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07-09-09, 12:55 PM #1
CIA Director Leon Panetta tells lawmakers the agency has misled Congress since 2001 about "significant actions."
July 9 (Bloomberg) -- Six Democrats on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee said that CIA Director Leon Panetta told lawmakers the agency has misled Congress since 2001 about "significant actions."
In a letter to Panetta, the six legislators said he had "recently" testified that "top CIA officials have concealed significant actions from all members of Congress" and "misled members" from 2001 until this week.
The letter, released by the lawmakers yesterday, didn't describe what Central Intelligence Agency actions were at issue.
The agency went to the panel with the new information, CIA spokesman George Little said in a statement last night. "As the letter from these six representatives notes, it was the CIA that took the initiative to notify the oversight committees," Little said.
The House committee's chairman, Democrat Silvestre Reyes of Texas, said in a statement last night that "in rare instances" CIA officers "have not adhered to the high standards" that the agency sets for "truthfulness in reporting" to Congress.
Reyes, who wasn't among the six lawmakers who signed the letter to Panetta, praised the CIA chief's "recent efforts to bring issues to the committee's attention" that "had not been previously conveyed" to it.
Reyes was blunter in a July 7 letter to the panel's top Republican, saying that the CIA had lied to the committee at least once.
Information Panetta gave the panel June 24 "brought to light significant information on the inadequacy of reporting to the committee," Reyes wrote to Representative Pete Hoekstra of Michigan.
The information provided by Panetta "led me to conclude that this committee has been misled, has not been provided full and complete notification and (in at least once case) was affirmatively lied to," Reyes said in the letter, previously reported by Congressional Quarterly.
The CIA's revelations "may well lead to a full committee investigation" of the agency's conduct in reporting information to Congress, Reyes said in the letter.
The CIA is required by law to notify Congress of covert intelligence operations.
The disclosures concerning Panetta's testimony may re- ignite a debate between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Republicans over her claim earlier this year that the CIA misled Congress in 2002 about harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists.
At the time, CIA Director George Tenet was leading the U.S. intelligence effort against al-Qaeda in the wake of the terrorist group's 2001 attacks on the United States. Tenet was appointed director of the CIA by President Bill Clinton in 1997 and continued to serve until 2004.
The letter from the Democrats called on Panetta to "publicly correct" his May 15 statement, following Pelosi's claim, that "it is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress."
The letter was signed by Democrats Anna Eshoo of California, John Tierney of Massachusetts, Rush Holt of New Jersey, Mike Thompson of California, Alcee Hastings of Florida and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.
Pelosi, a California Democrat, charged in May that when she was a member of the House intelligence panel, the spy agency gave her misleading and inaccurate information about whether it had waterboarded suspected terrorists. The CIA has acknowledged that it used the interrogation technique on three detainees suspected of being al-Qaeda operatives to simulate the sensation of drowning.
House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio challenged Pelosi to either produce evidence to support her claim or retract her assertion that the CIA "misrepresented every step of the way" its use of harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists.
As criticism by Republicans of Pelosi over her statement escalated, she said at a May 22 news conference that she stood be her comments and, "I won't have anything more to say about it."
She has adhered to that position. Since then, Boehner and other Republicans periodically have taken to the House floor to call for a bipartisan investigation of Pelosi's charge.
The letter from the Democrats said Panetta's recent testimony disclosed concealment by the CIA that is "similar to other deceptions of which we are aware from other recent periods." The intelligence committee regularly receives private briefings from U.S. officials.
Little said in his statement that Panetta "stands by his May 15 statement" because "it is not the policy or practice of the CIA to mislead Congress." Little also said, "Director Panetta's actions back that up."
The release of the lawmakers' letter came on the eve of a scheduled House debate today on an intelligence spending measure. The bill would expand the number of lawmakers who must be notified of covert intelligence operations from eight congressional leaders to more than 35 members of House and Senate intelligence panels.
The White House opposes the expansion and yesterday threatened a veto if the final version of the bill contains the provision. Panetta, 71, was named to head the CIA by President Barack Obama and confirmed for the job in February. A former Democratic House member, he served as budget director and White House chief of staff under Clinton.
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