Josh is puzzled.
The New York Times is also reporting now that the secret Bush-era CIA program kept from Congress and terminated last month by CIA Director Leon Panetta was a plan to assassinate top al Qaeda officials that was never implemented. This is additional confirmation of the Wall Street Journal story that essentially reported the same basic outlines of the still-classified program.
The Times compares the program to drone attacks against al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “This was another effort that was trying to accomplish the same objective,” Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO), ranking member on the Senate intel committee, tells the paper.[…] So regardless of how you might feel about targeted assassinations, it’s not at all clear why this particular program would be so radioactive — compared to what the U.S. was, and still is, doing more or less openly — that (1) Cheney would demand the CIA not brief Congress about it for eight years; (2) Panetta would cancel it immediately upon learning of it; and (3) Democrats would howl quite so loudly when finally informed.
Phrasing the same question differently, why would we need an assassination squad when drones and bombs accomplish the same thing with less operational risk? Not counting risk for Afghan wedding parties, obviously.
The answer is that you use an assassination squad where you can’t drop a bomb. The difference between, say, cratering a car outside of Kabul and sniping a shopkeeper in Jakarta is that one could at least argue that we are still fighting a war in Afghanistan. Various international treaties, and the Posse Comitatus act, keep our killer drones penned up in Afghanistan and a small part of Pakistan.
Everyone agrees that terrorism doesn’t respect national borders. If you’re a neocon who believes that violence alone can solve problems, what do you do about that? You’ve got all that manly vigor, all that aggression, and you’re using it to scare smaller countries into renegotiating extradition treaties. That must chafe.
BTW, here is a fun idea. Put together secret assassination squads, the One Percent Doctrine and Dick Cheney. Let your imagination run wild about the minute care they must have taken in selecting targets.