Secret CIA Plan Aimed to Kill Off al-Qaeda Chiefs

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 12, 2009 7:50 PM CDT
Former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta testifies before the Senate Budget Committee on Captiol Hill October 31, 2007 in Washington, DC.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – The secret CIA plan sparking fury among lawmakers this weekend may have been designed to kill or capture al-Qaeda operatives, the Wall Street Journal reports. Former intelligence officials say that a 2001 legal pronouncement by President Bush led to an operation that was later axed by spy chief Leon Panetta. "It was straight out of the movies," one of the officials says. "It was like: Let's kill them all."

US officials did draft cables approving the assassination of al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, and the CIA poured money into the program, but it was never fully operational, officials say. Lacking support from President Bush and Vice President Cheney, the plan seemed to fade after 6 months. Officials who did support it sought to build CIA and Special Forces commando teams to emulate Israel's response to the Munich Olympics terror attacks.