Daniel Schorr's insightful column "Hypocrisy About Assassination" {op-ed, Feb. 3} comes to an absurd conclusion: that the executive order prohibiting U.S.-backed attempts to assassinate foreign leaders should be scrapped.

The CIA plots against Third World leaders from South Vietnam's Diem to Cuba's Castro were acts of terrorism. Such terrorism was finally prohibited by President Ford's executive order. The "double talk" Mr. Schorr points out arises from the re-interpretation of the order -- that is, its circumvention.

The pattern of the assassination attempts in the 1950s, '60s and '70s is clear: The U.S. intelligence community singled out leaders -- authoritarian leaders for the most part -- of Third World countries on the verge of becoming powerful enough to interfere with American interests. In some Washington office some official decided that the world could do without these leaders. This pseudo-tribunal bypassed trial, defense and verdict and went straight to the execution.

The United States can't just eliminate everyone it happens to dislike at a given moment. And the fact is it doesn't. We didn't like Stalin, or Brezhnev, for that matter. But assassinating them would not have been some backyard ploy on the CIA playground. It would have had real consequences that are simply not be expected from bullying around small, developing nations.

President Ford's order is a laudable effort to pay tribute to justice and international law. It must be enforced, not eliminated.