“This is very suspect timing,” Republican strategist and former Cheney adviser Mary Matalin said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “The president’s agenda is almost in shambles. His [poll] numbers are dropping. Isn’t it coincidental; they gin up a Cheney story.”
Matalin also said that the Executive branch has some authority under the nation’s intelligence laws to not disclose information to Congress under certain circumstances. “The more people that know, the more it leaks . . . and then the enemy knows what it is,” Matalin said of details about other intelligence programs that were leaked to the media.
“Every time they get in trouble . . . they dredge up a Darth Vader story,” Matalin also said, making a reference to past comparisons between Cheney and the villain in the “Stars Wars’ movies.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Congressman Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday that “it’s disturbing” that former Vice President Dick Cheney may have ordered the CIA to withhold information from Congress.
The refusal to disclose a top-secret program to the few members of Congress authorized to review the sensitive material was “absolutely not” appropriate, Murphy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Sunday’s State of the Union.
Though he has recently been briefed by CIA chief Leon Panetta on the nature of the secret program, he said that because the information is top secret he would not talk about it on TV or in private.
On the issue of gays in the military, Murphy said that now is the “best time to move” on repealing the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Thirteen thousand servicemen and women have been discharged under the highly controversial policy, he noted.
Though he believes President Obama supports repealing the policy, he said he understands it’s up to Congress to change it.
“It was an act of Congress that put this discriminatory law in place. It will take an act of Congress to repeal it.”
WASHINGTON (CNN) - CIA Director Leon Panetta testified to a congressional committee that he was told former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the intelligence agency to withhold information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Sunday.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, told the "FOX News Sunday" program that Panetta testified that "he was told that the vice president had ordered that the program not be briefed to the Congress."
"I think this is a problem, obviously," Feinstein said, adding that the law requires full disclosure of such operations to Congress.
The disclosure by Panetta to both the Senate and House intelligence committees about Cheney's involvement was first reported in The New York Times. Efforts to contact Cheney for reaction were unsuccessful.
CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano declined to comment on the report.
"It's not agency practice to discuss what may or may not have been said in a classified briefing," Gimigliano said. "When a CIA unit brought this matter to Director Panetta's attention, it was with the recommendation that it be shared with Congress. That was also his view, and he took swift, decisive action to put it into effect."
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.
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.
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.
(CNN) - Sen. John McCain thinks we haven't heard the last about allegations that former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered secrecy for a CIA surveillance operation after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
"If I know Washington, this is the beginning of a pretty involved and detailed story," McCain said Sunday on the NBC program "Meet the Press."
According to a New York Times report, Cheney ordered the CIA to withhold information about the unspecified program from Congress.
CIA Director Leon Panetta told the House Intelligence Committee last month about the program, which he said had been shut down.
McCain said he knew little about the program and offered no details. He said he expected Cheney, who has yet to comment on the story, to speak up.
"The vice president should be heard from" about the accusations leveled against him, McCain said.
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.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Justice Department has once again delayed the release of the CIA's internal investigation of its controversial interrogation and detention program.
The government had intended to complete its review of the 2004 Inspector General report two weeks ago. But continued interagency debate about how much of the secret report could be made public pushed back the deadline. Last week the Justice Department sent a letter to the Judge overseeing the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit saying it needed until July 1 to complete the process.
A Justice Department official told reporters on Wednesday the lawyers were still pouring through the material. White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said it was doubtful the inter-agency review would be completed this week.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A coalition of liberal activists Monday called for the disbarment of two current CIA officials - and a former one - because of their roles in crafting and implementing Bush administration legal policies on detainee interrogations.
The National Disbar Torture Lawyers Coalition filed formal disciplinary complaints with the Washington, D.C., and New York state bar associations against John A. Rizzo, the current acting general counsel at the CIA; Jonathan M. Fredman, a CIA official currently on loan to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; and Scott W. Muller, the agency's former general counsel, who is now an attorney in the private sector.
The coalition has already filed a dozen similar complaints against former White House and Justice Department officials, including former White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, who also was attorney general in the Bush administration; and former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Jay S. Bybee, now a federal judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The complaints accuse the three attorneys of "advocating for immoral and unethical 'extended' or 'enhanced' interrogation techniques (amounting to torture), and other policies that resulted in clear violations of U.S. and international law." They were filed the same week that the CIA is expected to release an internal inspector-general report from 2004 criticizing the interrogation program.
CNN was unable to reach the three lawyers for comment, but CIA spokesman George Little responded, "This, to put it mildly, is something with which we do not agree."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says former Vice President Dick Cheney's claims - that classified CIA memos show enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding worked - are wrong.
Levin, speaking at the Foreign Policy Association's annual dinner on Wednesday, said an investigation by his committee into detainee abuse charges over the use of the techniques - now deemed torture by the Obama administration - "gives the lie to Mr. Cheney's claims."
The Michigan Democrat told the crowd that the two CIA documents that Cheney wants released "say nothing about numbers of lives saved, nor do the documents connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of abusive techniques."
"I hope that the documents are declassified, so that people can judge for themselves what is fact, and what is fiction," he added.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to answer questions Friday about her stinging accusation last week that the CIA misled her about the use of waterboarding and Republican demands that she provide evidence.
"I have made the statement that I'm going to make on this. I don't have anything more to say about it," she pointedly told reporters. "I stand by my comment and - and what we are doing is staying on our course, and not be distracted from it."
The speaker changed the format of her weekly press conference Friday. Instead of appearing solo, Pelosi brought in three of her Democratic leadership colleagues. After the leaders gave 25 minutes of statements about their legislative accomplishments, Pelosi took just 5 minutes of questions from reporters, and only answered one about the back-and-forth over enhanced interrogation methods.
Despite repeated efforts by reporters to follow up on the issue, Pelosi dismissed them, saying, "I won't have anything more to say about it."
Pelosi may be ready to turn the page, but Republicans clearly aren't. Just minutes after the press conference, Ken Spain, spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee sent out a statement blasting her performance. "Speaker Pelosi stammered and filibustered around the elephant in the room because she knows full well that she has become a political liability to her fellow Democrats in Congress," he said.
"Her obsession with the previous administration and her disdain for America's intelligence officials has reduced her to cheerleader status within the far left wing of her party and a distraction to the substantive debate over how to best move our economy forward."
Updated at 1:00 p.m. with additional on-the-scene details.