|WASHINGTON -- A secret Central Intelligence Agency initiative terminated by Director Leon Panetta was an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives, according to former intelligence officials familiar with the matter.|
The precise nature of the highly classified effort isn't clear, and the CIA won't comment on its substance.
According to current and former government officials, the agency spent money on planning and possibly some training. It was acting on a 2001 presidential legal pronouncement, known as a finding, which authorized the CIA to pursue such efforts. The initiative hadn't become fully operational at the time Mr. Panetta ended it.
In 2001, the CIA also examined the subject of targeted assassinations of al Qaeda leaders, according to three former intelligence officials. It appears that those discussions tapered off within six months. It isn't clear whether they were an early part of the CIA initiative that Mr. Panetta stopped.
The revelations about the CIA and its post-9/11 activities have emerged amid a renewed fight between the agency and congressional Democrats. Last week, seven Democratic lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee released a letter that talked about the CIA effort, which they said Mr. Panetta acknowledged hadn't been properly vetted with Congress. CIA officials had brought the matter to Mr. Panetta's attention and had recommended he inform Congress.
Neither Mr. Panetta nor the lawmakers provided details. Mr. Panetta quashed the CIA effort after learning about it June 23.
Dems are making something out of nothing in order to create a big bad boogeyman CIA and protect Pelosi from her own stupidity.
|One former senior intelligence official said the program was an attempt "to achieve a capacity to carry out something that was directed in the finding," meaning it was looking for ways to capture or kill al Qaeda chieftains.|
The official noted that Congress had long been briefed on the finding, and that the CIA effort wasn't so much a program as "many ideas suggested over the course of years." It hadn't come close to fruition, he added.
Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said little had been spent on the efforts -- closer to $1 million than $50 million. "The idea for this kind of program was tossed around in fits and starts," he said.
Senior CIA leaders were briefed two or three times on the most recent iteration of the initiative, the last time in the spring of 2008. At that time, CIA brass said that the effort should be narrowed and that Congress should be briefed if the preparations reached a critical stage, a former senior intelligence official said.