July 8th, 2009
10:30 PM ET
5 years ago

House Democrats: Panetta testified that CIA misled Congress

Panetta told Congress the CIA misled lawmakers since 2001, according to a letter to the agency head.
Panetta told Congress the CIA misled lawmakers since 2001, according to a letter to the agency head.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – CIA Director Leon Panetta recently testified to Congress that the agency concealed information and misled lawmakers repeatedly since 2001, according to a letter from seven House Democrats to Panetta made public Wednesday.

The letter to Panetta, dated June 26, was published on the Web site of Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California.

"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," said the letter, signed by Eshoo and six other House Democrats - Reps. John Tierney of Massachusetts, Mike Thompson of California, Rush Holt of New Jersey, Alcee Hastings of Florida, Adam Smith of Washington and Janice Schakowsky of Illinois.

The letter contained no details about what information the CIA officials allegedly concealed, or how they purportedly misled members of Congress.

On May 15, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the CIA of misleading Congress in a secret briefing she received in 2002. Pelosi said the CIA failed to inform her and others at the briefing about harsh interrogation techniques being used on terrorism suspects.

The CIA responded that Pelosi was told about the harsh techniques, including waterboarding, at the classified 2002 briefing.

However, the June 26 letter from the seven House Democrats noted that Panetta told CIA employees in a letter dated May 15 - in response to the Pelosi allegation - that it was not CIA policy to mislead Congress.

"Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and values," the House Democrats quoted Panetta's letter as saying.

The letter from the House Democrats asked Panetta to correct his May 15 statement "in light of your testimony."

Asked about the Democrats' letter, CIA spokesman George Little said Panetta "stands by his May 15 statement."

"This agency and this director believe it is vital to keep the Congress fully and currently informed. Director Panetta's actions back that up," Little said in a statement. "As the letter from these … representatives notes, it was the CIA itself that took the initiative to notify the oversight committees."

The Democrats' letter became public the night before the House is scheduled to vote on an intelligence spending measure that includes a provision to expand the number of House and Senate members privy to the kind of secret briefing that Pelosi received.

The White House opposes the provision to expand the number of briefing participants from the current eight to 40 members of Congress.

A White House memo warned that President Barack Obama's senior advisers would recommend a veto of the bill if it contained the expanded briefing provision.

– CNN's Deirdre Walsh, Bob Kovach and Pam Benson contributed to this report.


Filed under: CIA • Congress • Leon Panetta
soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Oregon

    Oh really??

    July 8, 2009 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  2. thersa

    What do you except? They were working for Bush.

    July 8, 2009 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  3. TCM

    what is this? The set-up to let Pelosi off the hook?

    July 8, 2009 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  4. jrzshor

    i'm guessing it's about the Intelligence in the CIA.

    July 8, 2009 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  5. Terry from West Texas

    We need to declassify a whole lot of stuff. Our government has told us they are keeping secrets from potential enemies, but I think that many facts are classified to keep Americans from knowing what their government has been doing. I am not as afraid of foreign enemies as I am of government employees doing black bag work and circumventing Constitutional procedures.

    Open up those files and let Ameridcans know what our nation has done. I suspect there are a great number of unsavory discoveries in the file cabinets of Washington, DC.

    July 8, 2009 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  6. CIA needs to clean house

    I am all for giving the CIA the room it needs to do its job

    but if it is not listening to its employers (congress, the president, the supreme court) than fire the ones that are taking action into their own hands and bring in more honorable people

    there is no room for this behavior from an agency that we need and trust so much

    July 8, 2009 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  7. Scott, Tucson

    Sounds like Panetta is trying to back stab the folks at the CIA so to provide cover for Nancy Pelosi.

    July 8, 2009 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  8. Letcommonsenseprevail

    How about that for pressure politics? I find it very convenient that this letter is released right before the House is to vote on an intelligence spending measure. It's another example of how the party in power is doing everything it can to discredit the previous administration, consolidate it's stranglehold on the country, ruin us common people, and laugh all the way to the bank.

    Does anyone else find it odd that these Democratic Senators told Leon Panetta what he said or meant to say?

    Let's see the spin on this one....

    July 8, 2009 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  9. hypocrites_are_everywhere in Palo Alto, CA

    "It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress..." but no one knows what actually happened.

    If we demand truth, we need complete transparency. Period! Every meeting must be digitally video recorded for future use and for review!

    Who needs all the congressional testimony bs & finger pointing crap?

    July 8, 2009 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  10. FreeNLovIt - Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed (1SPMI) of the gospel, for it is (3SPAI) the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (PAPMSD), to the Jew first & also to the Greek

    Really? You dont have to be a rocket scientist to know this fact. Even Al Gore knew that the invasion was not worth it. But what is done is done. Let Armageddon begin!!!!!

    July 8, 2009 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  11. tony

    Looks like Nacy Pelosi was right.....

    July 8, 2009 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  12. Scott L

    Nice. Go ahead, mess with the CIA. Love how they are deflecting away from Pelosi and blaming everyone but themselves.

    Now they are calling Panetta a liar and not even on congressional letterhead. Low of the low.

    CIA is going to start ignoring Democrats...Obama better take note because they have all lost credibility. Zero.

    July 8, 2009 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  13. Bob Pacific Grove, CA

    Wasn't it just a couple of months ago that republicans and their drone supporters were vilifying Congresswoman Pelosi concerning her statement that the CIA lied and misled her about harsh interrogation techniques?......Unfortunately for Pelosi, the damage was already done. This story that has broken will get little traction and not much play time, as those who made the accusations berating her will just walk away whistling in the wind.

    July 8, 2009 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  14. LMJ

    Seems like Pelosi may not have been as bad wrong as everybody said.

    July 8, 2009 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  15. Voight

    nancy pelosi should be impeached for decieving the public. cnn will not post this comment .

    July 8, 2009 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  16. GI Joe

    It may not be their policy or practice, but they do it just the same.

    Maybe we need a new CIA director.

    July 8, 2009 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  17. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    what a surprise

    July 8, 2009 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  18. GI Joe

    Hey – the Congress is going to be busy fighting over Football rules. It doesn't have time for national security briefings.

    Leave them alone and let the get their fun things done.

    July 8, 2009 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  19. OakRaidFan

    The CIA, the Cocaine Import Agency, lie? No! Never! Ha! What a joke

    July 8, 2009 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  20. annie for Palin

    How much did pewlosi have to pay for this? Isn't it a crying shame when you cannot trust ANY public official?

    July 8, 2009 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  21. Rayne Williams

    So, the CIA has been misleading lawmakers and concealing information from Congress. Does this mean they didn't actually brief Pelosi, or didn't brief her to the extent of what they've been doing? It seems odd that Panetta sends the letter saying the CIA has been keeping people informed, then admits the agency isn't doing what he publicly claimed it did.

    July 9, 2009 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  22. John

    CIA Misled the Congress.

    Bush Lied to Americans about the WMDs of Iraq.

    4300 US Troops have died due to all this.

    When are we going to Jail all these Criminals??

    July 9, 2009 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  23. Obamalism

    wink wink....how convenient.

    I don't believe it for a second. This dem led fiasco is about to blow up like......like..... the dollar!

    July 9, 2009 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  24. Chris - Albany, NY

    What ya got to say now repubs...still think the CIA can't lie?!?!?!?

    July 9, 2009 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  25. steve fielder

    Of course it's not the policy of the CIA to "mislead" Congress, but they do it all the time. The CIA simply "omits" certain facts concerning ongoing operations. This is their way of finding "common ground" in a society with a constitutional, democratic form of government based on the concept of the "peoples' right to know". Respect for our democratic institutions must be constantly weighed against the fact that we live in a dangerous world. In the intelligence community, situations in the field change constantly and discretion is paramount. For this system to work, you must have moral people with a sense of duty to the truth and American ideals running the show, rather than political hacks looking to shelter the boss.

    July 9, 2009 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
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