House Panel to Launch Investigation Into CIA Secret Al Qaeda Plan

The House Intelligence Committee will launch an investigation to determine whether the CIA broke the law by not informing Congress earlier about a secret plan to train teams to kill Al Qaeda leaders abroad.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Tex., chairman of the committee, announced the investigation in a statement Friday, saying the inquiry "will focus on the core issue of how the congressional intelligence committees and Congress are kept fully and currently informed."

Reyes said the probe will be conducted in a "bipartisan manner."

"As I have said in the past, the committee supports the efforts of the CIA workforce in its difficult mission to keep America safe," he said in the statement. "I intend to make this investigation fair and thorough, and it is my goal that it will not become a distraction to the men and women of the CIA."

The committee will determine whether the CIA violated the National Security Act, which requires, with rare exceptions, that Congress be informed of covert activities.

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But the top Republican on the House committee is skeptical that the investigation will be conducted in a bipartisan manner, claiming that Democrats are "putting their partisan conclusions ahead of facts" because the facts don't support the idea that the National Security Act was violated.

"In the absence of substantiated facts, to even speculate on potential criminal behavior shows that this is little more than partisan, political theater and continues the politicization of important intelligence matters by Democrats," Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., said in a statement.

CIA Director Leon Panetta told the committee about the program on June 24, a day after he first learned of the program and canceled it himself.

Panetta told the committee that as vice president Dick Cheney had directed the CIA not to inform Congress about the operation, sparking an outcry among Democrats.

Republicans have dismissed Democratic outrage about the Panetta revelation as an attempt to provide political cover to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who in May accused the CIA of lying to her in 2002 about its use of waterboarding.

Hoekstra echoed that argument in his statement Friday when he expressed hope that the committee can reach a bipartisan agreement on how to investigate the issue.

"But at no time will the Republicans of this committee agree to or take part in congressional Democrats efforts to tear down the CIA to provide cover for Speaker Pelosi," he said.

FOX News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.