DOJ Arrests And Prevents Court Assassination Plots On American Soil

By Victor Winston, updated on February 25, 2024

The specter of state-sponsored assassination looms large over American soil.

The U.S. Justice Department's recent unraveling of several assassination attempts directly implicates foreign governments, including both adversaries and allies, raising alarms over the rising threat of state-sponsored violence against dissidents and former officials in the United States.

The Web of State-Sponsored Violence

In light of incidents such as the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London (2006) and the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul (2018), the global existence of suspected state-sponsored assassinations can't be ignored.

The death of Maksim Kuzminov, a Russian defector who had sought safety in Ukraine and was later killed in Spain, is believed to involve Russian state participation. This event contributes to a concerning pattern. Matthew Olsen of the U.S. Justice Department revealed that over the past 18 months, the U.S. has prevented four planned assassinations on its territory. This situation highlights the worrying efforts of authoritarian governments to eliminate dissenters using deadly means, even outside their own countries.

Matthew Olsen's observation highlights the sinister reach of regimes stretching their influence into the very heart of American democracy. "We face a rising threat from authoritarian regimes who seek to reach beyond their borders to commit acts of repression, including inside the United States," Olsen remarked. These attempts challenge the U.S.'s sovereignty and expose the vulnerabilities in protecting human rights and freedom of speech.

The cases range widely, implicating various nations and targeting diverse individuals. An Iranian operative from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps plotted to assassinate former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton. Past plots traced back to Iran include the attempt on the life of the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in 2012 and schemes targeting an Iranian-American writer in New York and a Maryland couple.

Assassination as a Foreign Policy Tool

In a dramatic twist, the U.S. uncovered an assassination plot directed by an official from India, an American ally, aiming to eliminate a Sikh independence activist in New York City.

Such incidents recall previous state-sponsored killings on U.S. soil, including Chile’s role in the 1976 Washington D.C. car bombing that killed Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, alongside assassinations linked to the regimes of Ferdinand Marcos and Taiwan.

Experts point to multiple factors for the apparent uptick in these audacious acts, including eroded norms against assassinations, advancements in technology facilitating remote killing, and the perception of American hypocrisy due to its use of drone strikes against terrorists.

Eroding Norms and the Escalation of Political Violence in the U.S.

Michael Glennon reflected on the shock and implications of such acts happening in the heart of political centers, describing the aftermath of the Letelier bombing in vivid detail.

“When a bomb goes off in a car in the rush hour on Sheridan Circle, on Mass Ave., in the middle of Embassy Row and shatters the windows for a block around, that's a big deal in Washington,” said Glennon.

The assassination attempt on John Bolton led Matthew Olsen to condemn Iran’s actions as a "violation of U.S. laws, and our national sovereignty," stressing the egregious nature of these transnational acts of violence. Rory Cormac voiced concerns over the brazen nature of recent plots and the openness of the U.S. in bringing these activities to light.

Experts argue the changing landscape is marked by eroding norms and increased brazenness. According to Rory Cormac, "The landscape is changing, and the norms against this are eroding." The U.S.'s assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani has been pointed to as exacerbating this trend, further diminishing the taboos around targeted killings.

Conclusion: Shadowy Intersections of Politics and State-Sponsored Violence Revealed

The recent revelations by the U.S. Justice Department serve as a sobering reminder of the shadowy intersections of international politics and state-sponsored violence. From the thwarted plots against critics and dissidents on U.S. soil to the murky realm of covert operations overseas, the incidents unveiled resonate with complex themes of sovereignty, human rights, and the global norms governing inter-state conduct.

Amidst the evolving discourse on international relations and security, the persistence of state-sponsored assassination attempts underscores a chilling disregard for borders and the rule of law, challenging not only the United States but the international community at large to confront and curb this menacing trend.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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