Ford's Foreign Policy on Assassinations

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Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr talks about former president Gerald Ford and the U.S. policy on assassinations.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

We've been covering the funeral service today for former president Gerald Ford at the Washington National Cathedral and the return of his body to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for burial. Ford is noted for his post-Watergate role. Less attention has gone to his time on the world stage.

Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr points up Gerald Ford's legacy in U.S. covert operations.

DANIEL SCHORR: In a post 9/11 interview with Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, ex-President Ford reflected that since the forty-year standoff with the Soviet Union, American presidents have had to face renegade governments and a different kind of enemy.

Mr. Ford had come into office at a time when America's enemy was perceived more as Third World rabble risers than nuclear forces. It appears that nothing appalled the new president more than discovering that under presidents from Eisenhower to Nixon, the CIA had engaged in plots to assassinate leftist foreign leaders.

Plots in various stages were hatched against the Dominican Republic's Trujillo, Chile's Allende, South Vietnam's Ngo Dinh Diem, Congo's Lumumba, Indonesia's Sukarno, Haiti's Duvalier and most especially, Cuba's Fidel Castro - a plot for which the CIA enlisted the Mafia.

President Ford himself had only learned of the full extent of the conspiracies when he demanded to see a copy of an internal CIA Inspector General's report, which had been commissioned by Director James Schlesinger, looking for possible Watergate connections.

The IG report, known internally as the family jewels, covered CIA improprieties like drug experiments on unwilling subjects and surveillance over domestic anti-war activists, and most explosively, the plots against foreign leaders.

The president named a blue ribbon commission, headed by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, to investigate. And he told a news conference, I'm totally opposed to political assassinations.

An executive order signed by President Ford banned political assassinations. But after 9/11, President Bush issued a finding which makes exceptions from the murder ban for known terrorist leaders if capture is impractical. That makes Ford's Executive Order 11905, the ban on political assassinations, which was updated by subsequent presidents, not very operative anymore.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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