetta, he ordered it to be halted.
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