About this latest CIA/Cheney hullabaloo: Why would a program designed to kill al Qaeda leaders be so sensitive and controversial--even if the killings were meant to occur in friendly countries. We're doing that via drones within the friendly confines of Pakistan--a friendly country--on a near-daily basis.

And according to this 2004 story by the estimable Steve Coll, the Clinton team had concluded that killing senior al Qaeda leaders was not illegal:

There was little question that under U.S. law it was permissible to kill bin Laden and his top aides, at least after the evidence showed they were responsible for the attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998. The ban on assassinations -- contained in a 1981 executive order by President Ronald Reagan -- did not apply to military targets, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel had previously ruled in classified opinions.

That said, Coll explains how the Clinton team still wound up tortured by legalities; indicating a problem that has persisted for more than a decade.

P.S. The WSJ edit board claims to have seen an internal intelligence finding that civilian deaths from drone attacks have been overstated. 

--Michael Crowley