Earlier this week, seven House Democrats on the Intelligence Committee released a letter revealing that CIA Director Leon Panetta had “recently testified to Congress that the agency concealed information and misled lawmakers repeatedly since 2001″ about an unidentified CIA operation that was an “on-again, off-again” effort until Panetta stopped it in June. The New York Times reports today that former Vice President Dick Cheney gave “direct orders” for the program to be concealed from Congress.
On the Sunday shows this morning, several Republican lawmakers attempted to defend or divert attention away from the revelation about Cheney. “I don’t think we should be jumping to any conclusions,” said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) on ABC’s This Week. Kyl claimed that Cheney’s alleged actions were “not out of the ordinary”:
STEPHANOPOULOS: But this allegation of the vice president ordering it be kept secret, you believe that should be investigated?
KYL: Look, the president and the vice president are the two people who have responsibility, ultimately, for the national security of the country. It is not out of the ordinary for the vice president to be involved in an issue like this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But to order it be kept secret?
KYL: What if it’s a top secret program? Of course he and the president would both be responsible for that. Let’s don’t jump to conclusions is what I’m saying.
On Fox News Sunday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said that while he agrees that “the CIA should brief the Congress,” any mention of Cheney is just the Obama administration trying to “blame the Bush-Cheney administration” for everything. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he doesn’t “know whether it was appropriate,” but dismissed the concern by saying, “the CIA is in the secrecy business.”
Also on CNN, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) said that it “is wrong if somebody told the CIA not to inform the appropriate members of Congress,” but tried to cast the debate as an “attempt” by Democrats “to basically undermine the capacity to protect and develop intelligence.” Watch it:
On NBC’s Meet The Press, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said he doesn’t “know what the details of this are” and that Cheney “should obviously be heard from if the accusations are leveled in his direction.” “If I know Washington, this is the beginning of a pretty involved and detailed story,” said McCain, adding that he doesn’t know if there should be “a, quote, investigation.”
On Face The Nation today, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) defended Cheney, saying that “some of the Intelligence Committee people are pushing back on those stories. “I don’t know what the facts are. But I believe that Vice President Cheney served his country with as much fidelity as he could possibly give to it. And he tried to serve us in an effective way. And I hope that nothing like this would impact on his outstanding record,” said Sessions.