Well, maybe. Anthrax comes to my mind more than Wellstone.
Lambert himself, as well as Digby, agree this smells like a disinformation campaign.
But over on the RI board among the UFOs and Men in Black we get some more controlled speculation:
...This is not even a limited hangout, in my opinion. A limited hangout (the phrase is more often abused than not) is a controlled admission, under pressure of a developing scandal, of previously unrevealed true information about wrongdoing, for the purpose of diverting from more inciminating circumstances and creating the appearance of disclosure, in the hope of closure. True limited hangouts are genuinely interesting attempts to limit damage and can serve as intermediary stages toward further revelations, or at least point us at what's really going on.
This is also not aimed at cutting down Cheney in response to the political pressure he has applied to the new administration as the champion apologist of Guantanamo and the Bush renditions and torture policy. That was my initial impression, but I think it was wrong. Rather, this aids Cheney by reinforcing the myth that the regime at worst committed due-process violations in its zeal to punish the terrorists responsible for attacking America and kill the ones who were planning sequels to 9/11. The revelation of assassination squads - that were supposedly never even deployed - barely qualifies as news. It's nothing we didn't already know they were actually doing through a variety of other means, like the drone missile strikes and renditions and torture killings of prisoners that were covered extensively while Bush was still in power.
I do not believe this is even a cover-up... that Panetta discovered something so incriminating, horrible and incendiary that they quickly decided to pretend the discovery instead was of the failure to report to the overseers about an assassination program that was not even activated. Didn't Panetta already know about crimes worse than preparing an assassination squad prior even to taking office (as we did)?
This is kabuki. This is psyops, with the intent of putting to rest the outstanding criminal issues of the Bush regime. This is a propaganda script: The new intel and national security officials are shocked, shocked that their predecessors failed to follow oversight disclosure procedures in zealously preparing (not even implementing) a program to kill "al-Qaeda" leaders before they kill more Americans. And that is the worst of what they have "discovered." They will make a big deal of it in a show of revelation and leave it at that, because after all the program was an over-reaction to a genuine threat that didn't even kill anyone.
Forget about the "Shadow Government," domestic surveillance or actual assassinations, all of which were reported on during the last eight years. Forget about domestic psyops, or the truth about anthrax or the motives for the Iraq war (let alone Sept. 11). The new admin found out Cheney was doing something wrong on procedure in the service of a good cause, makes a cathartic show of criticizing it (but not prosecuting it as that would be distracting and unpopular among Americans who, after all, support killing "al-Qaeda" leaders), and then pretends justice is served by some form of long-term historic understanding, and we can move on past the excesses of the Bush era...
Good call, that.