I have a short piece up at Current Intelligence, examining the implications of indicting Hakimullah Mehsud in the attack on the CIA base at Camp Chapman late last year.
Which brings us to this criminal charge: conspiracy to kill Americans and using a weapon of mass destruction. The latter charge is fundamentally stupid, the result of the U.S. government defining down the idea of “WMD” so that anything that goes boom is now a weapon of mass destruction, rather than the normal idea of WMD as chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons designed to inflict mass casualties. The former is difficult to square with how warfare works: in essence, the Department of Justice is making it a crime to resist offensive military operations in your own homeland.
It might seem a semantic distinction, especially given the massive campaign to assassinate Hakimullah, but it’s really not. The U.S. has made it a crime to fight in a war — not to commit specific atrocities, the way one would normally define a crime or a war crime, but to attack spies conducting an assassination campaign in a war. Despite the terrible loss of intelligence agents, that is war. It is violent, and you do not enjoy specific immunities from reprisal if you choose to participate in it. The CIA is an armed actor in the war in Afghanistan, and it is one of the only American agencies actively participating in the war in Pakistan. It is not exempt, in a legal sense, from its targets fighting back.
Comments, as always, are welcome below.