WASHINGTON (CNN) – The nation's chief intelligence official says the Obama administration moved back the deadline of its review of the government's terrorist detention and interrogation policies because it wants to get it right.
Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said Wednesday the delay is "a mark of the seriousness with which we are taking it and have really taken the time to get the answer right."
The White House announced on Monday that it would take another six months to complete a report detailing its policy on detentions and an additional two months to finish the review of its interrogation procedures. The reports were to have been completed this week, according to the executive orders signed by President Barack Obama shortly after taking office in January.
A decision on how to handle the suspected terrorists detained in the detention facility in the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is a critical component of the administration's plan to close the facility by January.
The government must determine which of the remaining 229 prisoners will be put on trial, which transferred to another country, which released and which held indefinitely because they are considered a threat to the United States.
Blair said he doesn't know where the reviews will end up, but they're getting a "tremendous amount of attention."
He made his comments during a question-and-answer session at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington.
On other topics, Blair said the intelligence community is still trying to nail down who was behind the cyber attacks that affected some government Web sites during the July Fourth weekend. The intelligence director called the attacks "relatively unsophisticated" and said the United States is working with foreign partners to compare data and figure out who was responsible.
"Like most Internet attackers, the person who perpetrated this attack went through a series of cut outs, different IPs (Internet protocol addresses), and the process of going back and sorting that out just takes some time," said the director.
Blair also said it is his policy to "lean on the side of telling" Congress about intelligence activities.
Congressional oversight committees have been critical of the Bush administration's failure to brief them on a number of programs implemented after the 9/11 attacks. Those programs included eavesdropping on the overseas e-mails and phone conversations of people in the United States without a court order, and the harsh interrogation techniques used against captured suspected terrorists.
Last month, CIA Director Leon Panetta briefed Congress for the first time on a secret program to capture or kill al Qaeda terrorists that he said was developed in 2001 but was never fully implemented. Panetta told the intelligence committees that Vice President Dick Cheney had ordered the CIA not to tell Congress. Some members of Congress maintain the CIA was legally obligated to brief them.
Blair said he takes a "broad interpretation" of the statute that requires Congress to be briefed on significant intelligence actions.
"If there is any doubt in our mind, our default position is, 'let's tell the Congress about this,'" he said.
Blair acknowledged he has to deal with what he called "legacy issues," but said his emphasis will be on building a new relationship so that the intelligence community and Congress can work together as partners.