WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Justice Department has asked federal prosecutor John Durham to examine whether CIA interrogations of suspected terrorists were illegal, a source told CNN.
Related: Prosecutor to investigate CIA interrogations, source says
Full statement from the Justice Department after the jump
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama has approved the establishment of a special unit of terrorist interrogators based out of the FBI, senior administration officials said Monday.
The move comes in the wake of criticism of questionable CIA interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding and the transfer of detainees to countries where torture is common.
A 2004 CIA report detailing the use of unauthorized interrogation methods - including the threatened use of a gun and an electric drill - is expected to be made public Monday.
The decision to place the FBI, rather than the CIA, in charge of the interrogations of suspected terrorists represents a major shift in U.S. national security policy.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The House Intelligence Committee will investigate whether any laws were broken when the CIA concealed a now-canceled counterterrorism program from Congress, the panel's chairman announced Friday.
Among the things the committee will look into is "whether there was any past decision or direction to withhold information from the committee," Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, said in a statement announcing the probe.
"I intend to make this investigation fair and thorough, and it is my goal that it will not become a distraction to the men and women of the CIA," he said.
"However, in order to assist them fully and keep them well-resourced, it is the responsibility of the executive branch to ensure that the committee is kept fully and currently informed of all significant anticipated intelligence activities."
CIA Director Leon Panetta told a congressional committee in June that he was told former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the intelligence agency to withhold information about the secret program from Congress. Panetta terminated the program when he found out about it last month. The spy agency said Thursday that the program was never put into full effect and played no significant role in the battle against al Qaeda and other violent extremists.
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.
Related: Cheney and alleged secret CIA program 'a problem,' Senator says
“This is very suspect timing,” Republican strategist and former Cheney adviser Mary Matalin said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “The president’s agenda is almost in shambles. His [poll] numbers are dropping. Isn’t it coincidental; they gin up a Cheney story.”
Matalin also said that the Executive branch has some authority under the nation’s intelligence laws to not disclose information to Congress under certain circumstances. “The more people that know, the more it leaks . . . and then the enemy knows what it is,” Matalin said of details about other intelligence programs that were leaked to the media.
“Every time they get in trouble . . . they dredge up a Darth Vader story,” Matalin also said, making a reference to past comparisons between Cheney and the villain in the “Stars Wars’ movies.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Congressman Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday that “it’s disturbing” that former Vice President Dick Cheney may have ordered the CIA to withhold information from Congress.
Related: Cheney and alleged secret CIA program 'a problem.' Senator says
The refusal to disclose a top-secret program to the few members of Congress authorized to review the sensitive material was “absolutely not” appropriate, Murphy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Sunday’s State of the Union.
Though he has recently been briefed by CIA chief Leon Panetta on the nature of the secret program, he said that because the information is top secret he would not talk about it on TV or in private.
On the issue of gays in the military, Murphy said that now is the “best time to move” on repealing the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Thirteen thousand servicemen and women have been discharged under the highly controversial policy, he noted.
Though he believes President Obama supports repealing the policy, he said he understands it’s up to Congress to change it.
“It was an act of Congress that put this discriminatory law in place. It will take an act of Congress to repeal it.”
WASHINGTON (CNN) - CIA Director Leon Panetta testified to a congressional committee that he was told former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the intelligence agency to withhold information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Sunday.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, told the "FOX News Sunday" program that Panetta testified that "he was told that the vice president had ordered that the program not be briefed to the Congress."
"I think this is a problem, obviously," Feinstein said, adding that the law requires full disclosure of such operations to Congress.
The disclosure by Panetta to both the Senate and House intelligence committees about Cheney's involvement was first reported in The New York Times. Efforts to contact Cheney for reaction were unsuccessful.
CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano declined to comment on the report.
"It's not agency practice to discuss what may or may not have been said in a classified briefing," Gimigliano said. "When a CIA unit brought this matter to Director Panetta's attention, it was with the recommendation that it be shared with Congress. That was also his view, and he took swift, decisive action to put it into effect."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A day after reports that former Vice President Cheney instructed the Central Intelligence Agency not to share with Congress information about a specific intelligence program, Republicans are attempting to downplay a possible violation of the laws governing intelligence gathering while Democrats are attempting to sound an alarm about the possibility of Congress being denied critical information affecting national security.
“That’s a serious breach,” Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
Fellow Democrat Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan said she would be “extremely surprised” if a loophole in the laws governing briefing Congress would justify what the CIA reportedly did at Cheney’s direction.
Stebanow said reports that Cheney had directed the withholding of information from Congress were “very, very serious.”
“But this really, goes to a larger question that we struggled with throughout the [George W.] Bush presidency – which is checks and balances.”
“There is a reason why we have checks and balances,” Stabenow also said Sunday, “we don’t have a dictatorship. We have a Congress that is a responsible to oversee and to ask questions on behalf of the people. And I think that’s what we saw continually challenged,” during the last administration.
Republican Sen. Judd Gregg said that, if true, reports about Cheney’s directions to the CIA suggested actions that were not appropriate but the senator also said Sunday that the recent reports might be the beginning of using the intelligence agency as “a whipping boy.” That kind of reaction runs the risk of undermining the morale of the agency while it is playing a critical role in battling terrorism, Gregg also said.
Related: Holder considers prosecutor to probe interrogations, source says
Fellow Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander suggested that concerns among Congressional Democrats about the extent of briefings by the CIA might undermine the agency’s mission.
“The CIA is in the secrecy business . . . the best way to ruin the secrecy business is to tell a lot of Members of Congress,” Alexander told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
Alexander suggested that the so-called “gang of eight,” Congressional leaders with responsibility for overseeing intelligence, should sit down with President Obama and the new CIA director ask for the information they are entitled to under the nation’s intelligence laws.
(CNN) - Sen. John McCain thinks we haven't heard the last about allegations that former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered secrecy for a CIA surveillance operation after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
"If I know Washington, this is the beginning of a pretty involved and detailed story," McCain said Sunday on the NBC program "Meet the Press."
According to a New York Times report, Cheney ordered the CIA to withhold information about the unspecified program from Congress.
CIA Director Leon Panetta told the House Intelligence Committee last month about the program, which he said had been shut down.
McCain said he knew little about the program and offered no details. He said he expected Cheney, who has yet to comment on the story, to speak up.
"The vice president should be heard from" about the accusations leveled against him, McCain said.
Related: Cheney and alleged secret CIA program 'a problem,' Senator says