In military and other covert operations, terminate with extreme prejudice is a euphemism for aggressive execution (playing on the expression "termination with prejudice" of an employment contract). In a military intelligence context, it is generally understood as an order to assassinate. Its meaning was explained in a New York Times report on an incident during the Vietnam War. In the context of Apocalypse Now, "extreme prejudice" may imply destructive results, i.e. wipe off map. It could also mean for the soldier to have resignation, perform the assassination without emotional involvement to better ensure the success rate. Martin Sheen's character might have changed his mind when he met the Colonel, maybe assessed the situation differently. Instead he was cautioned to proceed only with the information the officers told him, not to make judgements of his own. In other words, terminate with the preconceived view (prejudice) he has of Colonel Kurtz, the view the officers gave him.
According to Douglas Valentine in his book The Phoenix Program (1990), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) routinely used the term during the Vietnam War when firing its locally hired operatives. In cases of extreme misconduct, an assassination ("termination with extreme prejudice") was ordered.
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The term was used in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now, in which Captain Willard is ordered by Jerry, a man in civilian attire (presumably CIA), to "terminate the command" of the allegedly insane Colonel Kurtz with "extreme prejudice." The full exchange runs (emphasis added):,
- Colonel Lucas: Your mission is to proceed up the Nung River in a Navy patrol boat. Pick up Colonel Kurtz's path at Nu Mung Bha, follow it, learn what you can along the way. When you find the Colonel, infiltrate his team by whatever means available and terminate the Colonel's command.
- Willard: Terminate... the Colonel?
- General Corman: He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. And he is still in the field commanding troops.
- Jerry: Terminate with extreme prejudice.
- Colonel Lucas: You understand, Captain, that this mission does not exist, nor will it ever exist.
In the episode "Extreme Prejudice" on the crime drama NCIS, a bombing strikes the NCIS building and in previous episodes the same perpetrator has targeted other Navy establishments and servicemen. The Secretary of the Navy gets instructions from the President to "proceed with extreme prejudice" against the bomber.
In the mission "Just Like Old Times" of the first-person shooter video game "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2", General Shepherd gives the order to "terminate with extreme prejudice" Captains Price and Soap.
In the video game Crysis 3, NAX, the enemy faction's security AI, instructs operatives to terminate Prophet with extreme prejudice as he enters a secure area near a dam inside the Liberty Dome.
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- Deadly force
- Licence to kill (concept)
- Details of Green Beret Case Are Reported in Saigon, Terence Smith, The New York Times, August 14, 1969 "...suggested that he either be isolated or 'terminated with extreme prejudice.' This term is said to be an intelligence euphemism for execution."
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