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When Assassinations Go Wrong

A Week in Review piece in yesterday's NYT sought to explain the tetchiness in Washington about a proposed CIA program to assassinate al Qaeda leaders by "traditionan" means, like a close-range hit squad, as opposed to Predator drone strikes. But the piece neglected to mention what could be Exhibit A in the case against Bond-movie style hits: the botched 1997 Israeli assassination attempt against Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal. Here's the setup:

The method chosen to kill Mashaal was a lethal nerve toxin to be delivered through his skin. Late in September, two Israeli agents checked into the Intercontinental Hotel in Amman with Canadian passports that identified them as Shawn Kendall, 28, and Barry Beads, 36. On Sept. 25, the pair trailed Mashaal to his office, and as the Hamas official walked into the building, one of the agents came up behind him and held a device to Mashaal's left ear that stung him with the poison. The two agents then fled on foot.

But the Israeli agents were caught, and--in one of the most bizarre diplomatic crises in recent memory--Bill Clinton forced then-Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to provide an antitode to save Mashaal's life.

So, you can see why people might be nervous.

--Michael Crowley