Some deny that past American government leaders considered assassination to complete foreign policy goals. However, certain files offer that assassination is part of the business and has been throughout modern American history. Even as we ponder questions about the possible unconstitutional use of drone strikes, some believe the assassination of leaders and citizens is a recent development. Yet these specific plots were born during in the Eisenhower administration.
We cannot judge the entire Central Intelligence Agency itself was involved in every subsequent assassination plot or even a majority of them. Yet some key leaders and officers subsequently recommended and possibly utilized these methods repeatedly. "Even months before the official approval of PBFORTUNE, Directorate of Plans (DP) officers compiled a "hit list". The list was created for "...top flight Communists whom the new government would desire to eliminate immediately in the event of successful anti-Communist coup."ii
This makes clear assassination conspiracy and the staging of national coups was a proposed tactic of the CIA. The Agency planned to assassinate prominent foreign leaders, intimidated dissenting officials, and sought to topple national governments, yet Operation PBFORTUNE concluded in failure. Thus, the Agency tried again with Operation PBSUCCESS "The CIA plan, as drawn up by (official edit) Western Hemisphere Division, combined with psychological warfare, economic, diplomatic, and paramilitary actions against Guatemala...the plan's stated objective was to remove covertly and without bloodshed if possible, the menace of the present Communist controlled government of Guatemala.
Dulles placed (official edit) in charge of PBSUCCESS and sent a senior DDP officer to establish a temporary station (LINCOLN) [CIA base of operations], to coordinate the planning and execution of PBSUCCESS. Other key Agency figures involved were (official edit) and (official edit) Chief of the (official edit) Staff. Department of State (official edit), Assistant Secretary of State for (official edit)..."iii Other United States government agencies collaborated to develop these covert plans. These actions were the later successes claimed by the Agency. Planning to cripple a rival nation's economy and murder its leaders during peacetime is not an American tactic. This tactic ignores the law, decency, and the Constitution of the United States.
"CIA planning for sabotage teams in early 1954 also included creating a "K" group trained to perform assassinations". They "...also mentioned sabotage teams would assassinate known Communists in their areas once the invasion operations began".iv Operational goals included"...the elimination of those in high positions of the government (Guatemalan)would bring about its collapse...out and out and out proven Communist leaders" or those few in key government and military positions of tactical importance "whose removal for psychological, organization or other reasons mandatory for the success of military action."v
The Agency's former plans subsequently transform into clear and deadly intent by utilizing the Guatemalan rebels and their own agents, the Agency received further support from members of the American Department of State. Similar clandestine paramilitary operations are utilized when the Agency funded Cuban rebels in the Bay of Pigs disaster. "CIA received further Department of State encouragement for assassination plotting in April 1954. Fueling the fire for action (official edit) in a meeting with (official edit) and another CIA officer, concluded that 'more drastic and definitive steps to overthrow the government (in Guatemala) must be taken.' In response to a question of whether Guatemalan (official edit) was 'salvageable' (official edit) replied in the negative and suggested 'he be eliminated' ".vi
The official edits conceal those responsible for these plans; however, we already know Allen Dulles was involved, assassination was not just for reserved for military targets but related civilian targets as well. All evidence and review by Agency scholars' has reported no Guatemalan official died directly from the Agency's plots. However, The CIA partially funded, influenced, and its agents supported the overthrow of the elected Guatemalan government that subsequently occurred. History asserts its use abroad and some would subsequently assert its use domestically.
High-ranking leaders of the Central Intelligence Agency long considered the use of assassination and related documents contains a once classified official study of the tactic. "No assassination instructions should ever be written or recorded...Decision and instructions should be confined to an absolute minimum of persons. Ideally, only one person will be involved. No report may be made, but usually the act will be properly covered by normal news services, whose output is available to all concerned."vii "The techniques employed will vary according to whether the subject is unaware of his danger, aware but unguarded, or guarded...If the assassin is to die with the subject, the act will be called 'lost'. If the assassin is to escape, the adjective will be 'safe'. It should be noted that no compromises should exist here. The assassin must not fall alive into enemy hands.
A further type division is caused by the need to conceal the fact that the subject was actually the victim of assassination, rather than an accident or natural causes. If such concealment is desirable the operation will be called 'secret'...while if the assassination requires publicity to be effective it will be termed 'terroristic'. ..assassinations usually involve clandestine agents or members of criminal organizations."viii The past discussions of assassination now develop into structured plans to include multiple assassins, expendable dupes, and terroristic assassination. Acts we deem terrorism were in the past undertaken by a few Agency leaders in their quixotic plots to defeat Communism. These plans recommended the use of criminals and support later Congressional determinations of Agency illegality.
The guide advises that "He (the Assassin) should have an absolute minimum of contact with the rest of the organization and is instructions should be given orally by one person only...It is preferable that the person issuing instructions also conduct any withdrawal or covering actions which may be necessary... In lost assassination, the assassin must be a fanatic of some sort. Politics, religion, and revenge are about the only feasible motives. Since a fanatic is unstable psychologically, he must be handled with extreme care. He must not know the identities of the other members of the organization, for although it is intended that he die in the act, something may go wrong."ix
Some critics deny that any assassin in modern history could have been the dupe of a small "organization" of intelligence officials and criminals. They cannot fathom that men with official power could train and manipulate assassins for their own purposes. Nor can they believe that these men and their handful of committed minions would "conduct any withdrawal or covering actions which may be necessary." Some will perpetually doubt any covert assassination conspiracy despite the Agency documents revealing that is exactly what could happen, and the potential for abuse is disturbing.
"When the decision to assassinate has been reached, the tactics of the operation must be planned, based upon an estimate of the situation similar to that used in military operations...When all necessary data has been collected, and effective tactical plan can be prepared. All planning must be mental, no papers should ever contain evidence of the operation." "The essential point of the assassination is the death of the subject...The specific technique employed will depend upon a large number of variables, but should be constant in one point: Death must be absolutely certain. The attempt on Hitler's life failed because the conspiracy did not give this matter proper attention."x
Rarely do officials so bluntly state these intentions and obviously conspiratorial plans; this likely necessitated the list being unsigned because it reveals official planning of possible assassination conspiracies. Some in the American government viewed assassination conspiracy as a viable tactic and some do even still today. "For secret assassination, either simple or chase, the contrived accident is the most effective technique. When successful executed, it causes little excitement and is only casually investigated...Elevator shafts, stair wells, unscreened windows and bridges will serve...if the assassin immediately sets up an outcry, playing the 'horrified witness', no alibi or surreptitious withdrawal is necessary. Care is required to insure that no wound or condition not attributable to the fall is discernible after death...." Concealing the means of how a target was dispatched is paramount.
"Falls into the sea or swiftly flowing rivers may suffice if the subject cannot swim. It will be more reliable if the assassin can arrange to attempt rescue, as he can thus be sure of the subject's death and at the same time establish a workable alibi. If the subject's personal habits make it feasible, alcohol may be (official edit) to prepare him for a contrived accident of any kind...If the subject drinks heavily, morphine or a similar narcotic can be injected at the passing out stage, and the cause of death will often be held to be acute alcoholism."xi
One section's advice has eerie similarities to later political assassinations "The precision rifle. In guarded assassination, a good hunting or target rifle...Absolute reliability can nearly always be achieved at a distance of one hundred yards...The rifle should be a well made bolt or falling block action type...the sight should be telescopic...Public figures or guarded officials may be killed with great reliability and some safety if a firing point can be established prior to an official occasion."xii All points of fire noted by witnesses during the assassination of President John F. Kennedy fall into these general parameters.
Some in the Agency's ranks believed in assassination conspiracies and their use in a vast array of circumstances. Agency members expressly devised this manual to study assassination and its viability for use in deadly conspiracies. False alibi's and even pretending to help the victim to ensure death are suggested policies. The latter document is reminiscent of subsequent circumstances in possible future conspiracies.
i. The National Security Archive, Electronic Briefing Book No. 4, "CIA and Assassination Proposals, 1952-1954, Document and transcript", George Washington University, georgewashington.edu, Document 1, p. 1
ii. Document 3, Selection of Individuals for disposal by Junta Group, GWU, March 31, 1954
iii. Document 1, p. 2
iv. Document 1, p. 4
vi. Document 1, p. 6
vii. Document 1, p. 7
viii. The National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 4, Document 2, "A Study of Assassination" unsigned, no date, George Washington University, Document 2
A Brief History of Executive Action
Edited: March 2018