Scott Shane (about 20 minutes ago) at The New York Times has filled in much more detail, here, going well-beyond what was learned from The Wall Street Journal, overnight — do go read all of this meaty new article:
. . .The program was designed in the frantic weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks when President Bush signed a secret order authorizing the C.I.A. to capture or kill Qaeda operatives around the world. To be able to kill Osama bin Laden or his top deputies wherever they might be — even in cities or countries far from a war zone — struck top officials as an urgent goal, according to people involved in the discussions.
“It sounds great in the movies, but when you try to do it it’s not that easy,” said one former intelligence official. “Where do you base them? What do they look like? Are they going to be sitting around at headquarters on 24-hour alert waiting to be called?”. . .
But Congressional Democrats were furious that the program had not been shared with the committees. The Senate and House oversight committees had been created by law in the 1970s as a direct response to disclosures of C.I.A. abuses, notably including assassination plots against Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, Fidel Castro in Cuba, and other foreign politicians. In addition, President Gerald Ford in 1976 issued an executive order banning assassinations.
But the ban does not apply to the killing of enemies in a war. . . [And, apparently, Bush took that position.]
Hina Shamsi, an adviser to the Project on Extrajudicial Execution at New York University, said such a calculation about inserting a kill team would include the violation of the sovereignty of the country where the killing occurred; the different legal status of the C.I.A. by comparison with the uniformed military; and whether the killing would be covered by the law of war.
“The issue is a complex one under international law, and it encompasses all of the contentious issues of the years since 2001,” Ms. Shamsi said. . .
Wow. I hate being right, all the time — about the Dick. I really do.