CIA Wanted to Turn Assassins Loose

A fuller picture of the secret plan to assassinate al Qaeda members, kept hidden even from Congress, is emerging in the press. While a report in The New York Times earlier this week quoted officials who stressed that the program, which would have used independent hit squads to target victims abroad, was only theoretical and had never been put to use, The Washington Post reports Thursday that the plan was close to moving forward when CIA Director Leon Panetta pulled the plug. According to the Post, the plan had been on ice for eight years, but was about to enter a "somewhat more-operational phase" until Panetta ordered it stopped and informed Congress of its details. But not everyone in the intelligence community was so keen on briefing lawmakers. Obama's Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, although supportive of shelving the plan based on logistical concerns, said that notifying Congress of the program was only optional for the CIA. "It was a judgment call," Blair told the Post. "We believe in erring on the side of working with the Hill as a partner."