- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 11, 2009

The George W. Bush administration authorized secret surveillance activities that still have not been made public, according to a new government report that questions the legal basis for the unprecedented anti-terrorism program.

It’s unclear how much valuable intelligence was yielded by the surveillance program started after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, according to the unclassified summary of reports by five inspectors general. The reports mandated by Congress last year were delivered to lawmakers Friday.

The reports arrived on Capitol Hill as Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Illinois Democrat and an intelligence subcommittee chairwoman, pressed for an investigation into a “very serious” covert CIA program that the agencys director, Leon E. Panetta, terminated recently.

Mrs. Schakowsky said the program that Mr. Panetta canceled, which has not been described publicly, began after Sept. 11, 2001. Democrats revealed late Tuesday that Mr. Panetta told the House Intelligence Committee about it on June 24.

Mrs. Schakowsky described Mr. Panetta as “stunned” that he had not been informed of the program until nearly five months into his tenure as director.

Mr. Panetta had learned of the program only the day before informing the lawmakers, according to a U.S. intelligence official. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity Friday because he was not authorized to discuss the program publicly.

Mr. Panetta has launched an internal probe at the CIA to determine why Congress was not told about the program. Exactly what the classified program entailed is still unclear.

The intelligence official said the program was “on-again off-again” and that it was never fully operational, but he would not provide details.

Republicans charge that Democratic outrage about the Panetta revelation is just an attempt to provide political cover to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who in May accused the CIA of lying to her in 2002 about its use of waterboarding.

What Mrs. Pelosi knew about the CIA’s interrogation program and when she knew it - and why she did not object to it sooner - is expected to be emphasized by Republicans during debate over the intelligence bill.

The new report says President George W. Bush authorized other secret intelligence activities - which have yet to become public - even as he was launching the massive warrantless wiretapping program, the summary said. It describes the entire program as the “President’s Surveillance Program.”

The report describes the program as unprecedented and raises questions about the legal grounding used for its creation. It also says the intelligence agencies’ continued retention and use of the information collected under the program should be carefully monitored.

Many senior intelligence officials believe the program filled a gap in intelligence. Others, including FBI, CIA and National Counterterrorism Center analysts, said intelligence gathered by traditional means was often more specific and timely, according to the report.

As for the CIA program, Mrs. Schakowsky said the CIA and the Bush administration consciously decided not to tell Congress.

“It’s not as if this was an oversight and over the years it just got buried. There was a decision under several directors of the CIA and administration not to tell the Congress,” she said.

She said this is the fourth time that she knows of that the CIA has misled Congress or not informed it in a timely manner since she began serving on the Intelligence Committee two-and-a-half years ago.

In 2008, the CIA inspector general revealed that the CIA had lied to Congress about the accidental shoot down of American missionaries over Peru in 2001. In 2007, news reports disclosed that the CIA had secretly destroyed videotapes of interrogations of a terrorist suspect.

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