In late May, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta learned of a secret intelligence program that had been hidden from Congress for 8 years. He immediately cancelled the initiative--that's how serious it is--and scheduled closed-door meetings with the relevant congressional oversight committees.
So what is this mystery program? And if this is what Panetta is voluntarily disclosing, how much more is being kept secret? Follow me after the jump.
The classified CIA program is an on-again, off-again attempt to create a new intelligence capability and is related to the collection of information on suspected terrorists, which was instituted after 9/11. That's all I've been able to suss out so far. Ironically, if it was a covert action, it would by law have required a presidential finding and a report to congress.
On June 24, Panetta briefed the House and Senate intelligence committees on the program, and that he had shut it down. And Panetta can hardly be considered a chummy Congressional Dems. He has consistently stood with CIA officers in a long-running dispute with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over a similar allegation, namely, that CIA officials intentionally misled her in 2002 about their interrogations of terrorist suspects.
This appears to be yet another brick in the wall of the CIA withholding information from Congress. And I'm dying to know what this classified program is, why it was so secret that even select Members of Congress designated to receive such information were not briefed, and why we're only learning of this now. A former top Bush official said that if the nature of the program could be revealed, then it would be seen as no big deal, which raises the question of why it has been kept under wraps for 8 years from the Congress and the people, and for 4 months from the CIA Director himself.
What can you do?
* Contact Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate intelligence committee, and tell her to demand answers: who ordered the program? where did the money come from? who gave the order not to inform Congress?
* Tell Congress to approve the provision Dems have added to the 2010 intelligence authorization bill, which would forbid the Administration from limiting briefings only to top congressional leaders and the four top lawmakers on the House and Senate committees (though, I must warn you, Obama--yes, Obama--has threatened to veto the bill if such a provision is attached.)
UPDATE: The just-released "Unclassified Report on the President's Surveillance Program," mandated by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, states
Most IC [Intelligence Community] officials interviewed . . . had difficulty citing specific instances where PSP [President's Surveillance Program, a.k.a. the "Terrorist Surveillance Program" under Bush] reporting had directly contributed to counterterrorism successes.