Short answer is, I don’t know. But I do know this much. Some of the speculation on the web is just batshit crazy wrong. Sam Stein, for example, writing at Huffington Post offered these guesses:

The first is that the CIA was keeping quiet about the use of waterboarding on terrorist suspects. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she was misled by the intelligence agency on that very subject. It’s also the story told to the Huffington Post by a source with knowledge of the letter the seven House Democrats penned to CIA chief Leon Panetta, in which they complained about being misled. . . .

Another theory being bandied about concerns an “executive assassination ring” that was allegedly set up and answered to former Vice President Dick Cheney. The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh, building off earlier reporting from the New York Times, dropped news of the possibility that such a ring existed in a March 2009 discussion sponsored by the University of Minnesota.

No and hell no. How do I know?

Let’s start with the “executive assassination” nonsense. First of all Sy Hersh claimed it was being done by the military and not the CIA. Sy names the units and their commanders. Until Title 10 of the USC there is no obligation or requirement to brief military matters to Congress that are considered Top Secret. The CIA operates under Title 50. The Bush Administration made a special effort to hide stuff the CIA normally would have to brief to Congress by tasking the military to carry out those missions. Second, where are the dead bodies? There was no assassination squad. This is a story that Sy got wrong.

What about waterboarding? If it was the fact that the CIA lied about when waterboarding started you can be sure the Dems, with Pelosi leading the charge, would have that front and center. You are not going to compromise a source or operation by revealing that “secret.” Even Stein concedes the waterboarding theory is a stretch.

So where does that leave us?

New York Times points a finger at Dick Cheney. According to the 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.

Greg Miller at the LA Times provides a more informative piece:

The secret counter-terrorism program was first put in place shortly after those attacks, but it was never fully operational, sources said. Current and former intelligence and congressional officials have offered different viewpoints on the program’s significance.

A senior congressional aide said the magnitude of the program and the decision to keep it secret should not be downplayed. “Panetta found out about this for the first time and within 24 hours was in the office telling us,” the aide said. “If this wasn’t a big deal, why would the director of the CIA come sprinting up to the Hill like that?”

An aide to Cheney did not respond to a request for comment. CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano declined to comment Saturday on the program or Cheney’s role, which was initially reported by the New York Times on its website.

By law, the CIA is required to make sure that congressional committees are “kept fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States, including any significant anticipated intelligence activity.”

But there is latitude in the language for programs and operations deemed extremely sensitive, or those that might be considered routine. Indeed, former U.S. intelligence officials said that Panetta’s predecessors, including retired Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, did not feel they were constrained from informing Congress about the program, but regarded the activity as falling well short of the threshold for congressional notification.

“We do a lot of foreign intelligence collection we don’t run down to the Hill and say, ‘How about this?’ ” said a former U.S. intelligence official familiar with the program, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

More than a year ago, however, Hayden informed subordinates that the intelligence committees would need to be briefed on the program if it crossed certain thresholds, according to former officials.

This still doesn’t tell us what the effort was but it does muddy up the “lying” charge. If the CIA is directed by the President (or Vice President) to withhold information from the Senate or the House it is not necessarily lying. In fact, let’s put the shoe on the other foot. If the Republicans take back the House in 2010 is it okay for Barack Obama to order the CIA not to share information about a sensitive intelligence operation with the Congress? If it is okay for Cheney then it is okay for Barack. Likewise if it is wrong for Cheney it is wrong for Obama.

My view? Everyone ought to keep their powder dry before firing shots at a target they cannot see and do not fully understand. In my view it depends on whether or not the program in question involved a very sensitive human source or technical operation that enabled us to listen in on the private chats of terrorists. If the answer is yes then there may be a good reason to have said nothing. If this was just a lame excuse to hide political meddling then the CIA is in trouble.

This is the classic intelligence shit storm–the CIA is asked by one Administration to do something that the succeeding Administration suddenly decides is wrong. Let’s not forget that the Bushies played hardball at the CIA and went after solid professionals like Valerie Plame and Fulton Armstrong. They also leaked sensitive human intelligence to papers like the New York Times for nothing more than political spin. Bush and Cheney only believed in selective protection of intelligence. They proved that through their repeated actions.

I don’t think this is a program kept secret just to cover the ass of Bush and Cheney. I think Greg Miller sets the right tone–it was a fringe, risky idea that was never implemented. For people like Pelosi, however, it is a great distraction. Let’s not forget that Panetta has not reneged on his claim that Pelosi’s charge about the CIA lying was a crock.

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.
  • CG

    CIA’s History of Lying to Congress

    It appears that President Obama has no desire to demand any change in the current system of intelligence community oversight. That’s unfortunate, and dangerous to our Democracy.

    How can there be consent of the governed, as our Constitution demands, if the governed, or at least, their representatives, have no knowledge of what they are consenting to?

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  • TeakWoodKite

    NSA and CIA Director and Principal Deputy DNI (PDDNI) Michael V.Hayden, White House Counsel and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.Certain senior officials either declined or did not respond to our requests to be interviewed for this review, including Counsel to the Vice President David Addington, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Attorney General John Ashcroft, DOJ Office of Legal Counsel Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, and former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet.

    .CIA_Unclassified_IGreport_071109-pg. 8

    So all the key players said no thanks?
    LJ, How can the classified annex be of any use? Or does one read this around the inferred edges never to know the the heart of the matter?
    These people are potentially culpable in a criminal proceeding, so how can one obtain the missing information?

  • CG


    In so many ways I do not believe the question, did the CIA lie to Congress, is relevant as previously we‘ve concluded that the CIA is purposely not forthcoming with Congress, that the CIA is selective with the information presented to Congress, and that perhaps only a direct and detailed question by a Congress person to the CIA briefer(s) is the process to determine the truth to the scope of a CIA program when it relates to CIA briefings to members of Congress. In other words the CIA doesn’t need to lie. Those who attend the briefings are sworn to secrecy, both CIA and Congress are protected, and lies told or truths not revealed matter not.

    I believe a better question, is it possible that Dick Cheney is capable of planning and coordinating a secret deception (or many) using the CIA or military, Judith Miller or Robert Novak, aluminum tubes or yellowcake, rendition or torture? I would say yes. There are perhaps many ‘ideas’ Cheney sought to employ and it is possible they were not successful or they met resistance because of their impracticality or the missions were never accomplished. Cheney is as lawless as they get, as secretive as they get, and he can lie looking at you straight in the eye, with no guilty conscience, with no concern for the consequence, all in the name of his perverted sense of national security. Dictators in undemocratic countries behave like Dick Cheney so excuse me if I don’t buy into the bull that Cheney kept America safe, instead he and his depravity is responsible for our decline.

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  • Seattle Moss

    I’m really glad to see the democrats committing suicide because that’s exactly what will happen to them if they open the pandora’s box of investigations against those that kept us safe.
    Bring it on Rats!!

    Here is a comment that typifies what the Rats are facing if Holder goes forward.

    My God, has the gov. completely lost it’s mind. In the last three months, I’ve lost everything and Holder is looking back. This is insane, there are so many more problems that deserve immediate attention. People on both sides are suffering. Is this a diversionary tactic? To keep the more left learners in line. We are at War!!
    Sunday, July 12, 2009 at 02:44 PM RR

  • Al

    No one lied to Congress, but Congress is certainly undermining an important agency and their vital mission with their bs.

  • Pingback: Dick Cheney and the CIA, the Left’s Political Smoke Screen | Conservative Political Report()

    • tillthen


  • Retired


    Good analysis, my friend. We don’t know enough of what happened to make a well-informed judgement, so any judgement that we make at this point will just end up being a reflection of our pre-existing bias. Bravo Zulu for having the courage to say that.

  • Pingback: Cheney Told CIA To Hide Program…. Daily Kos: State of the Nation…. | Total Info()

  • Gus

    Now I know why Cheney was running all over the country a couple months ago trying to cover his ass and now I know why you were all and still are putting all the blame on Pelosi and the Dems. WHat a sorry bunch of ass-coverers you republicans turned out to be.

    Palin is the perfect representative for you, all phony cheerleader crap hiding a nasty little brain full of ugly emotions.

  • J


    Didn’t you know that the CIA is secretly from Centari Prime in a galaxy far far away? It’s not a classic shit-storm, it’s a dust-up. LOL LOL

  • BARB

    Pelosi at first, said she knew absolutely nothing about the administration’s use of this “enhanced interrogation technique.” The CIA disputes this. But by her own admission, the agency told her that it was considering using waterboarding. Wasn’t that enough for the speaker to have thundered her disapproval? What about a letter of protest to the Bush White House? What about moving to cut off funds to prevent the agency from employing a technique that she purportedly finds so offensive?

    The CIA pushed back. The agency said that it informed Pelosi, who received briefings, that it not only intended to use waterboarding but, in fact, had used waterboarding. Former CIA Director Porter Goss said that the CIA provided accurate information to Pelosi. Goss further said that the only objection during the briefing was the concern as to whether the CIA was going far enough.

  • Pingback: Daily Kos: State of the Nation…. Did the CIA…. | Total Info()

  • TeakWoodKite

    Mr. Johnson any comment on the IGs unclassified report?

    Panetta killed the program on June 23 after learning of it, four months after he became director of the CIA. He then called special sessions with the House and Senate intelligence committees.

    —What bothers me about this is on one hand, was Panetta briefed, then ran up to the hill? Or was he briefed about the “skeletons in the closet” with in days of being confirmed, as would be expected?

    Since “it depends on what it is”, according to reports “it” was ongoing since Leon was selling ballons up on the hill.

    Giving Panetta the benefit of the doubt, say he was not informed for four months, How is “it” that “it” can happen with out Panetta not being briefed for FOUR MONTHS?

    It is interesting that the BO administration
    Since this has been going on for a while between Pelosi and Panetta trading shots, all I know Pelosi is full of CRAP as are all the other people who think congressional over-site means attending a fund raiser instead of taking care of their obligations.

    • socalannie

      Good points. I’m curious about how Panetta is doing in general. I wish Larry would do an update or something on how he’s working out so far.

    • TeakWoodKite

      What is even creepier is weaather or ot BO was informed (read into the program or Panetta had to call POTUS before he went up to the hill.

      If BO has known for four months and did not shut “it” down, what does that say?

      Or was it that the POTUS did not know either?

      All of this has more distrurbing questions than answers.

  • Hunky Dory

    Since when did the Vice President have the Constitutional authority to order ANY agency to do anything?

    • TeakWoodKite

      When GW said, “Sure Dick, go for it, make Langley a fun spot to visit.”

      • MrMike

        More like, “Do what ever, Dick, I got to get Sonic through this level”

  • Babs

    Would you trust members of Congress to keep your secrets, when for all intents and purposes their main focus in life seems to be getting themselves re-elected? What the heck, what’s the leak of a little secret here and there if it means getting an advantage politically? I trust the CIA a whole lot more than the present members of Congress, and I think the majority of Americans share that view.

  • David

    That’s right, typical gram cracker an insignificant troll like yourself want’s to school Colin Powell… that’s just so awesome!

    I’ll bet you’re a licensed plumber or have an AA in HVAC to boot!

    Here come all the right-wing intelligence “experts” pontificating from their trailers while forced to live in tornado ally and the flyover states… Sean Hannity country.

    • HARP

      I`m sure Cheney and the CIA already know this fact.Please drag the CIA in so they can question them as to Obama`s birthplace.

      For Ghana, Obama’s visit will be a celebration of another milestone in African history as it hosts the first-ever African-American President on this presidential visit to the CONTINENT of his BIRTH.

      • socalannie

        omg. You don’t suppose we’ll be reading about this article in the NY or LA Times, do you? Crazy! Thanks Harp, for finding this little gem & sharing!

      • WMCB

        Whatever it was, they’ve taken it down.

    • TeakWoodKite

      David, you seem lost.

    • typical gram cracker

      I didn’t say that I want to school Colin Powell. I said that he could have learned something from Drex Godfrey. Perhaps he could have learned that if you can’t affect change from within an organization you need to leave it before you find that you have compromised your core values and become a tool of those who would misuse you.

      Powell was Bush’s tool when he appeared before the UN waving the vial of white powder and showing pictures of trailers purported to be mobile WMD chemical labs. Would it have changed the course of history if Powell had refused to use his reputation and credibility to make Bush’s case for invading Iraq? We will never know. Powell is politically irrelevant now.

      You are correct, I am insignificant to all but a few people on this earth, but I am no troll. Geographically speaking I am currently located somewhere between the White House and CIA headquarters at Langley. But I am considering buying a mobile trailer to take a several month odyssey across this great country in which we live. I’ll probably even travel through tornado ally and the flyover states. Now that I have the money and the time available it would be awesome to pursue my early ambitions of being a ski and a beach bum. When I return I would like to learn how to do my own plumbing repairs. Who can afford to pay the ridiculous amounts that plumbers charge?

      • MrMike

        Scene at the white House.

        Gen. Powell: Pardon me, Mr. President, but this fell out of your pocket when you took your jacket off.

        POTUS: Thank you, General.

        Gen. Powell: What is this white powder, sir?

        POTUS: It’s my … er … a sample of anthrax from Saddam’s mobile bio-labs … yeah, that the ticket.

        Gen. Powell: How did you come by it, sir?

        POTUS: The CIA obtained it.

        Gen. Powell: This is the proof we need to take to the world. we need to stop that mad man before he unleashes his WMD’s.

        POTUS: Er … yes but before you go to the UN with that vial I need it for a minute or two.

        Gen. Powell: Of course, Mr President, here you are.

        POTUS: Now if you will excuse me, General, I need to leave the office for a bit.

    • elizabethrc

      I wonder why you are so filled with hate toward those who don’t hold your views. You seem bursting to insult commenters here, so I have to ask…aren’t you in the wrong place? May I suggest Daily Kos?!
      What you’re handing out is in no way constructive or instructive.

    • tillthen

      oooo! What would Panetta do if one of the agency’s assets reported undeniable truth of The Turds African birth? To whom would he bring the info? The Senate and House leaders, Reid the bumbling fudger, and Pelosi, the lying POS? Hmmmm. Maybe to Holder? Hmmm, sounds like dead-end City.

    • tillthen

      David, Colin Powell lost all cred to patriots. He’ll never get it back.

    • tillthen

      David, I live in Hannity Country, and…?

      You, I take it, live in ACORN Country? I like where I live, howsabout you?

      Tell me, what does the Nance look like, up close? Are there more knives in her future? That whole thing is absolutely frightening, I mean the images, y’know what I mean. It looks like everything is getting loose again. Oy!

  • typical gram cracker

    Here we go again. 30 years ago Drex Godfrey, former Director Office of Current Intelligence, wrote about CIA agency conduct issues in “Ethics and Intelligence”. Seems like the relationship between the CIA, the President and Congress has a history of being contentious at times.

    I haven’t purchased and read the entire article, but my understanding is that Drex resigned his DOCI position rather than withhold information he felt needed to be shared with the President. Being true to your beliefs and values in the face of heated opposition takes a lot of courage. Colin Powell could have learned something from Drex Godfrey.

  • jwrjr

    It seems that these stories are mostly figments of somebodys’ overactive imaginations. As for Pelousy, why would anybody take her word for much of anything?

    • David

      “As for Pelousy, why would anybody take her word for much of anything?”

      Because Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives?

      What are you jwrjr?

      A nothing and a nobody.

      • tango

        As if being Speaker of the House is a guarantee that a person’s honest. Be real, every career politician lies when it’s beneficial to them and Nancy Pelosi is no exception. The question is, how big is the lie she telling this time?

      • jwrjr

        Since you don’t know who I am, don’t you think that you should back off with the personal insults? You, however, write like an Obot so personal insults are probably all that you know how to write.

      • TeakWoodKite

        Hey now! jwjr can I be “A nothing and a nobody” too?

        Because “off the table” Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives?

        we are in DEEP SHIT!

        • jwrjr

          We should both take that designation from “David” as being a compliment.

          • TeakWoodKite

            I will place it next to the pirate pennant on the Mizzen-mast since we sail in stormy seas.

      • Peggy Sue

        So by your equation, David, we should never question authority. And the bigger the title, the fewer the questions because . . .

        we’re sheeple being herded by the all-knowing, always to be believed, powers that be.

        Growup! And read some American history.

        • tillthen

          You’d have to be nuts to give top secret information to the likes of Pelosi, Reid, Frank, and now the biggest POS to ever come to Washington, Francken. Oy vey!!

          Thank you Dick and George for doing your best to keep those assholes in the dark. We were a safer nation because of it.

          Pelousy. I like that. I’m still LMFAO at the youtube vid of her CIA speech. The music was perfect.

      • tillthen

        David, were you the one who arranged the 400 hang-up phone calls to my home from Pelosi’s office?

        Nice. Fuck you and everyone who works for her.