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‘Dick Cheney hid CIA programme from US Congress’

The CIA withheld information from Congress about a secret counterterrorism programme on orders from former US Vice President Dick Cheney, a US senator said yesterday amid calls for an investigation. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein told “Fox News Sunday” that CIA Director Leon Panetta disclosed Mr Cheney’s involvement when he briefed members of Congress two weeks ago. She said Mr Panetta told them he had cancelled the programme.

President Barack Obama appointed Mr Panetta to head the agency early this year. The still-secret programme, which The New York Times said never became operational, began after the September 11 attacks on the US. News of Mr Cheney’s involvement, reported by The Times yesterday, prompted an outpouring of criticism by Mr Obama’s fellow Democrats and support by rival Republicans in Congress. Ms Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said: “Director Panetta did brief us two weeks ago – I believe it was on the 24th of June… and, as had been reported, did tell us that he was told that the vice president had ordered that the program not be briefed to the Congress.”

Asked if the matter should be investigated, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said, “Ab-solutely.”

“The executive branch of government cannot create programs like these programs and keep Congress in the dark. There is a requirement for disclosure,”

Mr Durbin said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“It has to be done in an appropriate way so it doesn’t jeopardise our national security, but to have a massive program that is concealed from the leaders in Congress is not only inappropriate; it could be illegal,” he said.

Ms Feinstein and Democrat Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, insisted no one should go outside the law.

Asked about Mr Cheney’s involvement, Mr Leahy told CBS’s “Face the Nation”: “I’d like to know if it’s true or not. I mean, nobody in this country is above the law… You can’t have somebody say, well, if you’re vice president, you don’t have to obey the law.”

Ms Feinstein said Congress “should have been told” about the secret problem and that the vice president shouldn’t be above the law. “This is a big problem, because the law is very clear. And I understand the need of the day, which was when America was in shock” after Sept. 11, she said on Fox. “But… I think you weaken your case when you go outside of the law.”

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