Report: CIA withheld plot to kill Qaeda members

A highly classified program aimed at capturing or killing high-value al Qaeda operatives is the program CIA chief Leon Panetta disclosed to members of the House Intelligence Committee last week, leading to calls for investigating the agency.

Though the exact details of the program are unknown, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the CIA was acting to carry out an order signed in 2001 by President George W. Bush. Panetta reportedly told Congress he had ended the program.

Nonetheless, disclosure of the program eight years after Bush signed the order has angered many Democrats, some of whom have called for an investigation into the CIA's record of truthfulness with members of Congress.

Panetta testified about the program in June, and told Congressional panels he had only learned of it himself a few days beforehand. Panetta said the CIA had been ordered to withhold information from Congress by then-Vice President Dick Cheney.

"We should have been briefed before the commencement of this kind of sensitive program," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Fox News Sunday. "[W]e were kept in the dark. That's something that should never, ever happen again."

But it is Panetta who is taking heat from Congressional Democrats now. Late last month, seven Democrats on the House committee wrote a letter to Panetta urging him to publicly correct a statement he made earlier this year in which he said it is not the CIA's policy to mislead Congress.

Sources told the Journal that money had been spent on the program, apparently for training purposes, but that no action in the field had occurred.

--Reid Wilson