Assassination

Assassination is the act of killing a prominent person for either political, religious or monetary reasons.[1]

An assassination may be prompted by religious, political or military motives. It is an act that may be done for financial gain, to avenge a grievance, from a desire to acquire fame or notoriety, or because of a military, security, insurgent or secret police group's command to carry out the homicide. Acts of assassination have been performed since ancient times.

Lee Harvey Oswald arrest card 1963
Mug shot of Lee Harvey Oswald, the individual responsible for the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Oswald himself was assassinated two days by Jack Ruby, the first such event to receive wide television coverage.

Etymology

Assassination of Nizam al-Mulk
14th-century painting of the successful assassination of Nizam al-Mulk, the de facto ruler of the Seljuq Empire, by an Assassin.

The word assassin is often believed to derive from the word Hashshashin (Arabic: حشّاشين, ħashshāshīyīn, also Hashishin, Hashashiyyin, or Assassins),[2] and shares its etymological roots with hashish (/hæˈʃiːʃ/ or /ˈhæʃiːʃ/; from Arabic: حشيش ḥashīsh).[3] It referred to a group of Nizari Shia Muslims who worked against various political targets.

Founded by Hassan-i Sabbah, the Assassins were active in the fortress of Alamut in Persia from the 8th to the 14th centuries, and later expanded by capturing forts in Syria. The group killed members of the Abbasid, Seljuq, Fatimid, and Christian Crusader elite for political and religious reasons.[4]

Although it is commonly believed that Assassins were under the influence of hashish during their killings or during their indoctrination, there is debate as to whether these claims have merit, with many Eastern writers and an increasing number of Western academics coming to believe that drug-taking was not the key feature behind the name.[5]

The earliest known use of the verb "to assassinate" in printed English was by Matthew Sutcliffe in A Briefe Replie to a Certaine Odious and Slanderous Libel, Lately Published by a Seditious Jesuite, a pamphlet printed in 1600, five years before it was used in Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1605).[6][7]

Use in history

Ancient to medieval times

Giaele e Sisara
Jael and Sisera, by Artemisia Gentileschi.

Assassination is one of the oldest tools of power politics. It dates back at least as far as recorded history.

In the Old Testament, King Joash of Judah was recorded as being assassinated by his own servants;[8] Joab assassinated Absalom, King David's son;[9] and King Sennacherib of Assyria was assassinated by his own sons.[10]

Chanakya (c. 350–283 BC) wrote about assassinations in detail in his political treatise Arthashastra. His student Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Maurya Empire, later made use of assassinations against some of his enemies, including two of Alexander the Great's generals, Nicanor and Philip.[11] Other famous victims are Philip II of Macedon (336 BC), the father of Alexander the Great, and Roman consul Julius Caesar (44 BC).[12] Emperors of Rome often met their end in this way, as did many of the Muslim Shia Imams hundreds of years later. The practice was also well known in ancient China, as in Jing Ke's failed assassination of Qin king Ying Zheng in 227 BC. Whilst many assassinations were performed by individuals or small groups, there were also specialized units who used a collective group of people to perform more than one assassination. The earliest were the sicarii in 6 A.D., who predated the Middle Eastern assassins and Japanese ninjas by centuries.[13][14]

Wojciech Gerson, Śmierć Przemysława
Assassination of King Przemysł II of Poland
BalthasarGerards
Assassination of William the Silent of Holland.
Jacques Clément
Assassination of King Henry III of France
Assassination of Henry IV by Gaspar Bouttats
Assassination of King Henry IV of France

In the Middle Ages, regicide was rare in Western Europe, but it was a recurring theme in the Eastern Roman Empire. Blinding and strangling in the bathtub were the most commonly used procedures. With the Renaissance, tyrannicide—or assassination for personal or political reasons—became more common again in Western Europe. High medieval sources mention the assassination of King Demetrius Zvonimir (1089), dying at the hands of his own people, who objected to a proposition by the Pope to go on a campaign to aid the Byzantines against the Seljuk Turks. This account is, however, contentious among historians, it being most commonly asserted that he died of natural causes. The myth of the "Curse of King Zvonimir" is based on the legend of his assassination.[15] In 1192, Conrad of Montferrat, the de facto King of Jerusalem, was killed by an assassin.

The reigns of King Przemysł II of Poland (1296), William the Silent of the Netherlands (1584), and the French kings Henry III (1589) and Henry IV (1610) were all ended by assassins.

Modern history

In the modern world, the killing of important people began to become more than a tool in power struggles between rulers themselves and was also used for political symbolism, such as in the propaganda of the deed. In Russia alone, two emperors, Paul I and his grandson Alexander II, were assassinated within 80 years. In the United Kingdom, only one Prime Minister has ever been assassinatedSpencer Perceval on May 11, 1812.[16]

In Japan, a group of assassins called the Four Hitokiri of the Bakumatsu killed a number of people, including Ii Naosuke who was the head of administration for the Tokugawa shogunate, during the Boshin War.[17] Most of the assassinations in Japan were committed with bladed weaponry, a trait that was carried on into modern history. A video-record exists of the assassination of Inejiro Asanuma, using a sword.[18]

Lincoln assassination slide c1900 - Restoration
Shown in the presidential booth of Ford's Theatre, from left to right, are assassin John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, Clara Harris and Henry Rathbone

In the United States, within 100 years, four presidents—Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy—died at the hands of assassins. There have been at least 20 known attempts on U.S. presidents' lives. Huey Long, a Senator, was assassinated on September 10, 1935. Robert F. Kennedy, a Senator and a presidential candidate, was also assassinated on June 6, 1968 in the United States.

In Austria, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, carried out by Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian national and a member of the Serbian nationalist insurgents (The Black Hand), is blamed for igniting World War I after a succession of minor conflicts, while belligerents on both sides in World War II used operatives specifically trained for assassination. Reinhard Heydrich died after an attack by British-trained Czechoslovak soldiers on behalf of the Czechoslovak government in exile in Operation Anthropoid,[19] and knowledge from decoded transmissions allowed the United States to carry out a targeted attack, killing Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto while he was travelling by plane. The Polish Home Army conducted a regular campaign of assassinations against top Nazi German officials in occupied Poland. Adolf Hitler was almost killed by his own officers, and survived various attempts by other persons and organizations (such as Operation Foxley, though this plan was never put into practice).

During the 1930s and 1940s, Joseph Stalin's NKVD carried out numerous assassinations outside of the Soviet Union, such as the killings of Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists leader Yevhen Konovalets, Ignace Poretsky, Fourth International secretary Rudolf Klement, Leon Trotsky, and the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) leadership in Catalonia.[20]

India's "Father of the Nation", Mahatma Gandhi, was shot to death on January 30, 1948 by Nathuram Godse.

The African-American civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated on April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel (now the National Civil Rights Museum) in Memphis, Tennessee. Three years prior, another African-American civil rights activist, Malcolm X, was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965. Two years prior, another African-American civil rights activist, Medgar Evers, was assassinated on June 12, 1963. Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party was assassinated on December 4, 1969.

Cold War and beyond

JFK limousine
President Kennedy minutes before his assassination, November 22, 1963.

Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, was assassinated by Saad Akbar, a lone assassin, in 1951. Conspiracy theorists believe his conflict with certain members of the Pakistani military (Rawalpindi conspiracy) or suppression of Communists and antagonism towards the Soviet Union, were potential reasons for his assassination.

In 1960, Inejiro Asanuma, Chairman of the Japanese Socialist Party, was assassinated in a stabbing by an extreme rightist.

The U.S. Senate Select Committee chaired by Senator Frank Church (the Church Committee) reported in 1975 that it had found "concrete evidence of at least eight plots involving the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro from 1960 to 1965."[21]

Most major powers repudiated Cold War assassination tactics, though many allege that this was merely a smokescreen for political benefit and that covert and illegal training of assassins continues today, with Russia, Israel, the U.S., Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, and other nations accused of engaging in such operations.[22] In 1986, U.S. President Ronald Reagan (who survived an assassination attempt himself) ordered the Operation El Dorado Canyon air raid on Libya in which one of the primary targets was the home residence of Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi escaped unharmed; however, his adopted daughter Hanna was claimed to be one of the civilian casualties.

In the Philippines, the assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr. triggered the eventual downfall of the 20-year autocratic rule of President Ferdinand Marcos. Aquino, a former Senator and a leading figure of the political opposition, was assassinated in 1983 at the Manila International Airport (now the Ninoy Aquino International Airport) upon returning home from exile. His death thrust his widow, Corazon Aquino, into the limelight and, ultimately, the presidency following the peaceful 1986 EDSA Revolution.

After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the new Islamic government of Iran began an international campaign of assassination that lasted into the 1990s. At least 162 killings in 19 countries have been linked to the senior leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran.[23] This campaign came to an end after the Mykonos restaurant assassinations, because a German court publicly implicated senior members of the government and issued arrest warrants for Ali Fallahian, the head of the Iranian Intelligence.[24] Evidence indicates that Fallahian's personal involvement and individual responsibility for the murders were far more pervasive than his current indictment record represents.[25]

Orlando Letelier, Washingron DC, 1976 (de Marcelo Montecino)
Orlando Letelier, a former Chilean minister, was assassinated in Washington, D.C. in 1976. Letelier's murder was part of the U.S.-backed state terror campaign known as Operation Condor.[26]

Anwar Sadat, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt (formerly President of the United Arab Republic), was assassinated October 6, 1981, during the annual parade celebrating Operation Badr, the opening maneuver of the Yom Kippur War.

Swedish prime minister Olof Palme was murdered by a gun-wielding man close to midnight on February 28, 1986, after having visited a cinema with his wife. The couple were not accompanied by a body guard detail. The identity of the assassin and the reason for the murder are still unknown.

On August 17, 1988, President of Pakistan Gen. M. Zia ul Haq died alongside 31 others including the Chief of Staff of the Pakistani Armed Forces, the US Ambassador to Pakistan and the chief of the US Military Mission to Pakistan when his C-130 transport plane mysteriously crashed. The crash is widely considered – in Pakistan – to be an act of political assassination.[27]

In post-Saddam Iraq, the Shiite-dominated government used death squads to perform extrajudicial executions of radical Sunni Iraqis, with some alleging that the death squads were trained by the U.S.[28][29] Concrete allegations have since surfaced that the Iranian government has actively armed and funded Shia death-squads in post-Saddam Iraq.[30]

IndiraGandhi-SareeAtTimeOfDeath
Indira Gandhi's blood-stained sari and belongings at the time of her assassination. She was the Prime Minister of India.

In India, Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi (neither of whom were related to Mahatma Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1948), were assassinated in 1984 and 1991 respectively. The assassinations were linked to separatist movements in Punjab and northern Sri Lanka, respectively.

In Israel, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated on November 4, 1995. Yigal Amir confessed and was convicted of the crime.

Israeli tourist minister Rehavam Ze'evi was assassinated on October 17, 2001, by Hamdi Quran and three other members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The PFLP stated that the assassination was in retaliation for the August 27, 2001, killing of Abu Ali Mustafa, the Secretary General of the PFLP, by the Israeli Air Force under its policy of targeted killings.

In Lebanon, the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005, prompted an investigation by the United Nations. The suggestion in the resulting Mehlis report that there was Syrian involvement, prompted the Cedar Revolution, which drove Syrian troops out of Lebanon.

In Pakistan, former prime minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007, while running for re-election. Bhutto's assassination drew unanimous condemnation from the international community.[31]

In Guinea Bissau, President João Bernardo Vieira was assassinated in the early hours of March 2, 2009, in the capital, Bissau. Unlike typical assassinations his death was not swift; he first survived an explosion at the Presidential Villa, was then shot and wounded, and finally was butchered with machetes. His assassination was carried out by renegade soldiers who were apparently revenging the killing of General Tagme Na Waie, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Guinea Bissau, who had been killed in a bomb explosion the day before.

Further motivations

As military and foreign policy doctrine

Hokusai-sketches---hokusai-manga-vol6-crop
The functions of the ninja included espionage, sabotage and assassination.

Assassination for military purposes has long been espoused – Sun Tzu, writing around 500 BC, argued in favor of using assassination in his book The Art of War. Nearly 2000 years later, in his book The Prince, Machiavelli also argued assassination could be useful.[32] An army and even a nation might be based upon and around a particularly strong, canny, or charismatic leader, whose loss could paralyze the ability of both to make war.

For similar and additional reasons, assassination has also sometimes been used in the conduct of foreign policy. The costs and benefits of such actions are difficult to compute, especially when they depend upon the policies of a successor, and one study has found that perceptual biases held by leaders often negatively affect decision making in this area, such that decisions made to go forward with assassinations often reflect the vague hope that any successor might be better.[33]

In both military and foreign policy assassinations, there is the risk that the target could be replaced by an even more competent leader, or that such a killing (or a failed attempt) will "martyr" a leader and lead to greater support of his or her cause (by showing the moral ruthlessness of the assassins). Faced with particularly brilliant leaders, this possibility has in various instances been risked, such as in the attempts to kill the Athenian Alcibiades during the Peloponnesian War. A number of additional examples from World War II show how assassination was used as a tool:

  • The assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague on May 27, 1942 by the British and Czechoslovak government-in-exile. This case illustrates the difficulty of comparing the benefits of a foreign policy goal (strengthening the legitimacy and influence of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile in London) against the possible costs resulting from an assassination (the Lidice massacre).[33]
  • The American interception of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's plane during World War II, after his travel route had been decrypted.
  • Operation Gaff was a planned British commando raid to capture or kill the German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (also known as "The Desert Fox").[34]

Use of assassination has continued in more recent conflicts:

  • During the Vietnam War, partly in response to Viet Cong assassinations of government leaders, the U.S. engaged in the Phoenix Program to assassinate Viet Cong leaders and sympathizers, and killed between 6,000 and 41,000 people, with official 'targets' of 1,800 per month.

As tool of insurgents

Insurgent groups have often employed assassination as a tool to further their causes. Assassinations provide several functions for such groups, namely the removal of specific enemies and as propaganda tools to focus the attention of media and politics on their cause.

The Irish Republican Army guerrillas of 1919–21 killed many RIC Police Intelligence officers during the Irish War of Independence. Michael Collins set up a special unit – the Squad – for this purpose, which had the effect of intimidating many policemen into resigning from the force. The Squad's activities peaked with the killing of 14 British agents in Dublin on Bloody Sunday in 1920.

This tactic was used again by the Provisional IRA during the Troubles in Northern Ireland (1969–1998). Killing of RUC officers and assassination of Unionist politicians was one of a number of methods used in the Provisional IRA campaign 1969–1997. The IRA also attempted to assassinate British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher by bombing the Conservative Party Conference in a Brighton hotel. Loyalist paramilitaries retaliated by killing Catholics at random and assassinating Irish nationalist politicians.

Basque terrorists ETA in Spain have assassinated many security and political figures since the late 1960s, notably the President of the Government of Spain Luis Carrero Blanco, 1st Duke of Carrero-Blanco Grandee of Spain, in 1973. Since the early 1990s, they have also targeted academics, journalists and local politicians who publicly disagreed with them.

The Red Brigades in Italy carried out assassinations of political figures, as to a lesser extent, did the Red Army Faction in Germany in the 1970s and 1980s.

In the Vietnam War, Communist insurgents routinely assassinated government officials and individual civilians deemed to offend or rival the revolutionary movement. Such attacks, along with widespread military activity by insurgent bands, almost brought the Diem regime to collapse before the U.S. intervention.[35]

Psychology

A major study about assassination attempts in the U.S. in the second half of the 20th century came to the conclusion that most prospective assassins spend copious amounts of time planning and preparing for their attempts. Assassinations are thus rarely a case of 'impulsive' action.[36]

However, about 25% of the actual attackers were found to be delusional, a figure that rose to 60% with 'near-lethal approachers' (people apprehended before reaching their target). This shows that while mental instability plays a role in many modern-age assassinations, the more delusional attackers are less likely to succeed in their attempt. The report also found that around two-thirds of attackers had previously been arrested (not necessarily for related offenses), that 44% had a history of serious depression, and that 39% had a history of substance abuse.[36]

Techniques

Modern methods

With the advent of effective ranged weaponry, and later firearms, the position of an assassination target was more precarious. Bodyguards were no longer enough to hold back determined killers, who no longer needed to directly engage or even subvert the guard to kill the leader in question. Moreover, the engagement of targets at greater distance dramatically increased the chances of an assassin's survival. The first heads of government to be assassinated with a firearm were the Regent Moray of Scotland in 1570, and William the Silent, the Prince of Orange of the Netherlands in 1584. Gunpowder and other explosives also allowed the use of bombs or even greater concentrations of explosives for deeds requiring a larger touch.

Explosives, especially the car bomb, become far more common in modern history, with grenades and remote-triggered land mines also used, especially in the Middle East and Balkans (the initial attempt on Archduke Franz Ferdinand's life was with a grenade). With heavy weapons, the rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) has become a useful tool given the popularity of armored cars (discussed below), while Israeli forces have pioneered the use of aircraft-mounted missiles,[37] as well as the innovative use of explosive devices.

Oswaldrifle
Rifle of Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy
Booth deringer
Derringer of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln

A sniper with a precision rifle is often used in fictional assassinations. However, certain difficulties attend long-range shooting, including finding a hidden shooting position with a clear line-of-sight, detailed advance knowledge of the intended victim's travel plans, the ability to identify the target at long range, and the ability to score a first-round lethal hit at long range, usually measured in hundreds of meters. A dedicated sniper rifle is also expensive, often costing thousands of dollars because of the high level of precision machining and hand-finishing required to achieve extreme accuracy.[38]

Despite their comparative disadvantages, handguns are more easily concealable, and consequentially much more commonly used than rifles. Of 74 principal incidents evaluated in a major study about assassination attempts in the U.S. in the second half of the 20th century, 51% were undertaken by a handgun, 30% with a rifle or shotgun, 15% used knives, and 8% explosives (usage of multiple weapons/methods was reported in 16% of all cases).[36]

In the case of state-sponsored assassination, poisoning can be more easily denied. Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident was assassinated by ricin poisoning. A tiny pellet containing the poison was injected into his leg through a specially designed umbrella. Widespread allegations involving the Bulgarian government and KGB have not led to any legal results. However, after the fall of the USSR, it was learned that the KGB had developed an umbrella that could inject ricin pellets into a victim, and two former KGB agents who defected said the agency assisted in the murder.[39] The CIA made several attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, many of the schemes involving poisoning his cigars. In the late 1950s, KGB assassin Bohdan Stashynsky killed Ukrainian nationalist leaders Lev Rebet and Stepan Bandera with a spray gun that fired a jet of poison gas from a crushed cyanide ampule, making their deaths look like heart attacks.[40] A 2006 case in the UK concerned the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko who was given a lethal dose of radioactive polonium-210, possibly passed to him in aerosol form sprayed directly onto his food. Litvinenko, a former KGB agent, had been granted asylum in the UK in 2000 after citing persecution in Russia. Shortly before his death he issued a statement accusing President of Russia Vladimir Putin of involvement in his assassination. President Putin denies he had any part in Litvinenko's death.[41]

Targeted killing

MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft
Predator drone; sometimes used in targeted killings

Targeted killing is the intentional killing–by a government or its agents–of a civilian or "unlawful combatant" who is not in the government's custody. The target is a person asserted to be taking part in an armed conflict or terrorism, whether by bearing arms or otherwise, who has thereby lost the immunity from being targeted that he would otherwise have under the Third Geneva Convention.[42] Note that this is a different term and concept from that of "targeted violence" as used by specialists who study violence.

On the other hand, Georgetown Law Professor Gary Solis, in his 2010 book entitled The Law of Armed Conflict: International Humanitarian Law in War,[43] writes: "Assassinations and targeted killings are very different acts".[42] The use of the term assassination is opposed, as it denotes murder, whereas the terrorists are targeted in self-defense, and thus it is viewed as a killing, but not a crime.[44] Judge Abraham Sofaer, former federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, wrote on the subject:

When people call a targeted killing an "assassination," they are attempting to preclude debate on the merits of the action. Assassination is widely defined as murder, and is for that reason prohibited in the United States ... U.S. officials may not kill people merely because their policies are seen as detrimental to our interests ... But killings in self-defense are no more "assassinations" in international affairs than they are murders when undertaken by our police forces against domestic killers. Targeted killings in self-defense have been authoritatively determined by the federal government to fall outside the assassination prohibition.[45]

Author and former U.S. Army Captain Matthew J. Morgan has argued that "there is a major difference between assassination and targeted killing ... targeted killing [is] not synonymous with assassination. Assassination ... constitutes an illegal killing."[46] Similarly, Amos Guiora, professor of law at the University of Utah, writes: "Targeted killing is ... not an assassination", Steve David, Professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University, writes: "There are strong reasons to believe that the Israeli policy of targeted killing is not the same as assassination". Syracuse Law Professor William Banks and GW Law Professor Peter Raven-Hansen write: "Targeted killing of terrorists is ... not unlawful and would not constitute assassination", Rory Miller writes: "Targeted killing ... is not 'assassination'". Associate Professor Eric Patterson and Teresa Casale write: "Perhaps most important is the legal distinction between targeted killing and assassination".[47][48][49][49][50]

On the other hand, the American Civil Liberties Union also states on its website, "A program of targeted killing far from any battlefield, without charge or trial, violates the constitutional guarantee of due process. It also violates international law, under which lethal force may be used outside armed conflict zones only as a last resort to prevent imminent threats, when non-lethal means are not available. Targeting people who are suspected of terrorism for execution, far from any war zone, turns the whole world into a battlefield."[51] Yael Stein, the research director of B'Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, also states in her article "By Any Name Illegal and Immoral: Response to 'Israel's Policy of Targeted Killing'"[52]

"The argument that this policy affords the public a sense of revenge and retribution could serve to justify acts both illegal and immoral. Clearly, lawbreakers ought to be punished. Yet, no matter how horrific their deeds, as the targeting of Israeli civilians indeed is, they should be punished according to the law. David's arguments could, in principle, justify the abolition of formal legal systems altogether".

Targeted killing has become a frequent tactic of the United States and Israel in their fight against terrorism.[42][53] The tactic can raise complex questions and lead to contentious disputes as to the legal basis for its application, who qualifies as an appropriate "hit list" target, and what circumstances must exist before the tactic may be employed.[42] Opinions range from people considering it a legal form of self-defense that reduces terrorism, to people calling it an extra-judicial killing that lacks due process, and which leads to further violence.[42][45][54][55] Methods used have included firing a five-foot-long Hellfire missile from a Predator or Reaper drone (an unmanned, remote-controlled plane), detonating a cell phone bomb, and long-range sniper shooting. Countries such as the U.S. (in Pakistan and Yemen) and Israel (in the West Bank and Gaza) have used targeted killing to eliminate members of groups such as Al-Qaeda and Hamas.[42] In early 2010, with President Obama's approval, Anwar al-Awlaki became the first U.S. citizen to be publicly approved for targeted killing by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Awlaki was killed in a drone strike in September 2011.[56][57]

United Nations (UN) investigator Ben Emmerson said that U.S. drone strikes may have violated international humanitarian law.[58][59] The Intercept reported, "Between January 2012 and February 2013, U.S. special operations airstrikes [in northeastern Afghanistan] killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets."[60]

Counter-measures

Early forms

Sattar Bodyguard
This bodyguard was killed by an IED during Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Risha's assassination in 2007

One of the earliest forms of defense against assassins was employing bodyguards. Bodyguards act as a shield for the potential target, keeping lookout for potential attackers (sometimes in advance, for example on a parade route), and putting themselves in harm's way—both by simple presence, showing that physical force is available to protect the target,[36][61] and by shielding the target during any attack. To neutralize an attacker, bodyguards are typically armed as much as legal and practical concerns permit.

Notable examples of bodyguards include the Roman Praetorian Guard or the Ottoman Janissaries—though, in both cases, the protectors sometimes became assassins themselves, exploiting their power to make the head of state a virtual hostage or killing the very leaders they were supposed to protect. The fidelity of individual bodyguards is an important question as well, especially for leaders who oversee states with strong ethnic or religious divisions. Failure to realize such divided loyalties led to the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards in 1984.

This bodyguard function was often executed by the leader's most loyal warriors, and was extremely effective throughout most of early human history, leading assassins to attempt stealthy means, such as poison (which risk was answered by having another person taste the leader's food first).

Another notable measure is the use of a body double, a person who looks like the leader and who pretends to be the leader to draw attention away from the intended target.

Modern strategies

Reagan assassination attempt 4 crop
Assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan

With the advent of gunpowder, ranged assassination (via bombs or firearms) became possible. One of the first reactions was to simply increase the guard, creating what at times might seem a small army trailing every leader; another was to begin clearing large areas whenever a leader was present, to the point where entire sections of a city might be shut down.

As the 20th century dawned, the prevalence and capability of assassins grew quickly, as did measures to protect against them. For the first time, armored cars or limousines were put into service for safer transport, with modern versions virtually invulnerable to small arms fire, smaller bombs and mines.[62] Bulletproof vests also began to be used, which were of limited utility, restricting movement and leaving the head unprotected – so they tended to be worn only during high-profile public events, if at all.

Access to famous persons, too, became more and more restricted;[63] potential visitors would be forced through numerous different checks before being granted access to the official in question, and as communication became better and information technology more prevalent, it has become all but impossible for a would-be killer to get close enough to the personage at work or in private life to effect an attempt on his or her life, especially given the common use of metal and bomb detectors.

Most modern assassinations have been committed either during a public performance or during transport, both because of weaker security and security lapses, such as with U.S. President John F. Kennedy and former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, or as part of coups d'état where security is either overwhelmed or completely removed, such as with Patrice Lumumba.

The methods used for protection by famous people have sometimes evoked negative reactions by the public, with some resenting the separation from their officials or major figures. One example might be traveling in a car protected by a bubble of clear bulletproof glass, such as the Popemobile of Pope John Paul II, built following an attempt at his life. Politicians often resent this need for separation, sometimes sending their bodyguards away from them for personal or publicity reasons; U.S. President William McKinley did this at the public reception where he was assassinated.[63]

Other potential targets go into seclusion, and are rarely heard from or seen in public, such as writer Salman Rushdie. A related form of protection is the use of body doubles, people with similar builds to those they are expected to impersonate. These persons are then made up, and in some cases altered to look like the target, with the body double then taking the place of the person in high risk situations. According to Joe R. Reeder, Under Secretary of the Army from 1993 to 1997, Fidel Castro used body doubles.[64]

United States Secret Service protective agents receive training in the psychology of assassins.[65]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Black's Law Dictionary "the act of deliberately killing someone especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons" (Legal Research, Analysis and Writing by William H. Putman p. 215 and Assassination Policy Under International Law Archived December 6, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Harvard International Review, May 6, 2006 by Kristen Eichensehr).
  2. ^ American Speech – McCarthy, Kevin M. Volume 48, pp. 77–83
  3. ^ The Assassins: a radical sect in Islam – Bernard Lewis, pp. 11–12
  4. ^ Secret Societies Handbook, Michael Bradley, Altair Cassell Illustrated, 2005. ISBN 978-1-84403-416-1
  5. ^ Martin Booth (2004). Cannabis: A History. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-312-42494-7.
  6. ^ A briefe replie to a certaine odious and slanderous libel, lately published by a seditious Iesuite. Imprinted at London : By Arn. Hatfield, 1600 (STC 23453) p.103
  7. ^ "assassinate, v." OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2016. Web. August 11, 2016.
  8. ^ 2 Kings 12:19-21
  9. ^ 2 Samuel 3:26-28 RSV
  10. ^ 2 Chronicles 32:21
  11. ^ Boesche, Roger (January 2003). "Kautilya's Arthaśāstra on War and Diplomacy in Ancient India" (PDF). The Journal of Military History. 67 (1): 9–37. doi:10.1353/jmh.2003.0006.
  12. ^ Johnson, Francis (March 3, 2008). Famous assassinations of history ... Retrieved October 27, 2010.
  13. ^ Pichtel, John, Terrorism and WMDs: Awareness and Response, CRC Press (April 25, 2011) p.3-4. ISBN 978-1439851753
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Further reading

External links

American Crime Story

American Crime Story is an American anthology true crime television series developed by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who are executive producers with Brad Falchuk, Nina Jacobson, Ryan Murphy, and Brad Simpson. A spin-off of the horror anthology series, American Horror Story, also from Murphy and Falchuk, each season is presented as a self-contained miniseries, following separate unrelated true events. Alexander and Karaszewski did not return after the first season, but they retained executive producer credit.The first season, subtitled The People v. O. J. Simpson, presents the murder trial of O. J. Simpson, based on Jeffrey Toobin's book The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson. The second season, subtitled The Assassination of Gianni Versace, explores the murder of designer Gianni Versace by serial killer Andrew Cunanan, based on Maureen Orth's book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History.

The series is broadcast on the cable television channel FX in the United States. It premiered on February 2, 2016. A third season, based on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, was in development but production was scrapped.

Assassination Classroom

Assassination Classroom (Japanese: 暗殺教室, Hepburn: Ansatsu Kyōshitsu) is a Japanese comic science fiction manga series written and illustrated by Yūsei Matsui. The series was serialized on Shueisha's Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine from July 2012 to March 2016 and is licensed in English by Viz Media. The series follows the daily lives of an extremely powerful octopus-like creature working as a junior high homeroom teacher, and his students dedicated to the task of assassinating him to prevent Earth from being destroyed. The students are considered “misfits” in their school and are taught in a separate building, the class he teaches is called 3-E. As of July 2016, twenty-one tankōbon volumes have been released in Japan with a circulation of 20 million copies.A single original video animation adaptation by Brain's Base based on the series was screened at the Jump Super Anime Tour on October to November 2013. This was followed by an anime television adaptation by Lerche, which began airing on Fuji TV in January 2015. This adaptation has been licensed by Funimation for release in North America. The series was obtained by Madman Entertainment for digital distribution in Australia and New Zealand. A live action film adaptation was released on March 21, 2015, and a sequel, titled Assassination Classroom: Graduation, was released on March 25, 2016.

Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was assassinated by well-known stage actor John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, while attending the play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Shot in the head as he watched the play, Lincoln died the following day at 7:22 a.m., in the Petersen House opposite the theater. He was the first American president to be assassinated, and Lincoln's funeral and burial marked an extended period of national mourning.

Occurring near the end of the American Civil War, the assassination was part of a larger conspiracy intended by Booth to revive the Confederate cause by eliminating the three most important officials of the United States government.

Conspirators Lewis Powell and David Herold were assigned to kill Secretary of State William H. Seward, and George Atzerodt was tasked with killing Vice President Andrew Johnson.

Beyond Lincoln's death the plot failed: Seward was only wounded and Johnson's would-be attacker lost his nerve. After a dramatic initial escape, Booth was killed at the climax of a 12-day manhunt. Powell, Herold, Atzerodt and Mary Surratt were later hanged for their roles in the conspiracy.

Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, occurred on 28 June 1914 in Sarajevo when they were mortally wounded by Gavrilo Princip. Princip was one of a group of six assassins (five Serbs and one Bosniak) coordinated by Danilo Ilić, a Bosnian Serb and a member of the Black Hand secret society. The political objective of the assassination was to break off Austria-Hungary's South Slav provinces so they could be combined into a Yugoslavia. The assassins' motives were consistent with the movement that later became known as Young Bosnia. The assassination led directly to the First World War when Austria-Hungary subsequently issued an ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia, which was partially rejected. Austria-Hungary then declared war on Serbia, triggering actions leading to war between most European states.

In charge of these Serbian military conspirators was Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence Dragutin Dimitrijević, his right-hand man Major Vojislav Tankosić, and the spy Rade Malobabić. Tankosić armed the assassins with bombs and pistols and trained them. The assassins were given access to the same clandestine network of safe-houses and agents that Malobabić used for the infiltration of weapons and operatives into Austria-Hungary.

The assassins, the key members of the clandestine network, and the key Serbian military conspirators who were still alive were arrested, tried, convicted and punished. Those who were arrested in Bosnia were tried in Sarajevo in October 1914. The other conspirators were arrested and tried before a Serbian court on the French-controlled Salonika Front in 1916–1917 on unrelated false charges; Serbia executed three of the top military conspirators. Much of what is known about the assassinations comes from these two trials and related records.

Assassination of John F. Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was assassinated on Friday, November 22, 1963, at 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time in Dallas, Texas, while riding in a presidential motorcade through Dealey Plaza. Kennedy was riding with his wife Jacqueline, Texas Governor John Connally, and Connally's wife Nellie when he was fatally shot by former U.S. Marine Lee Harvey Oswald firing in ambush from a nearby building. Governor Connally was seriously wounded in the attack. The motorcade rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital where President Kennedy was pronounced dead about thirty minutes after the shooting; Connally recovered from his injuries.

Oswald was arrested by the Dallas Police Department 70 minutes after the initial shooting. Oswald was charged under Texas state law with the murder of Kennedy as well as that of Dallas policeman J. D. Tippit, who had been fatally shot a short time after the assassination. At 11:21 a.m. Sunday, November 24, 1963, as live television cameras were covering his transfer from the city jail to the county jail, Oswald was fatally shot in the basement of Dallas Police Headquarters by Dallas nightclub operator Jack Ruby. Oswald was taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital where he soon died. Ruby was convicted of Oswald's murder, though it was later overturned on appeal, and Ruby died in prison in 1967 while awaiting a new trial.

After a ten-month investigation, the Warren Commission concluded that Oswald assassinated Kennedy, that Oswald had acted entirely alone, and that Ruby had acted alone in killing Oswald. Kennedy was the eighth US President to die in office and the fourth (following Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) to be assassinated. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson automatically assumed the Presidency upon Kennedy's death.A later investigation, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) agreed with the Warren Commission that the injuries that Kennedy and Connally sustained were caused by Oswald's three rifle shots, but they also concluded that Kennedy was "probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy" as analysis of a dictabelt audio recording pointed to the existence of an additional gunshot and therefore "... a high probability that two gunmen fired at [the] President." The Committee was not able to identify any individuals or groups involved with the possible conspiracy. In addition, the HSCA found that the original federal investigations were "seriously flawed" with respect to information-sharing and the possibility of conspiracy. As recommended by the HSCA, the acoustic evidence indicating conspiracy was subsequently re-examined and rejected.In light of the investigative reports determining that "reliable acoustic data do not support a conclusion that there was a second gunman," the U.S. Justice Department concluded active investigations and stated "that no persuasive evidence can be identified to support the theory of a conspiracy in ... the assassination of President Kennedy." However, Kennedy's assassination is still the subject of widespread debate and has spawned numerous conspiracy theories and alternative scenarios. Polls conducted from 1966 to 2004 found that up to 80 percent of Americans suspected that there was a plot or cover-up.

Assassination of Julius Caesar

The assassination of Caesar was the result of a conspiracy by many Roman senators led by Gaius Cassius Longinus, Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus, and Marcus Junius Brutus. They stabbed Caesar (23 times) to death in a location adjacent to the Theatre of Pompey on the Ides of March 15 March 44 BC. Caesar was the Dictator of the Roman Republic, having recently been declared dictator perpetuo by the Senate of the Roman Republic. This declaration made many senators fear that Caesar wanted to overthrow the Senate in favor of totalitarianism, as well as the fear that Caesar’s pro plebeian manifesto would endanger them financially. The conspirators were unable to restore the Roman Republic, and the ramifications of the assassination led to the Liberators' civil war and ultimately to the Principate period of the Roman Empire.

Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on 30 January 1948 in the compound of Birla House (now Gandhi Smriti), a large mansion. His assassin was Nathuram Vinayak Godse, advocate of Indian nationalism, a member of the political party the Hindu Mahasabha, and a past member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which he left in 1940 to form an armed organization. Godse had planned the assassination. Gandhi had just walked up the low steps to the raised lawn behind Birla House where he conducted his multi-faith prayer meetings every evening. Godse stepped out from the crowd flanking the path leading to the dais and into Gandhi's path, firing three bullets at point-blank range. Gandhi instantly fell to the ground. Gandhi was carried back to his room in Birla House from where a representative emerged some time later to announce that he had died.

The Gandhi murder trial opened in May 1948 in Delhi's historic Red Fort, with Godse the main defendant, and his collaborator Narayan Apte and six others as the co-defendants. According to Markovits (2004), Godse tried to ...use the courtroom as a political forum by reading a long declaration in which he attempted to justify his crime. He accused Gandhi of complacency towards Muslims, blamed him for the sufferings of Partition, and generally criticized his subjectivism and pretension to a monopoly of the truth." According to J. Edward Mallot (2012), Godse blamed Gandhi for continuing to appease Muslims in such a manner "that my blood boiled and I could tolerate him no longer."The trial was rushed through, the haste sometimes attributed to the home minister Vallabhbhai Patel's desire "to avoid scrutiny for the failure to prevent the assassination." The trial was public, but the statement that Nathuram Godse gave during the trial on why he killed Gandhi was immediately banned by the Indian government. Godse and Apte were sentenced to death on 8 November 1949. They were hanged in the Ambala jail on 15 November 1949.

Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr., an American clergyman and civil rights leader, was fatally shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968 at 6:01 p.m. CST. He was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he died at 7:05 p.m. He was a prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was known for his use of nonviolence and civil disobedience.

James Earl Ray, a fugitive from the Missouri State Penitentiary, was arrested on June 8, 1968, in London at Heathrow Airport, extradited to the United States, and charged with the crime. On March 10, 1969, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 99 years in the Tennessee State Penitentiary. He later made many attempts to withdraw his guilty plea and be tried by a jury, but was unsuccessful; he died in prison in 1998.The King family and others believe the assassination was the result of a conspiracy involving the U.S. government, Mafia and Memphis police, as alleged by Loyd Jowers in 1993, and that Ray was a scapegoat. In 1999, the family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Jowers for the sum of $10 million. During closing arguments, their attorney asked the jury to award damages of $100, to make the point that "it was not about the money." During the trial, both sides presented evidence alleging a government conspiracy. The government agencies accused could not defend themselves or respond because they were not named as defendants. Based on the evidence, the jury concluded Jowers and others were "part of a conspiracy to kill King" and awarded the family $100. The allegations and the finding of the Memphis jury were later rejected by the United States Department of Justice in 2000 due to lack of evidence.

Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi

The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India, occurred as a result of a suicide bombing in Sriperumbudur, Chennai, in Tamil Nadu, India on Tuesday, 21 May 1991. At least 14 others were also killed. It was carried out by Thenmozhi Rajaratnam, also known as Dhanu, member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a militant organization from Sri Lanka; at the time India had just ended its involvement, through the Indian Peace Keeping Force, in the Sri Lankan Civil War. Subsequent accusations of conspiracy have been addressed by two commissions of inquiry and have brought down at least one national government.

Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy

On June 5, 1968, presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was mortally wounded shortly after midnight at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Earlier that evening, the 42-year-old junior senator from New York was declared the winner in the South Dakota and California presidential primaries in the 1968 election. He was pronounced dead at 1:44 a.m. PDT on June 6, about 26 hours after he had been shot.Following dual victories in the California and South Dakota primary elections for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, Senator Kennedy spoke to journalists and campaign workers at a live televised celebration from the stage of his headquarters at the Ambassador Hotel. Shortly after leaving the podium and exiting through a kitchen hallway, he was mortally wounded by multiple shots fired from a handgun. Kennedy died in the Good Samaritan Hospital 26 hours later. The shooter was 24-year-old Sirhan Sirhan. In 1969, Sirhan was convicted of murdering the senator and sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1972. A freelance newspaper reporter recorded the shooting on audio tape, and the aftermath was captured on film.Kennedy's remains were taken to St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York for two days of public viewing before a funeral Mass was held on June 8. His funeral train traveled from New York to Washington DC, and throngs of spectators lined the route to view the journey. His body was interred at night in Arlington National Cemetery near his brother John. His death prompted the United States Secret Service to protect presidential candidates. Vice President Hubert Humphrey was also a presidential candidate; he went on to win the Democratic nomination but ultimately lost the election to Republican candidate Richard Nixon.

The assassination of Robert Kennedy has been incorporated in conspiracy theories; to date, some claim no credible evidence has emerged that Sirhan was not the shooter, or that he didn't act alone. However, as reported in The Washington post on 2/9/2019, a new book by Lisa Pease, "A Lie Too Big to Fail" brings new evidence and testimony suggesting that there were other shooters than Sirhan Sirhan and that the RFK assassination was organized by Robert Maheu, a former FBI and CIA agent. Kennedy and Huey Long of Louisiana (in 1935) are the only two sitting United States Senators to be assassinated.

Attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan

On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan and three others were shot and wounded by John Hinckley Jr. in Washington, D.C., as they were leaving a speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Hinckley's motivation for the attack was to impress actress Jodie Foster, who had played the role of a child prostitute in the 1976 film Taxi Driver. After seeing the film, Hinckley had developed an obsession with Foster.

Reagan was struck by a single bullet that broke a rib, punctured a lung, and caused serious internal bleeding, but he recovered quickly. No formal invocation of presidential succession took place, although Secretary of State Alexander Haig stated that he was "in control here" while Vice President George H. W. Bush returned to Washington.

Besides Reagan, White House Press Secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy, and police officer Thomas Delahanty were also wounded. All three survived, but Brady suffered brain damage and was permanently disabled; Brady's death in 2014 was considered homicide because it was ultimately caused by this injury.A federal judge subpoenaed Foster to testify at Hinckley's trial, and he was found not guilty by reason of insanity on charges of attempting to assassinate the president. Hinckley remained confined to a psychiatric facility. In January 2015, federal prosecutors announced that they would not charge Hinckley with Brady's death, despite the medical examiner's classification of his death as a homicide. On July 27, 2016, it was announced he would be released by August 5 to live with his mother in Williamsburg, Virginia; he was subsequently released on September 10.

Jack Ruby

Jack Leon Ruby (born Jacob Leon Rubenstein; April 25, 1911 – January 3, 1967) was a Dallas, Texas nightclub owner. He fatally shot Lee Harvey Oswald on November 24, 1963, while Oswald was in police custody after being charged with assassinating United States President John F. Kennedy and murdering Dallas policeman J. D. Tippit about an hour later. A Dallas jury found him guilty of murdering Oswald, and he was sentenced to death. Ruby's conviction was later appealed, and he was granted a new trial. However, on January 3, 1967, as the date for his new trial was being set, Ruby became ill in his prison cell and died of a pulmonary embolism from lung cancer.In September 1964, the Warren Commission concluded that Ruby acted alone in killing Oswald. Various groups believed Ruby was involved with major figures in organized crime and that he killed Oswald as part of an overall plot surrounding the assassination of Kennedy.

John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories

The assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 has spurred numerous conspiracy theories, which include accusations of involvement of the CIA, the Mafia, sitting Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro, the KGB, or even some combination thereof. Some conspiracy theories further claim that the US federal government covered up crucial information in the aftermath of the assassination, which turned out to be true regarding the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Fidel Castro. Former Los Angeles District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi estimated that a total of 42 groups, 82 assassins, and 214 people had been accused at one time or another in various conspiracy scenarios.In 1964, the Warren Commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was the only person responsible for assassinating Kennedy. In 1979, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that the President was assassinated probably as a result of a Mafia conspiracy, stating in their final report, "The committee found that Trafficante, like Marcello, had the motive, means, and opportunity to assassinate President Kennedy." The HSCA reasoned that a second gunman probably also fired at Kennedy, but acoustic evidence that the HSCA accepted in reaching its conclusions regarding a second gunman was later possibly discredited by another set of experts.Other federal and municipal investigations have been conducted, some of which potentially support the conclusions reached in the Warren Commission report involving Oswald as a lone shooter. Other conclusions by the Warren Commission have been challenged, such as the Warren Commission assertion: "Based on its evaluation of the record, however, the Commission believes that the evidence does not establish a significant link between Ruby and organized crime. Both State and Federal officials have indicated that Ruby was not affiliated with organized criminal activity." Among those who have disputed the Warren Commission's assessment of Ruby's link to organized crime is Chief Counsel and Staffing Director of the HSCA, G. Robert Blakey. Blakey summarized some of his and the HSCA's findings in a 1993 Washington Post article, noting: “It is difficult to dispute the underworld pedigree of Jack Ruby, though the Warren Commission did it in 1964. Author Gerald Posner similarly ignores Ruby's ties to Joseph Civello, the organized crime boss in Dallas. His relationship with Joseph Campisi, the No. 2 man in the mob in Dallas, is even more difficult to ignore. In fact, Campisi and Ruby were close friends; they had dinner together at Campisi's restaurant, the Egyptian Lounge, on the night before the assassination. After Ruby was jailed for killing Oswald, Campisi regularly visited him. The select committee thought Campisi's connection to Marcello was telling; he told us, for example, that every year at Christmas he sent 260 pounds of Italian sausage to Marcello, a sort of Mafia tribute. We also learned that he called New Orleans up to 20 times a day.” A majority of Americans polled indicated a belief in some sort of conspiracy.

John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth (May 10, 1838 – April 26, 1865) was an American actor who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1865. He was a member of the prominent 19th-century Booth theatrical family from Maryland and a well-known actor in his own right. He was also a Confederate sympathizer, vehement in his denunciation of Lincoln and strongly opposed to the abolition of slavery in the United States.Booth and a group of co-conspirators originally plotted to kidnap Lincoln but later planned to kill him, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William H. Seward in a bid to help the Confederacy's cause. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had surrendered four days earlier, but Booth believed that the American Civil War was not yet over because Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston's army was still fighting the Union Army.

Booth was completely successful in carrying out his part of the plot. He shot Lincoln once in the back of the head, and the President died the next morning. Seward was severely wounded but recovered, and Vice President Johnson was never attacked.

After the assassination, Booth fled on horseback to southern Maryland and, 12 days later, arrived at a farm in rural northern Virginia where he was tracked down. Booth's companion gave himself up, but Booth refused and was shot by Union soldier Boston Corbett after the barn in which he was hiding was set ablaze. Eight other conspirators were tried and convicted, and four were hanged shortly after.

Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar (; Latin pronunciation: [ˈɡaː.i.ʊs ˈjuː.li.ʊs ˈkae̯.sar]; 12 or 13 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC), known by his nomen and cognomen Julius Caesar, was a Roman politician, military general, and historian who played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. He is also known as an author of Latin prose.

In 60 BC, Caesar, Crassus and Pompey formed the First Triumvirate, a political alliance that dominated Roman politics for several years. Their attempts to amass power as Populares were opposed by the Optimates within the Roman Senate, among them Cato the Younger with the frequent support of Cicero. Caesar rose to become one of the most powerful politicians in the Roman Republic through a number of his accomplishments, notably his victories in the Gallic Wars, completed by 51 BC. During this time, Caesar became the first Roman general to cross both the English Channel and the Rhine River, when he built a bridge across the Rhine and crossed the Channel to invade Britain. Caesar's wars extended Rome's territory to Britain and past Gaul. These achievements granted him unmatched military power and threatened to eclipse the standing of Pompey, who had realigned himself with the Senate after the death of Crassus in 53 BC. With the Gallic Wars concluded, the Senate ordered Caesar to step down from his military command and return to Rome. Leaving his command in Gaul meant losing his immunity from being charged as a criminal for waging unsanctioned wars. As a result, Caesar found himself with no other options but to cross the Rubicon with the 13th Legion, leaving his province and illegally entering Roman Italy under arms. This began Caesar's civil war, and his victory in the war put him in an unrivaled position of power and influence.

After assuming control of government, Caesar began a program of social and governmental reforms, including the creation of the Julian calendar. He gave citizenship to many residents of far regions of the Roman Empire. He initiated land reform and support for veterans. He centralized the bureaucracy of the Republic and was eventually proclaimed "dictator for life" (Latin: "dictator perpetuo"), giving him additional authority. His populist and authoritarian reforms angered the elites, who began to conspire against him. On the Ides of March (15 March), 44 BC, Caesar was assassinated by a group of rebellious senators led by Gaius Cassius Longinus, Marcus Junius Brutus and Decimus Junius Brutus, who stabbed him to death. A new series of civil wars broke out and the constitutional government of the Republic was never fully restored. Caesar's adopted heir Octavian, later known as Augustus, rose to sole power after defeating his opponents in the civil war. Octavian set about solidifying his power, and the era of the Roman Empire began.

Much of Caesar's life is known from his own accounts of his military campaigns and from other contemporary sources, mainly the letters and speeches of Cicero and the historical writings of Sallust. The later biographies of Caesar by Suetonius and Plutarch are also major sources. Caesar is considered by many historians to be one of the greatest military commanders in history. His cognomen was subsequently adopted as a synonym for "Emperor"; the title "Caesar" was used throughout the Roman Empire, giving rise to modern cognates such as Kaiser or Tsar. He has frequently appeared in literary and artistic works, and his political philosophy, known as Caesarism, inspired politicians into the modern era.

Lee Harvey Oswald

Lee Harvey Oswald (October 18, 1939 – November 24, 1963) was an American Marxist and former U.S. Marine who assassinated United States President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Oswald was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps and defected to the Soviet Union in October 1959. He lived in the Belarusian city of Minsk until June 1962, when he returned to the United States with his Russian wife, Marina, and eventually settled in Dallas. Five government investigations concluded that Oswald shot and killed Kennedy from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository as the President traveled by motorcade through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas.

About 45 minutes after Oswald assassinated Kennedy, he shot and killed Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit on a local street. Oswald then slipped into a movie theater, where he was arrested for Tippit's murder. Oswald was eventually charged with the murder of Kennedy; he denied the accusations and stated that he was a "patsy". Two days later, Oswald was fatally shot by local nightclub owner Jack Ruby on live television in the basement of Dallas Police Headquarters.

In September 1964, the Warren Commission concluded that Oswald acted alone when he assassinated Kennedy by firing three shots from the Texas School Book Depository. This conclusion, though controversial, was supported by previous investigations from the FBI, the Secret Service, and the Dallas Police Department. Despite forensic, ballistic, and eyewitness evidence that supports the official findings, public opinion polls have shown that most Americans do not believe the official version of the events. The assassination has spawned numerous conspiracy theories.

List of United States presidential assassination attempts and plots

Assassination attempts and plots on the President of the United States have been numerous, ranging from the early 19th century to the 2010s. More than 30 attempts to kill an incumbent or former president, or a president-elect have been made since the early 19th century. Four sitting presidents have been killed, all of them by gunshot: Abraham Lincoln (1865), James A. Garfield (1881), William McKinley (1901), and John F. Kennedy (1963). Additionally, two presidents have been injured in attempted assassinations, also by gunshot: Theodore Roosevelt (1912; former president at the time) and Ronald Reagan (1981).

Although the historian James W. Clarke has suggested that most American assassinations were politically motivated actions, carried out by rational men, not all such attacks have been undertaken for political reasons. Some attackers had questionable mental stability, and a few were judged legally insane. Since the vice president has for more than a century been elected from the same political party as the president, the assassination of the president is unlikely to result in major policy changes. This may explain why political groups typically do not make such attacks.

Warren Commission

The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, known unofficially as the Warren Commission, was established by President Lyndon B. Johnson through Executive Order 11130 on November 29, 1963 to investigate the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy that had taken place on November 22, 1963. The U.S. Congress passed Senate Joint Resolution 137 authorizing the Presidential appointed Commission to report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, mandating the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of evidence. Its 888-page final report was presented to President Johnson on September 24, 1964 and made public three days later. It concluded that President Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald and that Oswald acted entirely alone. It also concluded that Jack Ruby acted alone when he killed Oswald two days later. The Commission's findings have proven controversial and have been both challenged and supported by later studies.

The Commission took its unofficial name—the Warren Commission—from its chairman, Chief Justice Earl Warren. According to published transcripts of Johnson's presidential phone conversations, some major officials were opposed to forming such a commission and several commission members took part only reluctantly. One of their chief reservations was that a commission would ultimately create more controversy than consensus.

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