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CIA planned to kill Qaeda operatives: report.

Summary: The United States Central Intelligence Agency had a secret plan to capture or kill al-Qaeda operatives but it was terminated by new CIA Director Leon Panetta, the Wall Street Journal said late

The United States Central Intelligence Agency had a secret plan to capture or kill al-Qaeda operatives but it was terminated by new CIA Director Leon Panetta, the Wall Street Journal said late Sunday.

Citing unnamed former intelligence officials familiar with the matter, the newspaper said the precise nature of the highly classified effort remained unclear, and the CIA would not comment on its substance. According to current and former government officials, the newspaper reported the CIA spent money on planning and possibly some training but the initiative had not become fully operational.

It was acting on a 2001 presidential legal finding that authorized the CIA to pursue such efforts. But the initiative had not become fully operational at the time Panetta ended it.

Citing three unnamed former intelligence officials, the Journal said that in 2001 the CIA also examined the subject of targeted assassinations of al-Qaeda leaders, but that those discussions tapered off within six months.

Neither Panetta nor members of Congress provided details, said the Journal, adding that he quashed the CIA effort after learning about it on June 23.

Meanwhile, Representative Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said little money had been spent on the project -- closer to $1 million than $50 million.

"The idea for this kind of program was tossed around in fits and starts," the Journal quoted Hoekstra as saying.

Orders from Cheney

The New York Times had reported on its website Saturday that former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney had ordered the CIA to withhold information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein told "Fox News Sunday" Leon Panetta disclosed Cheney's involvement when he briefed members of Congress two weeks ago. She said Panetta told them he had canceled the program.

Cheney was a key advocate in the Bush administration of using controversial interrogation methods such as waterboarding on terrorism suspects and has emerged as a leading Republican critic of Obama's national security policies.

Since Obama took over from Bush on Jan. 20, Cheney has engaged in a contentious battle with the new administration over the CIA interrogation procedures that undermined the reputation of the United States around the world.

In one of his first acts as president, Obama ordered more humane treatment for terrorism suspects.

Panetta has vowed not to allow coercive interrogation practices, secret prisons or the transfer of terrorism suspects to countries that may use torture -- a pledge seen as a break with the agency's policies under Bush.

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Publication:Al Arabiya (Saudi Arabia)
Date:Jul 12, 2009
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