From THE SCOTSMAN:
ALLEGATIONS that former US vice-president Dick Cheney ran a secret “black ops” unit inside the CIA for eight years without informing Congress have increased pressure on the White House for a full investigation of alleged abuses of power by the Bush administration.
The unit was so secret that even the former CIA director George Tenet did not control its activities, according to reports yesterday.
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The existence of the unit itself was confirmed last week in a leaked letter from CIA director Leon Panetta to selected members of Congress.
In the letter, Mr Panetta said that despite being appointed by president Barack Obama to his job some five months ago, he only learned of the unit’s existence in late June, and took immediate action to close it down.
Speculation is rife that the unit was trained for the assassinations of foreign leaders suspected of aiding terrorists.
Assassination was outlawed in the 1970s following post- Watergate revelations of CIA assassinations and “dirty tricks” operations in Vietnam.
If Mr Cheney is found to have withheld knowledge of the unit – whatever its purpose – from Congress, that could open him to legal action.
“That’s a serious breach,” said Democrat senator Kent Conrad. “This is a question of whether something was not given to the elected members of Congress which is regulated by law.”
Among other questions that will be asked is how the CIA managed to conceal from its own boss, Mr Panetta, the existence of a unit inside its own headquarters for so many months.
The CIA itself would not comment on the nature of the unit.
Democrat speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi clashed with Mr Panetta earlier this year when she said she and other members of a congressional oversight committee were kept in the dark about CIA “waterboarding” torture at Guantanamo Bay.
In response to Ms Pelosi’s allegations, Mr Panetta told CIA employees on 15 May that it was not CIA policy to mislead Congress.
From The Washington Post:
News over the weekend that former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the concealment from congressional oversight of a clandestine CIA operation brought further calls of reform today in how the Central Intelligence Agency briefs Congress.
“This is a big problem, because the law is very clear,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday.
Democrats pointed to the reports of Cheney’s involvement as a clear violation of the legal authority granted to the vice president.
“You can’t have somebody say, well, if you’re vice president, you don’t have to obey the law,” Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) said.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) defended Cheney, saying more facts need to be revealed on what the program actually was and how developed the operation was.
“Some of the Intelligence Committee people are pushing back on those stories,” Sen. Sessions said. “I don’t know what the facts are. But I believe that Vice President Cheney served his country with as much fidelity as he could possibly give to it. And he tried to serve us in an effective way. And I hope that nothing like this would impact on his outstanding record.”
At least three Republicans, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas invoked past or possible future actions by Congress and a sitting president as examples of how appointing a special council or prosecutor to investigate the Bush-era CIA’s interrogation of certain terror suspects, as Attorney General Eric Holder is reportedly considering, would lead to an endless amount of partisan witch hunts.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Obama’s rival in last year’s presidential campaign, admitted that CIA agents were ordered to do legally questionable duties, but he still thinks the Obama-approved “move forward” model is best for the country.
“We all know that the operatives who did it most likely were under orders to do so,” McCain said on “Meet the Press.” “For us to continue this and harm our image throughout the world — I agree with the president of the United States, it’s time to move forward and not go back.”