CIA Lies to Congress

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[Update below—Ed.]

During last spring’s controversy over whether congressional leaders were briefed by the CIA over its use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” Russ called for an investigation into the congressional briefing process. It is now all the more clear that such an investigation is a must.

Yesterday, CQPolitics reported that CIA Director Leon Panetta admitted to the House Intelligence Committee that the agency misled Congress about “significant actions” from 2001 all the way to late last month, according to a letter to Panetta from seven Democrats on the committee. House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) claimed in a separate letter that the CIA “affirmatively lied to” the committee on at least one occasion.

It remains unclear what the CIA misled Congress about, but Rep. Rush Holt (D–N.J.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee and co-signer of the letter, said in an interview quoted by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal:

We wouldn’t be doing this over a trivial matter . . . it’s serious stuff. . . . Our reason for writing the letter in the first place has to do really with the integrity of Congress and the balance of powers.

Both newspapers add that President Obama has threatened to veto a pending Intelligence Authorization Bill that would strengthen congressional oversight and grant access to information about covert activities to the entire House and Senate Intelligence Committees (rather than just the eight leaders of both houses of Congress and of the two committees). Though Rep. Holt expressed surprise at Obama’s stance, it seems in keeping with the president’s strong positions on protecting executive power and secrecy.

UPDATE: Today the Washington Post reports that the dispute concerns an “on-again, off-again” intelligence program for collecting information about terrorist suspects:

Current and former administration officials familiar with the program said it was not directly related to previously disclosed high-priority programs such as detainee interrogations or the warrantless surveillance of suspected terrorists on U.S. soil. It was a intelligence-collection activity run by the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, officials said. It was not a covert action, which by law would have required a presidential finding and a report to Congress.

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, including Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), are calling for an investigation.

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