July 16th, 2009
10:27 AM ET
9 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. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    Well of course the CIA would said that... CIA is a secret government and runs by itself despite what the public thinks. It 's all connected to the secret GOP Skull and Bones, and it should be totally disbanded.

    July 16, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  2. Larry

    Nice try Little.

    This investigation needs to go forward.

    July 16, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  3. citizenjane

    "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.

    In other words, the program failed miserably. No real surprise. Finding Bin Laden was a miserable failure as well. In fact, the entire Bush presidency was a failure.

    Misleading Congress is another matter all together.

    July 16, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  4. dominican mama 4 Obama

    spell check on myself: "evidenced" not "evedenced", before th spell po-po gets me!

    July 16, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  5. I laugh at comrade Limbaugh daily

    Well the two fake,tough guy cowboys couldnt catchem because hes hiding in Saudi Arabia,not some cave and they knew it.They didnt want to offend their oil friends and kill or capture a family member.

    July 16, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  6. GI Joe

    Cheney and his puppet Bush need to be investigated thoroughly. I'll complain to my representatives as long as it takes. If they don't listen, they will NOT get my vote.

    July 16, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  7. phoenix86

    Another red-herring thrown by the democrats to hide from the voter that they just pushed the tax rate in the US to 57%.

    Change you believed in eh?

    July 16, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  8. Sam I Am

    I think everyone is missing the point. The fact that this operation existed, and was not properly disclosed, is the issue here. This is akin to a bank robber going into a bank with a mask and a gun, and then saying, ah, nevermind, we never actually robbed the bank.

    July 16, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  9. Hopeful Optimist

    It's not the fact that the program was never operational that is important, but, rather, the fact that it was intended to be part of Cheney's secret little war within a war. When will some Americans ever wake and realize that people like Cheney, Rove, Rumsfield, etal. are dangerous and devious characters that harken to another time and another continent; yet given similar circumstances could have been named Hess, Goering, Himler, Mengele, Eichmann, Speer, etal. You get the point, surely. The cowardly, dark corner, back room, little people who are capable of monstrous deeds.

    July 16, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  10. Deb

    Whether the program was operational is almost besides the point. The fact that it was hidden and not revealed to Congress is the bigger issue. The fact the Vice President took it upon himself to keep this program a secret except for the chosen few is what is really troubling.

    July 16, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  11. Baffled

    Why are we making a mountain out of the mole-hill that was a PLAN. This was a program that never got out of the brain-storming stage. It did nothing, and cost little to nothing. Now the do nothing Congress wants to hold hearing on plans to kill terrorist who have attacked America...am I the only one baffled by this?
    Is killing these scumbags up close a bad thing? Don't we do that already with missles and bombs, etc.?
    How does killing an Al-Queda terrorist with a Hellfire missle from a Predator drone differ from having a Special Ops or CIA marksman take the same guy out from 1200 meters with an M107?
    The fact that this is even in debate is incredulous.
    I guess our next move will be to just apologize to Bin Laden and all submit to Islam now since we are all evil infidels!

    July 16, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  12. Alicia

    This does not add up. I believe that our CIA is much more on top of things instead of sitting around for what almost five years deciding wheter to go active or not? Very fishy.

    July 16, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  13. Nationalism is our answer!!

    Sometimes what you don't know won't hurt you. Quit making a fool out of this country and run it already !!

    July 16, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  14. Royster

    Let me get this straight....if we were going to bomb another country, and did not tell Congress, but then scrapped the bombing plans...than THAT is OK??
    What kind of lame excuse is George Little offering....it is OK to hide stuff from congress because they did not go through with it all the way??
    At WHAT POINT should Congress have legally been notified...THAT is the point Mr. Little. What other CIA programs are in the planning stages where Congress has not been notified?

    This is as lame as Cheney defending Guantanamo!

    July 16, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  15. Marc

    Does it matter?
    Cheney broke the law, and I am not saying laws that are usually observed in the Civil Courts so don't compare this to what Sanford did (adultery, at first). The law he broke exist to make sure that while the CIA will not have unecessary interference on their work, they will NOT have a free-pass or 'carte blanche' to do anything they ALONE might believe that is best for the country.

    July 16, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  16. donttreadonme

    While the CIA shouldn’t lie to congress, sometimes intelligence is on a “need to know” basis.

    This is just another example of a newly appointed lib-dem bringing politics into a national security function such as the CIA.
    Big surprise this coming from Panetta the career dem politician, lawyer and Civil Rights worker who Obama inappropriately appointment to run the CIA. No intelligence experience required to run the CIA???

    The systematic weakening of our Defenses and Government Agencies is a scary thing to watch. Welcome to liberal America.

    July 16, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  17. Peoples Voice

    Oh my!! The CIA mislead Congress. It appears the Speaker of the House was telling the truth and the CIA were the ones who lied.

    Anyone want to apologize to Ms. Speaker? I doubt any of you who criticized her have the class and proper up bringing to do so.

    July 16, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  18. Failin' Palin supports the Republiklan creed “money talked and Ms. Bu!!$h!t walked” away from her duty to serve the citizens of Alaska!

    Whether it was put into place or not, is not the issue.

    The issue is the fact the CIA was going to implement a program that had serious consequences, and the directive was given to NOT tell Congress.

    I personally, think it should have been in effect as long as Congress was informed. However, no branch of the government is allowed to work in secrecy. That circumvents the checks and balances in place.

    I would also like to know what the CIA did with the 1.2 million allocated to this project that was never implemented!

    July 16, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  19. Fla.

    Are we supposed to believe after all this time, Cheney's backdoor operations were not implemented? Sorry, but I do NOT trust Cheney's deceptive practices at all.

    Not to mention, the operant word here, "fully," is subjective and sounds suspicious at best, deviating at worst.

    If there were no secret CIA operations illegally ordered by Cheney in the first place, this would not be an issue.

    Cheney, Tenet, Rove, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Armitage, Libby, and the rest of their ilk belong in jail for what they imposed on our great country.

    July 16, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  20. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    @ dontreadonme/southerncousin

    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.

    The key phrase in this article is "including any significant ANTICIPATED intelligence activity." Why was this kept from Congress. Cheney blatantly broke the law. Read a book and get off of the Fixed News Channel.

    July 16, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  21. Joe in Austin

    don't believe it.

    July 16, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  22. Steve (the real one)

    @citizenjane July 16th, 2009 11:05 am ET
    In other words, the program failed miserably. No real surprise. Finding Bin Laden was a miserable failure as well. In fact, the entire Bush presidency was a failure.
    I guess then that finding Bin Laden under Clinton was such a great success! Didn't we read how Clinton was offered Bin Laden and how he said no thank you? Or doesn't that count? If Bush was such a failure why don't you just send back your stimulous check? The pre judgement of a program you know nothing about? No real surprise!

    July 16, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  23. mypitts2

    Yes. Never operational. That's why they had to shut it down.

    July 16, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  24. Rick in OP

    The Democrats are following a path similar to the one they took in the 1970’s, i.e., to do their best to destroy our intelligence services. This is what happens when you let a bunch of hippies run the country.

    July 16, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  25. Gary D.

    Indict Cheney and Bush. NOW

    July 16, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
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