Home > CIA, Geopolitics > The secret wars of the CIA – I

The secret wars of the CIA – I

Once again the Central Intelligence Agency has come under fire, this time for not disclosing its secret “kill or capture” counter terrorism program to the U.S. Congress! As an independent U.S. Government agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to senior U.S. policymakers, the CIA is bound by statute to disclose all of its covert operations programs, in minimal measure, to the U.S. Congress and the Senate Intelligence Committee, neither of which this time around were aware of the existence of such a program which was put together by the Bush Administration eight years ago! Incumbent Director, Leon Panetta who became aware of this program sometime late in June, ordered its termination and proceeded to inform the Congress of its erstwhile existence and subsequent termination. As required by Title 50 of the United States Code Chapter 15, Sub Chapter III, “when it becomes necessary to limit access to covert operations findings that could affect vital interests of the U.S., as soon as possible, the President must report at a minimum to the Gang of Eight.”

For several years the CIA has had a very turbulent relationship with the U.S. Congress, often caught concealing many covert operations programs from the latter although mandated to disclose in minimal measure any and all activities undertaken under the ambit of national security. What is surprising is the level of secrecy surrounding the currently terminated program even within the CIA leadership! It is significant to note that former Director Gen. Michael Hayden did not inform his successor of the existence of such a program despite it being very highly likely of his affirmed knowledge of its existence, given his close proximity to the Bush Administration, the President and his Vice-President in particular.

As was believed during the news break of the existence of this program, it is now becoming increasingly clear that former US Vice President Dick Cheney directed, more than once, the CIA not to inform the US Congress about the so called “kill or capture” program. Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein has stated that “Director Panetta did brief us two weeks ago, I believe it was on the 24th of June, and, as had been reported, did tell us that he was told that the vice president had ordered that the program not be briefed to the Congress.” Reacting to comments on the CIA’s delinquent attitude, House Intelligence subcommittee Chairwoman Representative Jan Schakowsky stated that “It’s not as if this was an oversight and over the years it just got buried. There was a decision under several directors of the CIA and administration not to tell the Congress.”

While the CIA leadership has been proactive in informing the Congress this time, it is highly unlikely that this incident will fade away without serious implications for the CIA and the White House. In the recent future, the Congress is likely to express support for the 2010 Intelligence Authorization Bill including a provision that would require the President to inform more than 40 members of Congress about covert operations. While the current administration has threatened to veto the final version of the bill should it include such a provision, it should be noted that mid last year, the Fiscal 2009 Intelligence Authorization Bill was approved by House majority containing stipulations that 75% of money sought for covert actions would be withheld until all members of the House Intelligence panel were briefed on sensitive covert actions.

Now that the affair is out in the open, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Representative Silvestre Reyes has announced that he considers an investigation into alleged CIA violations of the National Security Act, which requires with limited exception that Congress be informed of covert activities. Apparently he has support from fellow representatives who given the long standing Congressional-CIA relationship, the bitter acrimony and hatred involved, will not let the latter go off the hook, without some hard hitting at least!

This is a two-part series outlining CIA’s covert operations programs that have continued to operate without the knowledge of the US Congress. While this post outlines the recent disclosure of DCI Leon Panetta, the upcoming post will outline some of CIA’s most notorious covert programs that have brought it considerable controversies to court!


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