January 24 2023 — On January 24 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed Executive Order 12036 that imposed restrictions on the U.S. Intelligence Community. Among other things, EO 12036 expanded the U.S. ban on assassination by closing loop-holes. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
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The Executive Order 12036 expanded the U.S. ban on assassination by closing loop-holes.
“No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.”
This ban on assassination would be restated in Executive Order 12333.
1976 — President Ford’s EO 11905 prohibits “any member of the U.S. government from engaging or conspiring to engage in any political assassination.”
1978 — President Carter’s EO 12036
1981 — President Reagan’s 1981 EO 12333: “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in or conspire to engage in assassination.” [paragraph 2.11]
Despite a number of subsequent amendments [Executive Orders 13284 (2003), 13355 (2004) and 13470 (2008)] to this executive order, the paragraph has remained unchanged through the various presidential administrations.
Was the Soleimani Killing an Assassination?
The term “assassination” is not defined in these orders.
The most helpful government document explaining how the U.S. approaches assassination in regard to a military operation is a 1989 memorandum coordinated with and concurred in by the Department of State’s legal adviser, the Central Intelligence Agency’s general counsel, the National Security Council’s legal adviser, the Department of Justice Office of Legal Policy, and the civilian and military legal advisers in the Department of Defense.
The Parks memorandum makes 3 important points:
— First, it defines an assassination as an act of murder for political purposes.
— Second, the memo (later confirmed by a CRS report) recognizes that the term “assassination” may have different connotations depending on whether the act takes place in wartime or peacetime. Political” murder is illegal in either situation. During armed conflict, there may be a greater allowance for violence.
— Third, an “overt use of military force against legitimate targets in time of war, or against similar targets in time of peace where such individuals or groups pose an immediate threat to the United States citizens or the national security of the United States, as determined by competent authority, does not constitute assassination” and therefore “would not be prohibited by the proscription in EO 12333 or by international law.”
Major General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, was intentionally killed by a US air strike on January 3 2020.
If General Soleimani was killed for political purposes, then his murder was a political assassination and therefore it is unlawful under both US and International Law.
As the air strike was done outside of an armed conflict, it can only be lawful if and only if the US acted in self-defence to prevent imminent attacks organized and/or controlled by General Soleimani.
So the question is: was there an imminent threat?
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been rather ambiguous in his explanations, arguing that the threat was imminent but he did not know when these alleged attacks would occur.
(10 Jan 2020) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo doubles down on the reliability and clarity of the intelligence the U.S. had on Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and imminent plans of an attack.
“We had specific…, information on an imminent threat and that was threat stream included attacks on U.S. embassies. Period, full stop,” said Pompeo.
“I don’t know exactly which minute. We don’t know exactly which day it would have been executed. But it was very clear, Qassem Soleimani himself was plotting a broad, large scale attack against American interests. And those attacks were imminent.”
Executive Order 12036 — Wikipedia
Executive Order 12333 — CIA Website
Was the Soleimani Killing an Assassination? — Lawfare Blog
On This Day — President Carter Signs Executive Order 12036 [Ban on Assassination] (January 24 1978)