U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, Thursday called for an investigation of a covert CIA program that she said ran from 2001 to June 2009 without Congressional knowledge.
CIA Director Leon Panetta informed the House Intelligence Committee June 24 that he had just learned of the eight-year-old secret program, which had never been disclosed to Congress, Eshoo said. Panetta told the committee that he ordered an end to the program as soon as he heard about it, she said.
Eshoo, who sits on the Intelligence Committee, said the program is "highly classified" and declined to disclose any details about it.
"The committee was actually stunned," Eshoo told Joe Scarborough, host of the "Morning Joe" program on MSNBC.
Eshoo's remarks followed her release Wednesday of a June 26 letter she wrote Panetta asking him to "publicly correct" his May 15 statement that "it is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and values." The letter was cosigned by six of Eshoo's 12 Democratic colleagues on the Intelligence Committee.
Failure to disclose the secret program, Eshoo said, "flies in the face of that in a very, very serious way. They simply do not want to acknowledge that the Congress was not fully informed. And they have an obligation under the National Security Act of 1947 in a timely way to inform Congress. So this is as serious as it gets.
"I give Leon (Panetta) credit for coming up to the Hill and informing us. He had just been informed himself."
However, Eshoo later told the Weekly, Panetta's general statement that misleading Congress is "against our laws and values" does not excuse the inconsistency that actually took place.
"It's wonderful to have a mission statement, but you need to have the actions to back them up. Otherwise, what's on the piece of paper is meaningless. When you come in and tell us about the (secret) program, those words cannot stand. They did not stand when he uttered them because there were people there that knew (about the covert program)."
Eshoo said Panetta should "retract those words or restate something."
Asked whether her disclosure was an effort to vindicate her close friend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Eshoo told MSNBC: "I don't think this is about Nancy Pelosi at all."
Pelosi's statements in May that CIA briefers had lied to her about waterboarding and other interrogation techniques was undercut by Panetta's May 15 that the CIA does not mislead Congress.
Eshoo said the secret CIA program now warrants a full investigation.
"Who set up the program? How can it be that one CIA director after another, that are now retired, and others, never informed the Congress? The full committee was absolutely stunned when we were informed a program was in place from 2001 to 2009," she said, adding the Republican committee members expressed similar concerns.
Michigan Republican Mike Rogers, also a committee member, told MSNBC he did not share Eshoo's impression of the Panetta briefing.
"I don't know we can come to the conclusion that (we) were lied to and misled," Rogers said. "These are very serious allegations. I didn't walk away and thought that had happened."
The covert program "was not a program that was continuously operated. It was 'off again, on again.'
"I think this is a little bit of political theater. Attacking the CIA to make sure the Speaker (Pelosi) looks OK at the end of the day is not the best use of our time," Rogers said.
Eshoo said she waited two weeks before publicly releasing her letter to Panetta because it originally had been classified on the advice of the committee's legal counsel. When another committee member wrote a similar letter that was not classified, she successfully argued to declassify her own.