Democrats Say CIA Deceived Congress for Years
WASHINGTON - The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon E. Panetta, has told the House Intelligence Committee in closed-door testimony that the C.I.A. concealed "significant actions" from Congress from 2001 until late last month, seven Democratic committee members said.
In a June 26 letter to Mr. Panetta discussing his testimony, Democrats said that the agency had "misled members" of Congress for eight years about the classified matters, which the letter did not disclose. "This is similar to other deceptions of which we are aware from other recent periods," said the letter, made public late Wednesday by Representative Rush D. Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, one of the signers.
In an interview, Mr. Holt declined to reveal the nature of the C.I.A.'s alleged deceptions,. But he said, "We wouldn't be doing this over a trivial matter."
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Silvestre Reyes, Democrat of Texas, referred to Mr. Panetta's disclosure in a letter to the committee's ranking Republican, Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, Congressional Quarterly reported on Wednesday. Mr. Reyes wrote that the committee "has been misled, has not been provided full and complete notifications, and (in at least one occasion) was affirmatively lied to."
In a related development, President Obama threatened to veto the pending Intelligence Authorization Bill if it included a provision that would allow information about covert actions to be given to the entire House and Senate Intelligence Committees, rather than the so-called Gang of Eight - the Democratic and Republican leaders of both houses of Congress and the two Intelligence Committees.
A White House statement released on Wednesday said the proposed expansion of briefings would undermine "a long tradition spanning decades of comity between the branches regarding intelligence matters." Democrats have complained that under President George W. Bush, entire programs were hidden from most committee members for years.
The question of the C.I.A.'s candor with the Congressional oversight committees has been hotly disputed since Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the agency of failing to disclose in a 2002 briefing that it had used waterboarding against a terrorism suspect. Ms. Pelosi said the agency routinely misled Congress, though she later said she intended to fault the Bush administration rather than career intelligence officials.
Since then, Republicans have called Ms. Pelosi's complaint an unwarranted attack on the integrity of counterterrorism officers and have demanded an investigation. Democrats have rebuffed the demand.
In a statement Wednesday night, a C.I.A. spokesman, George Little, noted that the agency "took the initiative to notify the oversight committees" about the past failures. He said the agency and Mr. Panetta "believe it is vital to keep the Congress fully and currently informed."