WHAT! The CIA Was Trying to Kill bin Laden?


Ok...so let me get this straight.

Leon Panetta cancelled a secret CIA program to kill or capture Al Qaeda operatives at close range -- meaning using hit teams to do the dirty work instead of Predator drones. The Bush administration makes a presidential finding calling for the assassination or capture of AQ operatives known to Congress, but then conceals the program (which never really got off the ground) from regular briefings since then.

A secret intelligence program canceled by CIA Director Leon Panetta in June was meant to find and then capture or kill al-Qaida leaders at close range rather than target them with air strikes that risked civilian casualties, government officials with knowledge of the operation said Monday.

And why are we all freaked out about this? Doesn't this seem logical in the extreme?

In fact, didn't we execute a couple of those missions of the capture variety with Ramzi Binalshibh and KSM in Pakistan? Sounds like it worked just fine to me.

Panetta canceled the effort on June 23 after learning of its existence, its failure to yield results, and the fact that Congress had been unaware of the program since its inception in 2001, according to one official with direct knowledge of the plan.

That official said former President George W. Bush authorized killing al-Qaida leaders shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and that Congress was made aware of that. However, the official said, Panetta also told members of Congress that according to notes that he had been given on the early months of the program, then-Vice President Dick Cheney directed the CIA not to inform Congress of the specifics of the secret program.

A.) Tell me how firing hellfires from Predators is more ethical or legal than sending a team to kill or capture a single person.

B.) Doesn't this sort of smack of Sandi Berger-esque national security policy? We know from the 9-11 commission report that Berger got cold feet when he had bin Laden in his sights for a proxy raid in Afghanistan because he was afraid of collateral damage and blowback. Now some of the same national security policy minds are back in the driver's seat so we cancel a program to kill bad guys using CIA assets. Great idea folks.

His private revelation ignited a storm of protests from Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee, who accused the CIA of lying to Congress. Some are calling for a congressional investigation.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, suggested that the Bush administration broke the law by concealing a CIA counterterrorism program from Congress. Feinstein said the Bush administration's failure to notify Congress about the 8-year-old counterterrorism program "is a big problem, because the law is very clear."

According to Feinstein, Panetta told Congress late last month that "he had just learned about the program, described it to us, indicated that he had canceled it and ... did tell us that he was told that the vice president had ordered that the program not be briefed to the Congress."

"We were kept in the dark. That's something that should never, ever happen again," said Feinstein.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he agreed with Feinstein that the CIA should keep Congress informed. But Cornyn said the new assertion "looks to me suspiciously like an attempt to provide political cover" to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats. Pelosi has accused the CIA of lying to her in 2002 about its use of waterboarding, or simulated drowning, which many people, including Obama, consider torture.

Once again it's politics, my friends. And Republicans have to be salivating over this one as news trickles out of a justice department probe into interrogation methods. That's all this administration needs as it tries to convince us we need Canada-style health care -- a debate over whether we should be sending spooks to kill or capture Al Qaeda operatives and squeeze information from them (without a lawyer) when we nab one.

-- Christian

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