Terminate with extreme prejudice

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For the 1987 film, see Extreme Prejudice (film).

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.[1]

According to Douglas Valentine's 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.

In popular culture[edit]

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:,

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.

The term was also used as the title and within the dialogs in the TV-show NCIS. It is used in the first episode of the 10th season which is called "Extreme Prejudice" and deals with the hunt after a domestic terrorist called Harper Dearing. In one of the first scenes the Secretary of the Navy talks to the President of the United States and afterwards informs his subordinates to act with "extreme prejudice" against Dearing.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smith, Terence (August 14, 1969). "Details of Green Beret Case Are Reported in Saigon". The New York Times. suggested that he either be isolated or 'terminated with extreme prejudice.' This term is said to be an intelligence euphemism for execution.