As part of his strategy to blame everyone but himself for failures in counterterrorism policy, Attorney General John Ashcroft brashly told the 9/11 panel in his <a target= "new" href="opening statement yesterday that when he entered office in 2001, after a "thorough review," he discovered there was "no covert action program to kill bin Laden" in place from the previous administration. So he "recommended that the covert action authorities be clarified and be expanded to allow for decisive, lethal action. We should end the failed capture policy, I said. We should find and kill bin Laden."
But the 9/11 panel hinted not so subtly yesterday that there was indeed such a "kill order" in place dating from the Clinton years. As the Washington Post described this morning: "Commissioners were vague on details, citing secrecy rules, but indicated that the document rebutted assertions by Ashcroft and others that no clear kill order existed." The highly-classified document seems to be one of a raft of materials the Bush White House withheld from the 9/11 commission. During questioning yesterday, 9/11 commissioner Fred Fielding stated that if Ashcroft were to see the Clinton-era document it would "alter [Ashcroft's] evaluation of existing authorities in February of 2001."
There's more on the kill order controversy at LiberalOasis.