Intelligence Democrats: Panetta Testified That CIA Misled Congress

Posted July 9, 2009 at 8:35am

Updated: 3:33 p.m.CIA Director Leon Panetta recently testified to Congress that the agency has concealed information and misled lawmakers repeatedly since 2001, House Intelligence Committee Democrats are charging.Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), in a letter to ranking member Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) on Wednesday night, said Panetta has acknowledged the agency misled and on at least one occasion lied to the Intelligence panel. “This, along with another recent notification, has brought to light significant information on the inadequacy of reporting to the Committee,— Reyes’ letter said. “These notifications have led me to conclude that this Committee has been misled, has not been provided full and complete notifications, and (in at least one case) was affirmatively lied to.—Reyes said that Panetta’s admission could lead to a full committee investigation into the CIA’s actions.In a separate letter dated June 26 published on Rep. Anna Eshoo’s (D-Calif.) Web site, seven Intelligence Democrats issued similar charges. Eshoo is a close personal ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).“Recently you testified that you have determined that top CIA officials have concealed significant actions from all members of Congress, and misled members for a number of years from 2001 to this week,— states the letter, which was signed by Eshoo and Democratic Reps. John Tierney (Mass.), Mike Thompson (Calif.), Rush Holt (N.J.), Alcee Hastings (Fla.), Adam Smith (Wash.) and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.). All are members of the Intelligence Committee.The letter gives no detail as to what information CIA officials allegedly concealed or how it misled Congress. Pelosi made waves in May when she accused the CIA of lying to her during a 2002 briefing on the agency’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists. Republicans have been attacking the Speaker over the charge ever since.The CIA countered that Pelosi, who was then the Intelligence ranking member, was told about the techniques, including waterboarding, during the classified meeting.However, the seven Intelligence Committee Democrats point out in their letter that Panetta told CIA employees in May, in response to Pelosi’s charge, that it was not the agency’s policy to mislead lawmakers.“Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and values,’— the letter states, quoting a May 15 statement from Panetta. The letter calls on Panetta to correct his statement “in light of your testimony.—Some Republicans were already jumping at the chance to refocus attention on what Pelosi and others were told in private briefings: An aide to Oversight and Government Reform ranking member Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) highlighted a bill that he introduced in May calling for an FBI probe into CIA-led briefings to Members of Congress. Under his bill, lawmakers who have been lied to by the intelligence community could seek civil charges.The Democrats released their letter the night before the House is set to take up the Intelligence authorization bill, which includes a provision that would expand the number of lawmakers allowed to receive the kind of information Pelosi received in the private briefing.But on Wednesday, President Barack Obama issued the second veto threat of his presidency over the provision, which would expand the number of briefing participants from eight to 40 lawmakers. He warned Hill Democrats that he would veto the bill over the provision because, he said, it would imperil the administration’s ability to guard national security secrets.Hoekstra, on CBS’ “Early Show— on Thursday morning, dismissed the Democrats’ letters as part of an elaborate political calculation. He said they were likely released to give Pelosi cover before the debate over the intelligence bill begins.“It’s very strange. They sent that letter on stationery making sure that letter was available to the press but also making sure we on the Republican side didn’t get the letter,— Hoekstra said.He added that the letter Reyes sent to him was “was slipped under [his] door after hours— and was released to the media before Republicans had received it.“So to me, it looks like they’re working on the political equation,— Hoekstra said.