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Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) and other Democrats on Sunday said they support an investigation into whether the CIA withheld information from Congress about a secret counterterrorism program on the direct orders of then-Vice President Dick Cheney.
We have a system of checks and balances, Durbin said on ABCs This Week. The executive branch cannot create programs like these programs and keep Congress in the dark.
Durbin said that the CIA should have briefed Congress and that failing to do so could be illegal.
Information about the secret program became public after CIA Director Leon Panetta briefed members of the House and Senate Intelligence committees. The New York Times reported Sunday that Cheney personally had directed the CIA not tell Congress about the secret program. It is not clear what the program entailed.
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and other Republicans on talk shows Sunday said they were concerned by the reports but less enthusiastic about a Congressional investigation.
I dont think we should be jumping to any conclusions, Kyl said on the ABC program.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), speaking on CNNs State of the Union, said Congress should be careful about demanding disclosure about intelligence gathering. Alexander warned that the CIA is in the secrecy business. He suggested that if top Congressional leaders want more information about the program, they should sit down with the White House and say, we want to know more, not require broader disclosure to Members of Congress or the public.
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), also on CNN, said he feared that Democrats are making a whipping boy out of the CIA, which could weaken effectiveness and morale of the nations intelligence-gathering system, instead of supporting their efforts overseas.
Gregg said he feared a return of something like the Church Committee, the special Senate oversight panel of the late 1970s led by Idaho Democrat Frank Church that investigated widespread abuses by the intelligence community, including plots to assassinate foreign leaders.
But Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said, I think the person who has been undermining the credibility of the CIA is the former vice president by his actions, if this is true.
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) agreed with Stabenow. This has nothing to do with an attack on the CIA, he said. This is a question of whether the former vice president [withheld information from] the Congress ... that is not acceptable.
Speaking on CBS Face the Nation, Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said that rather than having separate investigations of various issues regarding the Bush administrations handling of national security, he continues to prefer his own proposal for a reconciliation commission that would have authority to investigate a broad range of allegations of misdeeds by the prior administration.
Paul Singer contributed to this article.