Washington Former Vice President Dick Cheney directed the CIA eight years ago not to inform Congress about a nascent counterterrorism program that CIA Director Leon Panetta terminated in June, officials with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.
Subsequent CIA directors did not inform Congress because the intelligence-gathering effort had not developed to the point that they believed merited a congressional briefing, said a former intelligence official and another government official familiar with Panetta’s June 24 briefing to the House and Senate Intelligence committees.
Panetta did not agree.
Upon learning of the program June 23 from within the CIA, Panetta terminated it and the next day called an emergency meeting with the House and Senate Intelligence committees to inform them of the program and that it was canceled.
Cheney played a central role in overseeing the Bush administration’s surveillance program that was the subject of an inspectors general report this past week. That report noted that Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington, personally decided who in Bush’s inner circle could even know about the secret program.
But revelations about Cheney’s role in making decisions for the CIA on whether to notify Congress came as a surprise to some on the committees, said another government official. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the program publicly.
A former intelligence official, who was familiar with former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden’s tenure at the CIA, said Hayden never communicated with the president or vice president about the now-canceled program and was under no restrictions from Cheney about congressional briefings. The official said Hayden was briefed only two or three times on the program.
Exactly what the counterterrorism program was meant to do remains a mystery. The former intelligence official said it was not related to the CIA’s rendition, interrogation and detention program. Nor was it part of a wider classified electronic surveillance program that was the subject of a government report to Congress this past week.