WASHINGTON (AFP) - The training phase of a secret CIA plan to kill leaders of Al-Qaeda was almost activated before agency chief Leon Panetta got word and terminated the program, The Washington Post reported Thursday. The plan to train death squads to target top members of Osama bin Ladens terror network, which had been a lower CIA priority, was brought to Panettas attention due to proposals to initiate a somewhat more operational phase that is, a little training, an intelligence official said. Shortly after learning about the program late last month, Panetta pulled the plug and briefed lawmakers on details of the program, of which they had not been informed since 2001. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, the top intelligence official in President Obamas administration, backed Panettas decision to cancel the plan, saying serious questions had been raised about its effectiveness, maturity and the level of control. But Blair said the CIA did not break the law by failing to inform members of Congress about the secret program before last month, although he told the newspaper intelligence officials should have done so. It was a judgment call, Blair said. We believe in erring on the side of working with the Hill as a partner. Despite new activity on the program, there were concerns about its feasibility, an intelligence official with direct knowledge of the events told the Post. If the country ever needs a capability like this going forward, smart minds will figure out a better way to do it. Blair said the decision to cut the program did not undermine Washingtons ability to combat Al-Qaeda. Our primary criterion is effectiveness, and we will continue to do things that we think are effective to make terrorist lives miserable, and hopefully, short, he said. Under US law, the CIA must fully and currently inform legislators from the so-called Gang of Eight Republican and Democratic leaders in both houses of Congress and their intelligence committees about its intelligence activities. Lawmakers from the majority Democratic Party have accused former vice president Dick Cheney of abusing his power by ordering the CIA to withhold information from Congress about the program.