Jonah Goldberg

Where's the outrage? If this country had its head on straight, there would be nothing but white-hot popular fury over the latest Bush-era CIA scandal broken by the New York Times.

CIA director Leon Panetta reportedly told congressional committees that under Dick Cheney, the CIA hatched a plan, in the wake of 9/11, to kill senior leaders of al-Qaida. The CIA would send operatives to assassinate these terrorists in their homes and caves, if that's not redundant. President Bush reportedly put Vice President Cheney in charge of the scheme.

Now, here's where it gets confusing. The Democrats and much of the press insist the scandal is that Cheney never briefed Congress about specifics of the plan. There's only one hitch: The program never made it off the drawing board. No CIA operatives were sent out to kill members of al-Qaida.

Frankly, I don't get it. Democratic leaders in Congress think it's outrageous they were never told about a program that was never put into effect. The only potential scandal I can see is that the program was never put into effect -- and that we're telling the whole world about it.

Call me crazy, but I just assumed that the CIA was out there trying to kill as many senior members of al-Qaida as it could. Congress, in the spirit of broad patriotic bipartisan righteousness, authorized the use of force on al-Qaida after it killed 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001. Now we find out that the CIA lacked the competence or will to hunt down and kill men desperately in need of killing.

It's as if, years after Pearl Harbor, it was reported that the OSS had never tried to kill senior Japanese or German officials.

Yet the Democratic Congress is furious that it wasn't fully briefed on an operation that was never operationalized.

And it's worse than that. Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein and others make it sound like some rogue conspiracy was afoot "We were kept in the dark," complained Feinstein. "That's something that should never, ever happen again. Withholding such information from Congress "is a big problem because the law is very clear."

But in the fall of 2001, Bush issued an executive finding authorizing covert counterterrorism measures. Congress was briefed on that. Even a cursory reading of the public record at the time shows that Congress was nothing but supportive of the effort to take the fight to the enemy.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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