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An Interview with Richard Helms

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you eliminate one leader, have you really improved your position? That is a very critical point.
     
And if you kill someone else's leaders, why shouldn't they kill yours and so forth.
     
On the other hand, may I say that there isn't a chief of state or chief of government in the world today who does not feel vulnerable to some terrorist or would-be assassin, and they all take great precautions. There isn't one so naive as to think he isn't a possible target by someone, some disgruntled individual.
     
Do you feel the world would be a safer place if those assassination attempts on Castro had succeeded?
     
It is an awfully hard thing to bring a case against a specific individual. But I think the world would have been a nicer place if somebody had gotten to Hitler before he had a chance to eliminate six million Jews and cause God knows how much destruction.
     
Discussing assassinations is a very difficult thing, for an American, particularly for one of any religious persuasion, because we are against killing. But we are peculiarly ambivalent; we are glad to have certain people eliminated if we don't have to do the eliminating.
     
I cited the case of Hitler. But there are others. What about the thousands of people killed in Cambodia in 1977-78? There would be a revulsion in this country if it was thought anybody in our government was trying to kill Pol Pot. The same was true with Idi Amin, and, yet, the death of a tyrant might save hundreds of innocent people. A human life is a human life. Nevertheless, assassination is not a way for the American government. It is not a way for the CIA.
     
Nonetheless, I can only say I agreed with Clark Clifford, when he testified that it should not be barred by law. That would make us look silly.
     
It makes us look silly, or there might be a Hitler-type situation where it should happen?
     
If there were, maybe you would have to break the law, but I don't think anybody would notice particularly. We don't notice if laws are broken in the best causes. It is when somebody questions the causes that we get uptight, but the fact remains that if you say we are going to bar assassination and to bar this and to bar that, there are a lot of other things you are going to permit-by implication.
     
When you say that the subject of eliminating foreign leaders is discussed more than anyone would like, does that mean that you, on your initiative or that of others actually said "No," or turned off such discussion or had suggested to you other assassinations plans?
     
I don't want to go into any details but obviously I have heard such suggestions and turned them off. But the idea does come up, because it looks like a quick and relatively cheap way of achieving something in the foreign policy or national security area.
     
Right. You said "No" for the reason that you have just given, I suppose?
     
Yes. I have never believed in assassination.
     
There are two accounts, one of them very fresh, to put it in perspective, in the case of Lumumba, where lethal biological substances were supposed to have been
     
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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM
Last Updated: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM