July 12th, 2009
12:58 PM ET
9 years ago

Dem: Withholding info from Congress 'a serious breach'

WASHINGTON (CNN) – A day after reports that former Vice President Cheney instructed the Central Intelligence Agency not to share with Congress information about a specific intelligence program, Republicans are attempting to downplay a possible violation of the laws governing intelligence gathering while Democrats are attempting to sound an alarm about the possibility of Congress being denied critical information affecting national security.

“That’s a serious breach,” Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.

Related: Cheney and alleged secret CIA program 'a problem,' Senator says

Fellow Democrat Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan said she would be “extremely surprised” if a loophole in the laws governing briefing Congress would justify what the CIA reportedly did at Cheney’s direction.

Stebanow said reports that Cheney had directed the withholding of information from Congress were “very, very serious.”

“But this really, goes to a larger question that we struggled with throughout the [George W.] Bush presidency – which is checks and balances.”

“There is a reason why we have checks and balances,” Stabenow also said Sunday, “we don’t have a dictatorship. We have a Congress that is a responsible to oversee and to ask questions on behalf of the people. And I think that’s what we saw continually challenged,” during the last administration.

Republican Sen. Judd Gregg said that, if true, reports about Cheney’s directions to the CIA suggested actions that were not appropriate but the senator also said Sunday that the recent reports might be the beginning of using the intelligence agency as “a whipping boy.” That kind of reaction runs the risk of undermining the morale of the agency while it is playing a critical role in battling terrorism, Gregg also said.

Related: Holder considers prosecutor to probe interrogations, source says

Fellow Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander suggested that concerns among Congressional Democrats about the extent of briefings by the CIA might undermine the agency’s mission.

“The CIA is in the secrecy business . . . the best way to ruin the secrecy business is to tell a lot of Members of Congress,” Alexander told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Alexander suggested that the so-called “gang of eight,” Congressional leaders with responsibility for overseeing intelligence, should sit down with President Obama and the new CIA director ask for the information they are entitled to under the nation’s intelligence laws.

Filed under: CIA • Congress • Dick Cheney • State of the Union
soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. gate

    Those who violated the law should be prosecuted. That includes Cheney and the CIA leadership who knowingly withheld information from Congress. If this is swept under the rug then our Constitution goes with it.

    July 12, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  2. Larry

    Time to try Bush and Cheney for blatant disregard for the Constitution, and crimes against humanity for the Iraq war.

    July 12, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  3. Milbs

    So in essence we had a shadow government for eight years....

    July 12, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  4. David from WI

    Playing politics with national security should have EVERY ONE OF THESE BOOBS in congress up on charges and UNDER OATH for the good of our country.

    Start with a psychological exam because they seem to suffer form a paranoia and irrational obsession with former VP and and President.

    Why would these children be trusted with ANYTHING if they harm the very agency they are supposed to have oversight over.

    I don't give a rats behind what a former VP did when the sec of state and others in congress plays politics to cover their own behinds.

    Want Cheney charged? FINE he can testify at PELOSES impeachment and her own trial while waiting for an appeal.

    Bunch of children playing at being in congress.
    Partisan paranoia has hurt our county for the last eight years far more than any real life policies.

    July 12, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  5. TRUTH

    if i'm not mistaking, didnt republicans blast Nancy Pelosi for saying the CIA misled congress? oh, wait, she was right...so republican apologies should be pouring in, right? LOL I think its so funny that repubs want everyone else to admit to wrongdoing but never want to admit it themselves.

    July 12, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  6. catmom

    Yes it's a serious breach but for Republicans it is unimportant.It means nothing because it was committed by Republicans. Just wait until President Obama does something that Republicans feel is a breach. I mean right now they are whining that after only six months in office his plans aren't working. They are whining because they say he is tackling too much, they are whining because he is trying to do something for regular Americans.

    Think about it people, Republicans went after President Clinton for eight years and came up with an affair. Nothing that harmed this country. On the other hand they have done and continue to do everything in their power to keep from investigating the possible wrong doings of the Bush administration that has truly harmed this country. But then that is their MO. They have had members of their own commit adultery, abandon their state, pay people off to hide an affair, quit in the middle of their governorship to make money, but these things are okay to them, heaven forbid that President Obama try to get all Americans covered by health insurance. The nerve of him.

    July 12, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  7. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    Isn't it about time this country faced up to indicting Bush and his henchmen for all the lies and illegal activities they forced the American people to endure for 8 years? Why are they above the law?

    July 12, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  8. Allen from Illinois

    OMG Pelosi was...right? Yup! Swallow hard conservatives...looks like Cheney is coming back to haunt you again...

    July 12, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  9. ElleJaysa

    CIA has their mission statement. The Office of the AG has a mission statement too. Let whoever wears the hat in the AG do the job. Facts first, find the how if done and it's lawfulness. Responsibility for answers lies with history.

    July 12, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  10. Cali J

    Kind of like the checks and balances tht allows Pelosi to shut out the Republicans on ideas and votes. Kind of like the checks and balances that allows a President to ram through huge spending bills without the Senate, Congress or People to have a chance to read them.
    Checks and balances only belong to the party in charge. We need to change the way we do business in Washington. The politicians power just keeps getting stronger right before our eyes, and we do nothing.
    Vote them out in 2010. Make laws that prevent special interest money, ban lobbyest, let the population vote on all bills, hold each politician accountable for their districts and States. Let's get back to basics and make this country great again. Bring the troops home and stop paying for the reconstruction of a country who has huge oil wealth potential. Stop illigal immigration now. Put our farners to work growing wheat and trade it for the same price as a barrel of oil. Make the import and export tarriffs the same for each country. Buy American again.

    July 12, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  11. T Mckinley

    What? Dick Cheney was behind this? Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

    July 12, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  12. Richard Lane

    What is this ? The Democrats who hold a majority in most branches of our government are talking about checks and balances ?? Me thinks white man and woman speak with forked tongue !!

    July 12, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  13. pat c

    the CIA is not above the law and if they commeted crimes they should be held accountable whether it hurts morale or not. those in the CIA that have a problem with morale because they have been caught breaking the law don't need to be there anyway.

    July 12, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  14. Pepper from CA

    If the GOP does not show major concern about this issue and if they show any support for this they are in essence saying they would support a secret administration vs a democratic republic based upon our Constitution. Yes the CIA is in the secrecy business, and yes war is messy however the brillence of our form of government is the whole checks and balances. Even the CIA is subject to that. If the GOP tosses that aside then the are in essence saying they do not believe or support our most basic form of government.

    July 12, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  15. Dean

    Saying that the CIA is 'in the business of secrecy' as a justification is appalling! The CIA answers to the government, which in turn answers to the American people! There is a Congressional committee whose job it is to oversee such things. At the very least, they should be notified so they can decide whether anyone else needs to know, or it if is appropriate or not. Cheney saying "Don't tell Congress" is just another example of how the former administration thought itself above the law, whether domestic or international.

    July 12, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  16. obama#1faninutah

    The CIA is not who should be investigated, they were following orders from Bush and Cheney. They are the ones who should be investigated for criminal wrong doing.

    July 12, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  17. skeeve

    this is soooooo funny. I remember republicans slamming Pelosi left and right when she said that CIA did not inform her about one thing or another. What do we see now.... that Oh, CIA actually, indeed was withholding information.... but hey I am sure our republicans with their attention span of a gold fish conveniently "forgot" this episode already...

    July 12, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  18. raggmopp

    Let's not go through the time and expense of prosecuting these criminals – they have already demonstrated they lack the integrity to be truthful to the Congress and the American people. Strip them of the honor and privileges that are bestowed to former members of the executive branch. They have lied and cheated to the American people and they do not deserve any of the honor.

    July 12, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  19. The Party of NO stood calmly by for 8 year while the shrub raped and pillaged America, so, why would we listen to you now?

    I have never called for investigating Cheney or Bush as many in my party have, and believed moving forward was better than backward, but this is proof that Cheney was a dictator and ignored the Constitution completely. This a very serious violation, Cheney circumvented the very process that the Constitution has provided for to prevent this type of abuse of power, by hiding his actions from the legislative branch. This behavior cannot be tolerated or ignored, regardless of which party is responsible. This simply weakens the very foundation this country was founded upon and must be investigated.

    I now call for his indictment and let a jury decide where Cheney spends his golden years!!!

    July 12, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  20. Karen

    Good news that some of the truth of the Bush/Cheney disastrous choke-hold on our Government for eight years will finally be told...and hopefully prosecuted!

    July 12, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  21. Chip

    The Constitution of the United States DOES NOT make the Executive Branch accountable to the Congress.

    This do nothing, pork barrel, congress needs to quit pointing fingers toward the past and do something about the melt down in the current economy.

    How are all these people with their hands out supposed to get their "check" if congress doesn't get a move on with mortgaging our children's (and grandchildren's) futures?

    July 12, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  22. No Hillary = No Obama

    Congress is always crying foul after the damage is done. How about being pro-active instead of reactive? Congress has let the American people down over and over, cost thousands of lives in unnecessary wars, billions of wasteful dollars on pet projects, scandal, corruption among its ranks – it's deteriorated.

    July 12, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  23. robert verdi

    the democrats will destroy the entire CIA just to provide cover for Pelosi.

    July 12, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  24. tigerakabj

    Now I see why the attorney general Eric Holder is now leaning towards investigations (and prosecutions later).

    It is clear that Cheney was the president over the last 8 years, while Bush spent most of his time at Crawford ranch cutting brush (it explains why he was on vacation for over third of his presidency). I think we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg in the crimes Cheney has committed in our name.

    Cheney: "Bush, you go down to the ranch. I got this."

    And the right-wing screamers have the balls to accuse Obama of "making us less safe and taking away our freedoms." But then again, they never could deal with reality and facts very well.

    July 12, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  25. GG

    Dick Cheney, was a worthless vp, he spent 3/4 of the time in the hospital. His first is what he is!!!!

    July 12, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
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