But while there is at least one major U.S. covert action program on Iran, the legal notice requirements weren’t triggered by the separate Soleimani killing. That’s because this action was overt and narrowly defined in scope.

More importantly, there is a long tradition of government attorneys, the courts, and Congress deferring to presidents where they deem it necessary to use force to address a serious, near-term threat to U.S. security. Sometimes there is an existing congressional authority for these actions, such as the post-September 11 authorization that encompassed the operation to kill Osama bin Laden.

But that authorization isn’t necessary where a credible near-term threat exists, and that was certainly the case with Soleimani.