No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.
That policy has been affirmed by four successive Presidents -- Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush -- and enshrined in Executive Order 12333, issued in 1981 and still in effect. Within the Executive Branch, that order has the full force of law. So the U.S. government could not legally kill Saddam Hussein, even if the dictator's death would stave off or shorten a Middle East war.
Or could it?
Yes, say some legal experts. In their...