- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2009

EXCLUSIVE:

James Woolsey, the CIA director for the Clinton administration, on Thursday defended a Bush-Cheney initiative to assassinate al Qaeda leaders and the agency’s decision to keep the idea top secret.

“It doesn’t appear as if they actually did anything with respect to these projected or possible assassinations of al Qaeda leaders,” Mr. Woolsey, CIA director from 1993 to 1995, told The Washington Times America’s Morning News radio show. “It looks like they talked about it. … I think the way the statute generally works is when you engage in planning or are on the verge of taking an action you really ought to be briefing your congressional committees, or the so-called ‘gang of eight,’ the eight senior members of Congress, not when things are just at a talk stage.”

The Bush administration considered the plan to train anti-terrorist teams to assassinate al Qaeda leaders after their Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.

“We do assassinate al Qaeda leaders,” said Mr. Wooley, 69. “We’re at war with al Qaeda.”

The issue recently resurface when CIA Director Leon Panetta reportedly learned about the plan, then told congressional leaders last month he had terminated it.

Concerns about CIA activities began early this year when President Obama declared some of the Bush administration’s enhanced interrogation techniques as torture.

In May, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the agency of lying to her about waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques.

Mr. Woolsey said the U.S. has a long, unapologetic history of going after people who try to kill Americans that dates back to at least 1942 when the country went looking for the mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attacks.

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