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[casi] assasinations

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I wonder what the rationale is behind this sort of activity.  Obviously in
Iraq where we have large numbers of troops, copters, jets etc., we could simply
drop in on these folks and capture, question, etc.  Why then do we use drones
and hellfire missiles and simply kill people?  What about due process?  Does
anyone know how this sort of activity is justified?  Would this not be illegal
under international law?  George the Lesser declared the "war" to be over or
some such, this seems odd to me.  Perhaps there is more to this story?  Anyone?
 Anyone?  Bueller?
After Missile Raid on Convoy, U.S. Hunts for Hussein's DNA


>ASHINGTON, June 22 — An American Predator drone aircraft firing Hellfire
missiles destroyed a convoy last week that was believed to be carrying fugitive
Iraqi leaders, and experts are trying to determine whether those killed might
have included Saddam Hussein or his sons, United States government officials
said today.The officials said they had obtained intelligence indicating that
senior Iraqi leaders were traveling in the convoy. They suggested that the
intelligence might have come from an intercepted telephone conversation or an
informant. The attack took place Wednesday near the Syrian border in western
Iraq.There was no evidence so far, the officials said, to support the idea that Mr.
Hussein or his sons might have been killed in the raid, and some officials were
doubtful that they were. But they said intelligence teams, including DNA
experts, were at the site to review the wreckage and assess the evidence.Officials
declined to say how many people, or vehicles, were in the convoy, but they
said it had been completely destroyed. If DNA evidence was the only method of
determining who had been killed, it could take days to get the results.A British
newspaper, The Observer, disclosed the attack in today's issue and said it had
been an attempt to kill Mr. Hussein. The Pentagon and the United States
Central Command declined today to discuss that report, and American officials who
agreed to discuss it on the condition of anonymity said the United States had
never been certain that Mr. Hussein or his sons were in the convoy.Still,
administration officials said the strike underscored a growing belief among
American intelligence officials that Mr. Hussein and his sons were not killed during
the war and have remained in Iraq. The attack on the convoy showed the
pressure of a stepped-up manhunt after information provided by a Hussein confidant
who was detained last week.The aide, Abid Hamid Mahmoud al-Tikriti, 46, who had
served as the Iraqi leader's secretary and bodyguard, told his American
interrogators that Mr. Hussein and his sons, Uday and Qusay, survived the war, and
that he himself traveled to Syria after the conflict with Mr. Hussein's sons
before being expelled, according to Defense Department officials who have said
they have not been able to corroborate those claims.A senior administration
official said tonight that President Bush had been aware of the strike before it
occurred but did not have to approve it. The official said a team was moving
in to try to recover the DNA of those in the convoy, but it was unclear if they
had yet arrived at the scene. Some American officials described the attack as
having been in the same category as the March 19 and April 7 attacks on
compounds where Mr. Hussein and his sons were believed to be hiding. American
intelligence analysts now believe that Mr. Hussein and his sons probably survived
both those attacks.A senior administration official described the intelligence
that led to the Wednesday attack as a good lead. But another administration
official said, "I have no information that leads us to believe we got Saddam." A
military officer said intelligence reports that Mr. Hussein or his sons might
have been in the convoy might have been based more on hope than
evidence."There might be people crossing their fingers, but it's just like a year ago, when
they were crossing their fingers" in the hopes of capturing Osama bin Laden,
one military official said. Mr. bin Laden, Al Qaeda's leader, is still
believed to be alive after 21 months in which he has been the target of an intense
manhunt.In a television interview today, King Abdullah of Jordan said he had
heard reports several days ago that Mr. Hussein and his sons were in Iraq's
western desert region. But he said he had heard many reports of their whereabouts
in recent weeks and months and did not know if this one was accurate."It's like
Elvis," King Abdullah said on the ABC News program "This Week." "There's a
lot of sightings of him all over the place."Members of the Senate Intelligence
Committee, including the chairman, Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas,
said in television appearances today that they had not been informed of any new
missile strike aimed at the Iraqi leader. Still, Senator Roberts, speaking on
"Fox News Sunday," said, "I will not be surprised at any military action that
would lead to the possibility that we have now finally killed Saddam
Hussein."Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the
committee, said on the same program that any confirmation of the death of Mr.
Hussein would serve to undercut the morale of fighters who are staging
hit-and-run attacks on American soldiers and at the same time instill confidence
among the broader Iraqi public.The search for Mr. Hussein has been led by Task
Force 20, a secret military organization that is working closely with American
intelligence agencies and whose members include special Army and Navy
counterterrorist teams.The United States is flying U-2 spy planes and RC-135 electronic
eavesdropping aircraft over Iraq on a regular basis. Both are able to scoop up
electronic emissions and pinpointing locations for strike aircraft or
Predator drones, which are piloted by remote control and can be either armed or
unarmed; they are being flown from an air base in Iraq.One senior administration
official noted that Hellfire missile attacks on convoys by the Predators were
rare and would not have been carried out except on the basis of good
intelligence about an important target.Other officials said that the United States had
obtained good reconnaissance photos showing that the convoy had been destroyed,
but that those photographs did not clarify who had been in the
wreckage."Although we do have good intelligence, you don't know if you have someone until
you've seen the analysis from the ground," said one senior American officer.

Roger Stroope
Northern Arizona University
Flagstaff USA

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