House Intelligence Panel could call Cheney in Probe

The lawmaker leading an official inquiry into whether the CIA failed to tell Congress about secret plans to kill and capture terrorist leaders says the House Intelligence Committee could ask former Vice President Dick Cheney to testify.

“Obviously we’re talking about Cheney,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) who is conducting the probe.

Cheney reportedly objected to telling Congress about a proposal to go after al Qaeda leaders overseas. Democrats argue that the law requires the CIA to brief Congress when undertaking covert operations.

If the history of former Bush Administration officials who are reluctant to speak to a Democratic Congress about sensitive matters is any guide, it’s likely the former vice president could invoke executive privilege. The House of Representatives voted to hold former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and former Bush Chief of Staff Josh Bolten used executive privilege as a shield against talking to Congress. The House then voted to hold Miers and Bolten in contempt of Congress for failing to testify about the alleged politicization of the Justice Department. The duo still refused to appear. So the House sued the Bush Administration.

The House Judiciary Committee has now deposed Miers and former top Bush advisor Karl Rove behind closed doors.

Schakowsky knows it will be an uphill climb to compel Cheney to appear. But she says the committee first has to determine if they want to hear from the former vice president.

“It’s just a question of how far we want to push that,” Schakowsky said.

The Illinois Democrat also indicated that the committee had not yet decided the specifics of what they need to examine.

“We may not need to get some of the principals,” Schakowsky said.

She refused to elaborate on other key witnesses the Intelligence Committee could call.

The panel is still collecting documents about the plans and has not set a schedule for hearings. However, Schakowsky said that some of the hearings could be public.