WASHINGTON, Oct 21: President George Bush, who six days after the Sept 11 attacks had said he wanted Osama bin Laden “alive or dead”, has given formal executive shape to this rhetorical statement and explicitly asked the Central Intelligence Agency to do whatever it can to destroy Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
The president last month signed an intelligence order to the CIA to undertake what is described as its most sweeping and lethal order, instructing the agency to attack Osama bin Laden’s communications, security apparatus and infrastructure.
News of the order, or intelligence “finding”, is given in Sunday’s edition of The Washington Post and comes a day after the United States made its first land-based attack on Afghanistan during which special forces targeted a compound used by Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.
The president’s directive virtually reverses a policy followed since the Ford administration that banned the CIA or any other government agency from involvement in political assassinations. Hints that this was coming were being given in the media ever since the Sept 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
The Post report, written by Watergate veteran Bob Woodward, quotes one senior administration official as saying: “The gloves are off. The president has given the agency the green light to do whatever is necessary. Lethal operations that were unthinkable pre-September 11 are now underway.”