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(From the diaries. Susan)

Breaking news from the New York Times:

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

The report that Mr. Cheney was behind the decision to conceal the still-unidentified program from Congress deepened the mystery surrounding it, suggesting that the Bush administration had put a high priority on the program and its secrecy.

This is incredibly damning news about the power that Bush/Cheney and the executive branch usurped from the supposed "separation of powers" enshrined in our Constitution.

CIA Director Leon Panetta is now saying that the CIA did not even, as required to by law, report to the so-called Gang of Eight (leaders in Congress and from the intelligence committees) about this covert anti-terrorism unit:

If the President determines that it is essential to limit access to the finding to meet extraordinary circumstances affecting vital interests of the United States, the finding may be reported to the chairmen and ranking minority members of the congressional intelligence committees, the Speaker and minority leader of the House of Representatives, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, and such other member or members of the congressional leadership as may be included by the President.

Sources told the New York Times that this specific intelligence program was not interrogation-oriented, nor was it a domestic surveillance program, so this is not directly related to the Bush administration's role in torturing suspected terrorists, but it is quite possible and somewhat likely, in my opinion, that the sheer amount of evidence of illegal actions piling up is what's prompting AG Eric Holder's newfound willingness to look into torture prosecutions of ex-Bush administration officials:

Holder, 58, may be on the verge of asserting his independence in a profound way. Four knowledgeable sources tell NEWSWEEK that he is now leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration's brutal interrogation practices, something the president has been reluctant to do. While no final decision has been made, an announcement could come in a matter of weeks, say these sources, who decline to be identified discussing a sensitive law-enforcement matter.

We shall see as more is revealed.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sat Jul 11, 2009 at 03:54 PM PDT.

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