Six Democrats on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee said the head of the CIA admitted the agency misled Congress since 2001 about “significant actions.”
In a letter to CIA Director Leon Panetta, the six members 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 today, didn’t describe what CIA actions were at issue. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Republicans have been feuding over her claim that the CIA misled Congress in 2002 about harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists.
The letter called on Panetta to “publicly correct” his May 15 statement that “it is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress.”
Separately, the House committee’s chairman, Democrat Silvestre Reyes of Texas, said in a statement tonight that “in rare instances’’ CIA officers “have not adhered to the high standards’’ that the agency sets for “truthfulness in reporting’’ to Congress.
Praise for Panetta
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 a letter, first reported by Congressional Quarterly.
The disclosures came on the eve of a scheduled House debate on an intelligence spending measure. It 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.
In May, Pelosi charged that when she was a member of the House intelligence panel, the spy agency gave her misleading and inaccurate information 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 has 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.
The lawmakers’ letter 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.
CIA spokesman George Little said in a statement that Panetta “stands by his May 15 statement” because “it is not the policy or practice of the CIA to mislead Congress” and that “Director Panetta’s actions back that up.”
The agency went to the panel with the new information, the agency’s statement said.
“As the letter from these six representatives notes, it was the CIA that took the initiative to notify the oversight committees,” Little said.
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.
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