Revelation of secret program prompted CIA spat with Congress [updated]

Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta

More information has emerged about the background to an ongoing dispute between the US House Intelligence Committee and the CIA, which intelNews has been covering since late last month. The Washington Post has now revealed that on June 24, CIA director Leon Panetta informed the US House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of his decision to terminate a CIA project, which the Agency had kept hidden from Congress since 2001. Nobody will publicly state what the secret project involved, except to say that it “was planned and never executed” and that it “never quite achieved its original concept” (whatever this means). But it was this revelation by Panetta that prompted the Committee’s Democratic majority to complain that it had been routinely misled by the CIA and to throw its weight behind a proposed bill that would force US intelligence agencies to make full disclosure of covert spy programs to all members of Congress’ intelligence oversight panels. Meanwhile, the White House is not ecstatic about the idea and on Wednesday informed the House Intelligence Committee that the President plans to veto it, because he believes it would increase the chances of leaks. The Committee is reportedly considering a compromise in order to avoid a Presidential veto.

[UPDATE 12 JULY 12:27 GMT: Several news outlets are reporting that it was former US Vice President Dick Cheney who directly ordered the CIA to conceal from Congress key information about the mysterious program. It is said that the program involved “planning and training”, as well as intelligence-gathering in relation to potential “covert operations abroad”. However, it has again been stressed that the project “never became fully operational”. Apparently the program “did not relate to the CIA’s rendition [practices], interrogation methods or a controversial domestic surveillance project”. Watch this space for more information].

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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