By CHRIS McGREAL
Cheney told CIA to conceal counter-terrorism plan
FORMER US vice-president Dick Cheney ordered the CIA to conceal a highly secret counter-terrorist programme from Congress for eight years, possibly in breach of long-standing oversight laws.
Democratic leaders in Congress are planning hearings to establish how and why information about the programme was withheld. The details have been revealed to members of intelligence committees but have not been made public.
The revelation in the US press yesterday that Mr Cheney played a primary role in keeping the programme secret, suggests that it would have been highly contentious. Attention has focused on reports earlier this year that he oversaw an assassination programme.
One member of an intelligence committee who was briefed on the secret operation last week said Congress would have been unlikely to have approved it.
According to US intelligence officials quoted in the US media, CIA director Leon Panetta told congressional intelligence committees that information about the programme was withheld on Mr Cheney’s orders. Mr Panetta told the committees that as soon as he learned of the programme’s existence last month he shut it down.
The nature of the programme has not been made public
In March, the respected investigative reporter Seymour Hersh revealed that he had uncovered evidence during research for an as-yet unpublished book that Mr Cheney oversaw an “executive assassination ring” for years.
“It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office . . . Congress has no oversight of it,” he said at the time.
“It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Under president Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.”