Secret Intel-Gathering Effort Behind New CIA Flap

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 10, 2009 7:44 AM CDT
CIA director Leon Panetta delivers a speech at the Pacific Council of International Policy event in Los Angeles earlier this year.   (AP Photo/Hector Mata)
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(Newser) – So what's this secret program behind the latest feud between CIA and Congress? It's apparently an "on-again, off-again" effort created after 9/11 to collect intelligence about suspected terrorists, the Washington Post reports. It doesn't involve interrogation, but beyond that, details are murky. CIA chief Leon Panetta learned of it himself only last month and decided that Congress should know about it. His briefings led to the latest accusations from Democrats that the agency has routinely misled lawmakers.

A former Bush official says the program was never a "big deal," but another intel official characterized it as "sensitive" and something Congress should have known about. Republican lawmakers accuse Democrats of raising it to give political cover to Nancy Pelosi over her CIA criticism. Democrats disagree—"instructions were given not to brief Congress," says Dianne Feinstein—and say they may open an investigation into the matter. Panetta, meanwhile, has opened his own internal inquiry.