Cheney Behind Illegal C.I.A. Program Concealment

Cheney Behind Illegal C.I.A. Program Concealment


Not that it’s a surprise, but are we at the point now where we start talking seriously about prosecutions? Because it’s apparent that Cheney directed the C.I.A. to break the law by concealing information and if the guy can get away with anything as long as it was done for national security reasons, well, what kind of precedent does that set?

And I do believe this is different than warrantless wiretapping, waterboarding, etc. Because while many people were uncomfortable with those programs, at least our elected officials knew about them.

In any event, here’s the story from NY Times:

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

The report that Mr. Cheney was behind the decision to conceal the still-unidentified program from Congress deepened the mystery surrounding it, suggesting that the Bush administration had put a high priority on the program and its secrecy.

Mr. Panetta, who ended the program when he first learned of its existence from subordinates on June 23, briefed the two intelligence committees about it in separate closed sessions the next day.

And here’s the kicker…apparently the program wasn’t that important…

Intelligence and Congressional officials have said the unidentified program did not involve the C.I.A. interrogation program and did not involve domestic intelligence activities. They have said the program was started by the counterterrorism center at the C.I.A. shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but never became fully operational, involving planning and some training that took place off and on from 2001 until this year.

“Because this program never went fully operational and hadn’t been briefed as Panetta thought it should have been, his decision to kill it was neither difficult nor controversial,” one intelligence official, who would speak about the classified program only on condition of anonymity. “That’s worth remembering amid all the drama.”

Why did Cheney want to keep it so hush hush? Maybe to simply see if he could? A test case to see if the C.I.A. would keep its mouth shut?

Hopefully we’ll find out soon enough.

  • Tully

    And your hyperbolic assignation of blatant illegality and your calling for prosecutions despite your near-total ignorance of anything remotely substantive about the never-operational proposed program is based on what, exactly?

    A program that never goes operational is categorically NOT “significant anticipated intelligence activity,” per the statute. Not unless and until it is proposed to go operational need it be briefed to Congress. That is indeed a valid judgement call, right up until it is set to go operational. And the one thing that is clear from the NYT article, which is mostly a re-hash of past BS, is that the program never reached that stage.

  • TerenceC

    If they were told not to brief Congress then it’s a fair assumption that we don’t know with certainty that any of the “programs” were or were not operational over the course of 8 years. As far as briefings are concerned, the CIA does have to brief the Intelligence Oversight Committee including training programs – if they were told to with hold information this is illegal. There aren’t any facts to substantiate allegations on either side of this argument. We know Cheney broke other laws without penalty – but this one is hard to prove, although easy to believe.

  • Jimmy the Dhimmi

    According to the WAPO, the super-secret, “illegal,” plan that Dick Cheney witheld from Congress was…

    ( – drumroll please – )

    A top secret plan to assassinate Al-Qaeda leaders. Oh Noez! America has lost its moral high ground, or something.

  • Jimmy the Dhimmi


    Not so super-secret after all, sicne the NYT reported on it in 2002. Come on, Nancy. Is your reputaion as a bold-faced liar so bad that you have to get your friends in Congress to make a big stink about this?

    I have yet to hear any mainstream media Pundit even mention that this particular CIA program had nothing to do with waterboarding or interrigation of detainees. Its as if the producers at MSNBC are deliberately keeping their viewers in the dark about the details of the program in question, so that people would just assume that the whitehouse lied about waterboarding to Nancy Pelosi.

  • theWord

    The story is valid because she was being pilloried because she said she was misled and Panetta said “We don’t do that”… Which is now shot to hell.
    Once you know there is a policy of lying, anything you believe as true is only true based on gullibility or luck. For every crdibility gap there is a gullibility fill.

  • Tully

    A “Kill/capture AQ people” program would be enormously popular with most of the public. We’re doing it now anyway. It’s called “war.” The only difference between that and the (reported, possibly false) aim of the program under discussion would be methodology, and as I’ve already noted, it’s still not required to be reported to Congress unless/until it is slated to become an operational program. Which it apparently never was, according to both Panetta and the CIA. This will not stop partisans from tossing some more peppers into the ever-bubbling cauldron of wingnut stew.

    The battle between Congress and the executive over intel and war powers has been ongoing for over two centuries, since the founding of the Republic. Congressional Democrats’ whining in this case (and Holder’s handily-timed rumbling about possible new “investigations” of the previous admin) suspiciously coincide with Obama’s recent steep drop in popularity, the reality-stalling of uber-expensive Democratic legislative dreams, the worsening of the unemployment numbers, and Speaker Pelosi’s attempts to rehab her own image after being caught in her own lies. “Look, Buzz, a spaceship!”

    That battle betweeen Congress and the executive will NOT stop just because Obama’s in office. It may get worse. It’s part of the big grey area between the Constitutional authorities of the legislative and executive branches.

    I have yet to hear any mainstream media Pundit even mention that this particular CIA program had nothing to do with waterboarding or interrigation of detainees.

    Indeed, the NYT article spends most of its time and verbiage re-hashing such old flaps, conflating the previous with the current, and guaranteed to stoke up some renewed BDS in the frothing base. But that’s not media bias, of course. Nope. Uh uh. :-)

  • http://sidewaysmencken.blogspot michael reynolds

    It’s pretty hard to oppose an assassination program and support a Predator program. I can’t quite see why shooting Bin Laden or kidnapping him would be a worse alternative to dropping a missile and killing him and a dozen frolicking preschoolers.

    I’m for both.

    That being said, Congress has a role in overseeing these guys. And by the way, since when is the Veep in the intel chain of command?

  • Tully

    I can’t see much practical difference either, Michael, but we actually do have a standing executive-order policy against covert assassinations. Targeted military bombing falls outside of that. Details, no? I still wouldn’t snitch Castro’s cigars….

    As noted, the bounds of Congressional oversight are defined and limited by statute, namely, NSA 1947 and IOA 1980. If it doesn’t fall into the mandatory-reporting area and they actually don’t want it on the front page of the NYT, the CIA is wise to not tell Congress, which leaks like a sieve on GOOD days. Sound intel compartmentilization procedure, supported as a positive exemption in NSA 1947. Now if it DID fall into the mandatory-reporting area, that’s a much different story, though prosecutions could be a real political loser if the program was targeted as (perhaps falsely and certainly very sketchily) reported.

    The Veep’s job in modern times is largely to do what POTUS tells him to, so if that’s what he was tasked to do, it’s as legit as any properly delegated POTUS authority. Like all the Czars Obama keeps creating.

    I greatly appreciate the leaky-Congress argument, but only up to the letter-of-the-law bounds of that mandatory reporting. I see Hoekstra is bitching in the NYT article. Hoekstra himself proved the leaky-Congress theory last year by Tweeting about a hush-hush trip of the House Intel Committee to Iraq, complete to real-time itinerary. I’m sure his fellow committee members on that trip REALLY appreciated that! “Hey, Pete, did ya run out of neon bull’s-eyes?”

  • Tully

    Kenneth Anderson over at Volokh has some thoughts on the matter. Among other things he points out that the US only began using Predators as a weapons platform in a semi-improvised way after 9-11, that before the system was tested that way the preferred approach was small-team insertions.