May 21st, 2009
11:35 AM ET
13 years ago

Specter calls for transcripts of CIA congressional briefings

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Specter called for CIA briefing transcripts Thursday."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter is backing up his new party in the dispute between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the CIA, following up tough comments about the agency's "bad record" on honesty with a call for official transcripts of their congressional briefings to head off future controversies.

The Pennsylvania senator sent letters Thursday to CIA Director Leon Panetta and White House Counsel Greg Craig, as well as the Intelligence Committee’s Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Silvestre Reyes, and GOP Sen. Judd Gregg and Pete Hoekstra, with remarks panning the agency's record on congressional briefing accounts.

"From my experience on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which I chaired in the 104th Congress, I found there were frequent disputes as to whether the CIA did the requisite briefings; and, if they did, whether the briefing was adequate. While those disputes did not reach the level of controversy involving Speaker Pelosi and the CIA today, they were significant," the Republican-turned-Democrat said in excerpts of the letters released by his office Thursday.

"Such controversies could be resolved by having the briefings transcribed, just as the hearings are transcribed. If the dispute involved classified materials, the transcript could be reviewed by the Chair and Ranking Member or perhaps even by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, with sufficient public disclosure to resolve the matter," he added.

Specter's letters come amid a full-court press against Pelosi by the Republican National Committee and the congressional GOP. High-profile Republicans like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have called on the California congresswoman to resign the speakership, and the RNC has released a steady stream of statements and Web videos blasting Pelosi, including one that compared her to Bond villainess Pussy Galore.

On Wednesday, Specter had sharper words for the CIA. "The CIA has a very bad record when it comes to - I was about to say candid, that's too mild - to honesty," he told an audience at the American Law Institute, in remarks first reported by The Hill.

He took a shot at Panetta's defense of the agency earlier this week, which followed criticism from the speaker and other congressional Democrats. "Director Panetta says the agency does not make it a habit to misinform Congress. I believe that is true. It is not the policy of the Central Intelligence Agency to misinform Congress," Specter said. "But that doesn't mean that they're all giving out the information."

But he also said he understood why a history of congressional leaks would make the CIA wary of being completely open with elected officials.

"The current controversy involving Speaker Pelosi and the CIA is very unfortunate in my opinion because it politicizes the issue and it takes away attention from ... how does the Congress get accurate information from the CIA?" Specter said Wednesday. "For political gain, people are making headlines."

Filed under: Arlen Specter • CIA • Nancy Pelosi
soundoff (117 Responses)
  1. skyhawkdriver

    For those of you accusing bush for 9/11 let us not forget that bubba clinton refused to allow bin laden to be taken out before two years before 9/11 happened..blaming it on bush cheney is total crap..and what about the 4 clowns arrested today in new york city?? you really feel safer with obama in the hot seat??..and with pelosi lying to you??..spector is an old fool who needs to go home and have a rolling rock beer..this is nothing but covering nancy's wrinkly old butt for her

    May 21, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  2. Steve RI

    Sen.Specter is a perfect fit for the Dumbocrats, It's a party of fools.

    May 21, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    @ phoenix86, who said "Specter risks giving hard evidence that Pelosi is lying, she'll never allow that to happen."

    Indeed that would seem to be a small part of the GOP's plan...but the reality is, they are hoping those memos contain briefings that show that the torture was "working." Forest for the trees...they still can't wrap their heads around the fact that NOTHING can justify throwing everything we stand for as a society out the window like a highway diaper.

    May 21, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  4. Kelby In Houston, TX

    @ Fair is Fair,
    Please, if you are going to retort to something I have stated, you have go to do better than that. I abhor (I'm sorry, there I go using big words again) hate baseless statements and hypocrisy and I will call you on it. Be an adult, say something reasonable and intelligent that you can actually back up with facts and quotes. And find something better to respond to. That was just a shout out to Arlen.

    May 21, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  5. lynn in NM

    Why hasn't Nancy requested the records? Is it because she knows she lied?

    May 21, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  6. Sam

    Specter is a pathetic old fool who is doing anything he can to hang on to his Senate seat. I so hope the voters of Pennsylvania, whether they be Democratic voters in the primary or all voters in the general election, throw out this washed up hanger-on.

    May 21, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  7. elliott

    Specter has always been a closet Dem

    May 21, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  8. Cass

    One more thing, you idiotic Rethugs keep trying to foster the notion thea Dems are "socialist"

    Tell you what, when you reach the age of 65 don't take social security or medicare, then you won't be part of the socialist agenda.

    You people are so ignorate and inane, that you don't realize that the US has had social programs for a very long time'

    You idiots hollaring "socialism" make me sick. Your stupid

    May 21, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  9. Andy J, NY, NY

    In the words of Ralph Malph- Sit on it, Specter.

    May 21, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  10. To eric

    @eric- Your whole party is a bunch of chicken hawks and draft deferment professionals.

    May 21, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  11. David

    FORMER republican, never again!

    Someone obviously is unfamiliar with the term "illegal". The interrogation methods were completely LEGAl and approved by congress. Get a clue bud, you sound like a pathetic lib....oh wait you are one. You remind me a lot of Arlen.

    May 21, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  12. Post always rejected by CNN

    It is about time that someone called for the CIA and the bush administration to fess up.....and while he is at it, he should ask how come gingrich knew what went on in that meeting. I don't think he had the clearance to be briefed on an intelligence meeting. After all he had to resign from the congress almost eight years ago for LYING AND FRAUD.

    May 21, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  13. barbara

    Guess what? It doesnt matter anymore. The dems have decided not to question their own and so thye have business trying to question anyone else. Its over. Stick a fork in it its done. The best that can, and should, be done is to remind the people of this when it comes time for elections. ALL dems need to go.

    May 21, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  14. Jason

    The CIA is claiming they informed Bob Graham of water boarding also and three out of the four of the days they claimed to have informed him, he didn't even have meetings with them. Nancy Pelosi is actually probably telling the truth.

    May 21, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  15. RealityKing

    Uncle Tom is just blowing smoke for Obama...

    May 21, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  16. jm

    This man authored the single bullet theory. Do you believe anything he says?

    May 21, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  17. terry in fl

    Nancy Pelosi is a lier and a disgrace to our Country. She needs to step down and be sanctioned NOW!

    May 21, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
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