Kerr said there is an important definitional distinction between "assassination" and "targeted killing":
Part of the problem, I think, is the very word assassination. If you look in the dictionary, I think it's fairly clear what it means. It's political, ideological attempts to kill someone, or a killing. I think what we're talking about in Afghanistan is in a combat situation, where - whether you want to describe it as a formal war or not - we have over 100,000 troops there. And that's quite a different situation when you're trying to essentially go after the leadership and the person who is conducting that war. I would raise the question of would it have been proper to go after Hitler during World War II. Would that be called assassination, cutting off the head of the Nazi regime? I wouldn't consider it that.
On The New Yorker's website, on the News Desk blog, Amy Davidson, one of the magazine's senior editors, has an illuminating post, drawn from Seymour M. Hersh's reportage on the CIA and assassinations, beginning with "What Went Wrong," which was published just after Sept. 11.
So, if you didn't get a chance to hear the show with Koppel and Kerr, download the podcast, put in your earbuds, and dig into a few of these great articles. Forget what Barrie wrote about earlier today. Multitask!
If you want some extra credit, you can read this article, published on MinnPost, about a talk Hersh gave at the University of Minnesota, in which he mentioned — but didn't elaborate on — an "executive assassination ring." (Davidson refers to the talk in her post.)