- The Washington Times - Friday, February 9, 2001

Moammar, Saddam, Fidel: Watch your backs.

Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, has introduced legislation that would restore the president's license to order a hit on a foreign leader, if that individual were deemed a threat to U.S. personnel or national security.

"The United States already takes actions clearly designed to remove foreign leaders. In the 1980s, we took actions clearly designed to remove [Libyan President] Moammar Gadhafi," said Mr. Barr, in his office yesterday.

"People may pretend that we don't do these things, but these are precisely the type of actions that we sometimes take. It is better policy to be more honest and recognize the president does and should have this authority."

Most observers say that Congress is unlikely to do much with Mr. Barr's bill.

"The House leadership from both parties will be very reluctant to step into a debate that so clearly involves the separation of powers and what is clearly a matter of presidential decision-making," said a senior Republican staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Called the Terrorist Elimination Act of 2001, the bill would nullify several executive orders that prohibit political assassinations by U.S. employees.

So far the bill has no co-sponsors and Mr. Barr said that he had "no idea" if the legislation would win approval.

"I've introduced it this year, just like I did last year, because these executive orders arbitrarily limit the options available to the president when dealing with terrorists," he said.

President Ford first signed an executive order on Feb. 18, 1976, which contained a clause prohibiting employees of the U.S. government from political assassinations.

"No employee of the United States government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in political assassination," reads the "Prohibition of Assassination" section of Executive Order 11905.

President Reagan added clauses to tighten the restrictions and to clarify that the restrictions also pertained to the intelligence community.

Mr. Barr said he had no specific foreign leader in mind when writing the bill. The measure has been referred to the International Relations Committee.

The president has the authority to rescind the executive orders of his predecessors without any act of Congress, Mr. Barr noted. And he said he has written to President Bush urging him to do so.

"Executive orders currently prohibit our military from deliberately removing a terrorist leader… . I respectfully request that you rescind" the specific sections that "limit the United States from dealing with international terrorist threats," said the Jan. 31 letter.

But if he is unwilling to do so, Mr. Barr said, Congress should do it for him as a matter of principle.

Neither the White House nor the House International Relations Committee had comment yesterday.

Official U.S. attempts to shorten a political leader's career were not unknown in the past. President Kennedy ordered assassination attempts on Cuban President Fidel Castro, employing failed hit squads and poisoned cigars.

Since Mr. Ford's order, and the subsequent provisions to tighten the restrictions, presidents have had to resort to less-direct methods, like aerial bombing raids, in hopes the collateral damage might eliminate hostile leaders.

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