According to AP reports, the CIA program about which Dick Cheney supposedly kept Congress in the dark was an effort to gain intelligence and carry out killings of Al Qaeda leaders at close range, rather than through air strikes that risked collateral damage. Congress wasn’t informed because the program never got far enough to justify a briefing. That’s the first real scandal, not that Congress wasn’t informed but that such a common sense measure never got off the ground, probably due at least in part to the destruction of human intelligence networks during the 1990s.
The even bigger scandal. Leon Panetta ordered the program cancelled in June in what is a clear indication of a return to the Clinton era intelligence policies that made the September 11 attacks not merely possible but almost inevitable. While one of the pleasant surprises of the Obama administration has been that Obama and Panetta take the terrorist threat more seriously than many would have expected, if any change in this sort of intelligence operation was called for, it was a redoubling of the effort and troubleshooting to find out why it hadn’t yet yielded results.
There is one other scandal here, though on the Congressional side, not the CIA side. Apparently Congressional leaders had to be explicitly told that this was going on, while the American public for the most part merely assumed, wished and hoped that it was. Proof yet again that Congresscritters aren’t too bright.