By Paul Kane and Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, July 18, 2009
The House intelligence committee announced yesterday it will investigate the CIA's handling of its secret al-Qaeda assassination program, including whether Vice President Richard B. Cheney improperly intervened to stop the agency from telling Congress about the initiative.
The probe will examine the nature of the now-canceled program -- described by intelligence officials as a series of planned attempts to use assassins to kill or capture senior terrorists -- but it will mostly focus on whether the agency improperly withheld information from lawmakers, committee members said.
"The committee must be kept fully and currently informed of significant intelligence activities as required by law," Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), chairman of the panel, said in a statement. He said the decision to investigate was made in consultation with House Republicans.
The committee already has requested documents from the CIA and probably will hold hearings, said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), one of several committee members who questioned whether the agency violated the law by failing to notify Congress for nearly eight years. Intelligence officials have said that the agency was not obligated to disclose the program, in part because it never became fully operational.
Schakowsky declined to say whether the committee might call Cheney as a witness.
CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said the agency will "work closely with the committee on this review." CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed the existence of the program to House and Senate oversight committees on June 24, a day after he first learned of it. CIA officials had been considering a new training program connected with the assassination plan at the time.
Staff writer Perry Bacon Jr. contributed to this report.