Members of Congress July 13 called for an investigation into a secret CIA program designed to kill al-Qaeda members. The call follows the recently publicized information that former vice-president Dick Cheney directly ordered the CIA to withhold information about the program from Congress and kept it secret for eight years.
The intelligence committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate were informed of the program by CIA director Leon Panetta after he terminated it on June 23. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said that the committee should look into the origin of the program’s funding and who kept it secret from Congress. Eshoo called for a full investigation and for the hiring of a prosecutor who is specialized in such areas of law. An executive order issued by President Gerald Ford in 1976 banned assassinations, but officials have maintained that the ban does not apply to the killing of enemies during war. Additionally, the National Security Act requires the CIA to inform Congress of programs such as the one at issue. According to reports, the program had not yet become fully operational but was only in the planning and possibly training stages.
Bush-era intelligence policy has been highly contested since the change in administration earlier this year. On July 10, five federal agencies released a report on the prior administration’s warrantless wiretapping program that reviewed both the flawed legal origins of the program and questioned the effectiveness of information produced by wiretapping international communications of American citizens. In May, Cheney defended the national security policies of the Bush administration speaking at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), while criticizing many of the security policies of President Barack Obama. (Jurist, July 14)