Officials: Canceled CIA program targeted al-Qaida leaders

WASHINGTON (AP) - More information has come out concerning a secret intelligence program that's been canceled by CIA Director Leon Panetta.

Government officials say the goal was to capture or kill al-Qaida leaders close up instead of relying on air strikes. But the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the secret program never got off the ground.

Last month, according to one official, Panetta told Congress that then-Vice President Dick Cheney ordered CIA officials not to discuss specifics about the plan with Congress. The official, who has direct knowledge of the plan, says Panetta has told both Congressional intelligence committees that he saw nothing illegal or inappropriate about the effort itself.

Today's Wall Street Journal also quotes former intelligence officers saying it was a secret program designed to kill or capture al-Qaida operatives. The Journal's anonymous sources say the plan was an attempt to carry out a presidential finding authorized by President Bush following the September 11 attacks.

According to the Journal, the agency spent money on planning and maybe some training, but the highly classified effort never became fully operational.

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