Dems Seek Probe of Bush Anti-Terror Policies

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WASHINGTON -- Some Democrats in Congress are outraged Vice President Dick Cheney allegedly ordered the CIA not to tell any members of Congress about a secret CIA program.

Some say the agency and its Bush-era overseers need investigating, but others warn that could seriously undermine the CIA.

Democrats are wondering if Bush officials like Cheney broke the law.

"To have a massive program that is concealed from the leaders in Congress is not only inappropriate," Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said. "It could be illegal."

The new CIA chief Leon Panetta put an end to the program as soon as he learned of it. Government officials say it was aimed at tracking down and killing or capturing al Qaeda officials, but it never got organized.

That is why Cheney's allies say the CIA didn't need to brief Congress about it. Still, some Democrat lawmakers are warning they'll hold a special investigation.

This comes at the same time the Attorney General considers appointing a special prosecutor to look into whether CIA operatives tortured terror suspects after 9/11. That raises the possibility of prosecutions.

Some Republicans warn that's a dangerous thing to do.

"This continued attack on the CIA and our intelligence gathering organizations is undermining the morale and capacity of those organizations to gather intelligence," warned Sen. Judd Gregg, R-NH.

Former CIA operative Bob Baer says it's "one of the last nails in the CIA's coffin."

"It's finished. It's over. It's done," Baer said.

And it appears to contradict what President Obama himself has said he wants.

"I think that we should be looking forward, and not backwards," Obama said. "I do worry about this getting so politicized that we cannot function effectively."

"It's demoralizing the rank and file completely. I've been getting e-mails from officers overseas. They're talking about quitting," Baer said.

Others say that's just a scare tactic.

"CIA has become a master of saying to Congress, 'If you do your job and supervise us it will hurt our morale. If our morale is hurt, we won't be able to do our job,'" former national security official Richard Clarke said. "That is largely a myth."

But CIA allies say don't bet on it.

"You have people running for the doors and they continue running for the doors, and it's going to hurt our national security," Baer said.

"It's going to interfere with stopping another 9/11."

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.