July 16th, 2009
10:27 AM ET
5 years ago

CIA claims disputed program was 'never fully operational'

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A counterterrorism program the CIA concealed from Congress was never put into full effect and played no significant role in the conflict with al-Qaeda and other extremists, the CIA said Thursday.

"The program (CIA Director Leon Panetta) killed was never fully operational and never took a single terrorist off the battlefield," CIA spokesman George Little said in a written statement.

"Those are facts he shared with Congress. We've had a string of successes against al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and that program didn't contribute to any of them."

At issue is Panetta's testimony in June to a congressional committee that he was told former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the intelligence agency to withhold information about the secret program from Congress. Several key Senate and House Democrats have argued Cheney acted inappropriately in issuing such an order.

Panetta terminated the program when he found out about it last month.

Panetta briefed lawmakers on June 24 on the unspecified program, according to a publicly released letter from seven House Democrats to Panetta. The June 26 letter characterized Panetta as testifying that the CIA "concealed significant actions from all members of Congress, and misled members for a number of years from 2001 to this week."

The letter contained no details about what information the CIA officials allegedly concealed or how they purportedly misled members of Congress.

–CNN's Pam Benson contributed to this report.


Filed under: CIA • Congress • Leon Panetta
soundoff (64 Responses)
  1. Bubba

    Heck yeah, I believe 'em! The CIA would never lie to anybody!

    July 16, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  2. yuri

    From the available avalanche of facts, it appears that CIA is a confused international activities system of spyin' and it, sure as heck, has raised a lot of eye brows, includin' ours.

    July 16, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  3. PJ

    1. The program was never operational.

    2. It was even reported in newspapers.

    3. If the Democrats need to cover Pelosi's backside, surely they can come up with something more creative than this.

    CIA WORKER 1: I think I'll go have some fast food for lunch.

    CIA WORKER 2: I don't know, man. You might better wait till the Directors briefs Pelosi before you make a decision.

    July 16, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  4. sifto77

    I do not understand why the American people are putting up with democrats and letting them pull these dangerous stunts–they are proving to be the party of the past–not the future. People should be very afraid as the world looks on and watches dems try to tear the country and the CIA apart. Your safety is down the drain with dems and their thirst for power. They are trying to distract the country from the economy and they spin their way to socialism and poverty for all.

    July 16, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  5. Terry from West Texas

    Surely all Americans of any political philosophy can come together and praise Director Panetta for this one act if for nothing else. He acted as any patriot should by disclosing to Congress what the executive branch had been planning to do. Congress should not be excluded from knowledge of the acts of the Federal Government.

    I personally think that the amount of information that is classified it ten times what it should be. I think that most classified information is being kept from American voters, not from any potential enemy. Why do I think that? Because wherever corruption is possible, there corruption will be found – in the corporate board room, in the government, in churches, in universities, in non-profit corporations, anywhere. Public scrutiny is our only protection against corruption.

    July 16, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  6. ab

    How can Cheney justify ordering the CIA to start this covert program was in any way legal?

    What other covert programs or policies did he order?

    July 16, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  7. windfall

    Quick! Cover your tracks!

    July 16, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  8. lxm

    Purely an act by NANCY PELOSI ( LIAR) and Obama to get the attention and heat off her... NOW investigate her!!!!! Get the truth!!!

    July 16, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  9. Shucks

    Sounds like more was covered up than we will ever know during the last dictatorship. After the big WMD lie, and the fact that Osama Bin Laden is a free man, I think any action by the last administration should be in question.

    July 16, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  10. mjm

    Wow. The Dems really have Cheney on the ropes. A program that was never fully developed and never used. You got 'em!

    "concealed significant actions from all members of Congress, and misled members for a number of years from 2001 to this week."

    Yeah...not so much.

    July 16, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  11. southerncousin

    Since this is just a cover up for Nancy Pelosi's stupid remarks, I hope it blows up all over her and dear leaders face. They both already look stupid and more and more people everyday are learning that they lie, cheat and steal.

    July 16, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  12. Zero.

    Onbama's dig for dirt with the rest of the Democrats won't help him.

    The Obama curse is on...

    July 16, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  13. J

    Can I use that excuse when I get caught doing something illegal too??

    July 16, 2009 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  14. Rob Johnson

    Here is the point–As VICE President, Dick Cheney had NO authority to "order" the CIA to do anything.

    Shame on the CIA officials who actually obeyed Cheney's orders as if he was their superior officer, when he most certainly was not. If they had any brains or dignity, they would have told him their orders came from the President, not from him.

    I have as much authority over the CIA as the Vice President, maybe I'll order them to conduct secret surveillance on my mother-in-law

    July 16, 2009 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  15. Anonymous

    As of yet more reason to do a full independent investigation and get the whole story on these criminals. I heard they still hang people for war crimes in most of our allied nations.

    July 16, 2009 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  16. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    If the program was never operational, what was the point of keeping it from Congress? According to the National Security Act, this information was to be passed on to Congress whether it took affect or not.

    TITLE V – ACCOUNTABILITY FOR INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES

    GENERAL CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT PROVISIONS

    SEC. 501. [50 U.S.C. 413] (a)(1) The President shall ensure that the congressional intelligence committees are kept fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States, including any significant anticipated intelligence activity as required by this title.

    July 16, 2009 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  17. Sue, Michigan

    No, they only only killed 'suspected' terrorist sympathizers, not real terrorists. I am glad Panetta stopped this hit squad, and hope that he really did. We should not be in the business of assassinations, and that is why Blackwater was also a horrible idea.

    July 16, 2009 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  18. Anny

    Whether it was operational or not, if Cheney ordered the CIA not to inform Congress then he was trying to hide or continue to do illegal things undercover.......he was a sneak and a sleez bag unfit for the office of VP. A common citizen of this country would have been put in prison for doing less things than what Cheney and Bush have gotten by with......

    July 16, 2009 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  19. Pat F

    Ah, I see now – the whole so-called disclosure was just Panetta playing politics.

    I am seriously disappointed in Panetta – I thought he was better than his bosses.

    July 16, 2009 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  20. Susie

    DUH – and we BELIEVE you????? NOT!!!!!

    July 16, 2009 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  21. Travis

    Oh that evil cheney. Trying to kill terrorists without permission from congress. That ok libs, we will uncover your secret mission to woo the enemy with cake and icecream in the future.

    July 16, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  22. Four and The Door

    Congress has a reliable tradition of leaking anything and everything to the press. This is one program I had hoped existed somewhere and Cheney was exactly correct for protecting it.

    If congress wants to get in on everything it should start holding its members accountable for those self-serving leaks. But that's not going to happen.

    July 16, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  23. Roger

    Goverment concealing information from goverment. What a "Red blooded, God fearing, I love my country more than you do" legacy Cheney leaves.

    July 16, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  24. johnnie

    Why is this something (NEW) we all know ,that (CHENEY) was the (real ) President and not (BUSH) he called the (SHOTS). What , Why all the (Fuss). These clowns , (BELIEVEED) they were above the law,and by the way, (WHERE IS CHENEY) he was running his mouth about the President,everyday, and now he is diong what (republicans) do best ,act like the (COWARDS) they truly are. Climb out from under that (ROCK) or (crawl) out of that hole your in , and be a (MAN) and face the (AMERICAN PEOPLE), since you said the country was less (SAFE) under President Obama, (BOGUS We are more safe now ,because your out of (POWER) Cheney,and by the way,we have not forgotten about you (GEORGE BUSH)not getting off the (HOOK) either. The time is here ,to put these (Above the Law )criiminals on notice, (JUDGEMENT DAY) is comming soon and your going to (GET AWAY ) with it............

    July 16, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  25. Jeff in Atlanta

    Why are the dimocrats so bent on finding wrongdoings with Cheney?

    Everytime they publish this ill advised, un researched claims trying to stick it to him and every time they end up with egg on their faces.

    You notice the evil witch of the west pelosi and her sidekick the cowardly reid are smart enough to let someone else look foolish rather than themselves.

    (I guess this would make obama the wizard which is ironic since each on is nothing but show yet everyone blindly follows.)

    July 16, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
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