The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee says his panel will investigate whether the CIA broke the law by not telling Congress earlier about a secret program to deploy hit teams to kill individual al-Qaida members.
"This investigation will focus on the core issue of how the congressional intelligence committees and Congress are kept fully and currently informed," committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) said in a statement issued Friday.
CIA Director Leon Panetta told the committee about the program on June 24, a day after he first learned about it and canceled it himself. In the statement, Reyes said the investigation would look at that program "and whether there was any past decision or direction to withhold information from the committee."
Federal law requires that the House and Senate intelligence committees be kept informed of significant intelligence activities or anticipated activities.
"I intend to make this investigation fair and thorough, and it is my goal that it will not become a distraction to the men and women of the CIA," Reyes said in the statement. "However, in order to assist them fully and keep them well-resourced, it is the responsibility of the executive branch to ensure that the committee is kept fully and currently informed of all significant anticipated intelligence activities."
CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano says the agency will cooperate with the investigation.
But he added, "Like Chairman Reyes, the agency's goal is that this new investigation not become a distraction to the men and women of CIA, who have the vital mission of protecting the United States from foreign threats."
The House Intelligence Committee's top Republican, Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, blasted his Democratic colleagues for launching an investigation he calls "little more than partisan, political theater."
"Republicans believe the CIA should be focused on countering threats and preventing the next attack, not fending off political attacks from Congress," Hoekstra said in a statement. "We are willing to fully support any bipartisan review that is fair and thorough and will not become a distraction for the men and women of the Agency."
From NPR staff and wire reports