S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The old "He-said/She-said" again, huh?

The feud between Congress and the CIA is back in the news. Today the House will take up an intelligence authorization bill that would do away with the administration's right to dictate the terms of how Congress is briefed on intelligence matters. Predictably, President Obama has threatened to veto a bill in that form.

Panetta vs. Congressional Oversight of Intel Community -- On June 24, CIA Director Leon Panetta testified before the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Rep. Sylvestre Reyes (D-TX). According to CQ Politics (7/9/09), a couple of days later 7 Democrats on the Committee wrote a letter to Panetta asking him to " “correct” his statement from May 15 that “it is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress.” The article quoted a CIA spokesman who said "Panetta stood by his May remarks and believes Congress must be kept fully informed."

Dems vs Repubs -- Rep. Reyes wrote a letter on Wednesday to the Intelligence Committee ranking member Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), telling him, to quote Politico (7/8/09):

. . . that he had obtained information that there were serious problems with the CIA’s briefing of lawmakers and that the CIA “affirmatively lied to” lawmakers.

“These notifications have led me to conclude this committee has been misled, has not been provided full and complete notifications, and (in at least one occasion) was affirmatively lied to,” Reyes wrote in his letter.

. . . Later, Reyes issued a more conciliatory statement that framed Panetta's alleged admission as an attempt to reform the agency, beginning:

“I appreciate Director Panetta’s recent efforts to bring issues to the Committee’s attention that, for some reason, had not been previously conveyed, and to make certain that the Committee is fully and currently briefed on all intelligence activities. I understand his direction to be that the Agency does not and will not lie to Congress, and he has set a high standard for truth in reporting to Congress."

The authorization bill that expands its oversight of the intelligence community, including the National Security Agency and the ODNI, was reported out of committee on June 18. Certain lesser officials would be subject to Senate confirmation, and would require videotaping of arrested detainees. According to the Washington Post (6/20/09), to quote:

The bill also would end the statutory authority of the executive branch to limit briefings on classified, covert action to the "Gang of Eight," the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees and the House and Senate senior leadership.

Together these measures, Democrats say, represent an attempt to make the intelligence agencies more accountable to Congress. In recent years, controversies including disclosures of the NSA's warrantless surveillance program and the CIA's use of harsh interrogation techniques have led to calls for greater oversight.

Bonus Backgrounders:

Stay tuned, folks, because there will certainly be a lot more conversation about these separation of powers questions.

[Post date - July 9, 2009]

See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.

Blogs: My general purpose/southwest focus blog is at Southwest Progressive. And Carol Gee - Online Universe is the all-in-one home page for all my websites.

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