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'Constructive Dialogue' Continues Over CIA Torture Report, White House Says

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Don't expect the release of a Senate report on acts of torture committed by the CIA to become an uncomfortable election year October surprise.  

Asked Tuesday what was taking time to reach an agreement on redactions with the Senate Intelligence Committee, the White House responded with a statement from National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan that pointed to deliberative discussions, but no time element for their conclusion.  

"The President has been clear that he wants this process completed as expeditiously as possible and he’s also been clear that it must be done consistent with our national security. The redactions to date were the result of an extensive and unprecedented interagency process, headed up by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, to protect sensitive classified information," Meehan said. "We are continuing a constructive dialogue with the Committee."  

The White House made a similar statement in July after a query from CQ Roll Call when Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., was musing aloud at an earlier point in the redaction process about a method for releasing the executive summary without the administration's support.  

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in early August that the report would remain withheld until she was satisfied with the level of the blackouts, saying that as the document came back from the White House, "the redactions eliminate or obscure key facts that support the report’s findings and conclusions."  

The torture report came back into the news cycle after the Huffington Post reported that Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff, had become personally engaged in the debate about redactions within the executive summary, a potential sign of the size of the gulf between the committee and the Obama administration on the issue.  

When CQ Roll Call asked about the Huffington Post story, the National Security Council staff responded with a statement from Meehan cited in that report:

We’re not going to get into the details of our discussions, but White House officials, including Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, are in regular touch with SSCI’s Leadership on a variety of matters, including to discuss the Committee’s review of the Bush Administration’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The Chief of Staff’s agenda was about how we could work together to meet the President’s desire to ensure the executive summary is completed and declassified consistent with national security interests, so that we can shed light on this program and make sure it is never repeated. These were not discussions about Director Brennan.
The Huffington Post report cited sources indicating that McDonough was pushing "key Senate figures" against attacking CIA Director John O. Brennan. Brennan has been under fire in connection with the CIA's admission that agency personnel inappropriately accessed the supposedly segregated computer files used by Feinstein's investigators. The CIA confirmed that revelation at the end of July.  

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