I don't know what the program is. No one I asked would shed any light on it. From the reports of others, though, and from guesswork derived from a knowledge of what the CIA is chartered to do (provide exclusive political intelligence (that can only be clandestinely obtained) to our political leaders about major developments), I can come up with a few possibilities.
1. We know the program had nothing to do with the terrorist
interrogation program or with extraordinary rendition. We know that it
was primarily a CIA program, which means that it probably did not have
anything to do with Sy Hersh's "executive assassination" ring
disclosures, which relate to special access programs of the Department
of Defense's Joint Special Operations Command. (Basically, if the CIA
wants to kill someone, it requires a finding of Congress. The Bush
administration believed that the DoD could kidnap or kill suspected
terrorists under the president's inherent authority.)
program was not primarily a technical collection program, but it may
have involved the use of technology to collect information from human
3. Newsweek's sources seem to suggest
that the program was related to the war on terrorism, but it might
simply have been informed by the CIA's other war on terrorism
programs. That is, perhaps the CIA borrowed controversial techniques
and applied them to another main target, like, say, China, or Israel
(yes), or Pakistan or Afghanistan or India or Venezuela.
4. What type of program would be acceptable to President Bush and objectionable to President Obama?
can guess: perhaps the CIA found a way to covertly place information
implicating Hamid Karzai's brother in various drug-related offenses in
the foreign media.....perhaps the CIA was covertly providing funds to
an opposition candidate in Afghanistan or Pakistan in a way that was
bound to be discovered by the regime we officially support. Perhaps
the CIA created a front company to process, say, the encryption keys
that Israeli's Air Force uses to protect communications. (Israel
manufacturers this stuff endogenously, but you can be sure that the
American government wants to know everything it possibly can about
Israeli Air Force strategy vis-a-vis Iran.) Perhaps the program
involved sabotage in a country like Syria, which the U.S. is currently
trying to court. Perhaps it involved the planting of covert
communications devices on unwitting international scholars who travel
to North Korea.
The mind wanders.
What's clear is that
Democrats on the committee were sufficiently outraged by the disclosure
to make public the fact that something was disclosed. This may be the
only way to hold the CIA accountable in an era where the executive
branch refuses to relax briefing procedures. It may be irresponsible
and jeopardize ongoing operations. It may be related to the CIA v.
Pelosi grudge match. Soon enough, we'll have our answers.