Secret CIA Program Was "Intelligence-Collection Activity"

08/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Washington Post has more details on the secret program that CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed this week had been hidden from Congress since 2001.

Current and former administration officials familiar with the program said it was not directly related to previously disclosed high-priority programs such as detainee interrogations or the warrantless surveillance of suspected terrorists on U.S. soil. It was a intelligence-collection activity run by the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, officials said. It was not a covert action, which by law would have required a presidential finding and a report to Congress.

"This characterization of something that began in 2001 and continued uninterrupted for eight years is just wrong. Honest men would question that characterization. It was more off and on," said a former top Bush administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the issue.

A Bush administration official told the paper he was certain that, if the nature of the program could be revealed, it would be seen as "no big deal."

However, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) told the Huffington Post that when she and other members of the House Intelligence Committee found out what was kept secret "the whole committee was stunned, even Republicans." And Newsweek reported that while an official said, "'You could argue that it never really took shape' ... The implication is that whatever the details of the program, it carried risks that some officials at the agency strongly felt might not be worth taking."

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