Congressional Democrats are “indignant” about a top-secret post-9/11 CIA program to kill al Qaida operatives, said Mark Theissen in National Review Online, because they were not fully briefed on it. “Excuse me, but this is the Democrats’ idea of a scandal?” Most Americans would “not only expect but demand” that we kill al Qaida’s leaders. And the leaking of this now-canceled program is probably why they weren’t informed in the first place.
Dick Cheney ordered the program hidden from Congress because it “pushed the limits of legality,” said Chris McGreal in Britain’s The Guardian, by “planning to assassinate al Qaida operatives in friendly countries without the knowledge of their governments.” But even that wouldn’t be too controversial—there have been many killings and detentions since 9/11, and President Obama has even stepped up unmanned Predator aerial killings
Roaming CIA hit squads make a good story, but ex-CIA officials point to a “somewhat less dramatic” possibility, said Bobby Ghosh in Time: The program involved domestic surveillance. Spying on Americans falls way “outside the CIA’s purview,” and it would be controversial enough to explain CIA chief Leon Panetta’s quick cancellation, and Cheney’s order for it to be “kept under wraps.”
Leaving aside the politics, morality, and specific legality of whatever program was in the works, said Mark Daniels in The Moderate Voice, under what authority did Cheney order its “cover-up”? If I read the Constitution correctly, so long as the president is not incapacitated, the vice president “possesses no executive (or operational) authority.”