A Pakistani newspaper, The Nation, published a story claiming that former Vice President Dick Cheney ran an assassination squad which killed, among others, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan:

Former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on the orders of the special death squad formed by former US vice-president Dick Cheney, which had already killed the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafique Al Hariri and the army chief of that country. The squad was headed by General Stanley McChrystal, the newly-appointed commander of US army in Afghanistan. It was disclosed by reputed US journalist Seymour Hersh while talking to an Arab TV in an interview.

Hersh is denying the story (italics in quote mine):

US journalist Seymour Hersh on Monday contradicted news reports being published in South Asia that quote him as saying a “special death squad” made by former US vice president Dick Cheney had killed Benazir Bhutto. The award-winning journalist described as “complete madness” the reports that the squad headed by General Stanley McChrystal – the new commander of US army in Afghanistan – had also killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafique Al Hariri and a Lebanese army chief. “Vice president Cheney does not have a death squad. I have no idea who killed Mr Hariri or Mrs Bhutto,” Hersh said. “I have never said that I did have such information. I most certainly did not say anything remotely to that effect during an interview with an Arab media outlet.” He said Gen McChrystal had run a special forces unit that engaged in “high value target activity”, but “while I have been critical of some of that unit’s activities in the pages of the New Yorker and in interviews, I have never suggested that he was involved in political assassinations or death squads on behalf of Mr Cheney, as the published stories state.”

But Hersh’s denial is untrue in part. While there is no record that I’m aware of in which Hersh claimed that Cheney had Bhutto assassinated, there is a recorded statement by Hersh, given during a speech at the University of Minnesota, in which Hersh claimed that the Bush administration had “an executive assassination ring” that reported directly to Cheney:

Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command — JSOC it’s called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him. …

Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths.

Listen to the video below starting at 13:30.

So while Hersh is denying being the source for the story of Cheney assassinating Bhutto, it is not surprising that Hersh was cited as the source given Hersh’s prior statements.

UPDATE: Jules Crittendon has a good round-up of Hersh’s history on the topic, and Moe Lane has an MSNBC video of Keith Olbermann singing Hersh’s praises on the supposed Cheney-run assassination squad. Now that Hersh has recanted his claim that Cheney had a “death squad,” will Olbermann recant?

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