July 12th, 2009
12:58 PM ET
13 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. Matt, San Diego, CA

    Democrats – 'We want the truth'
    GOP – 'You can't handle the truth!'


    July 12, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  2. Tracy

    So withholding information from Congress is a "serious breach"... but congress can pass legislation without reading the actual bill? It's not acceptable for the CIA to withhold information on a counter-terrorism plan, that never was implemented, but congress can commit billions of our tax dollars to their pet projects, slipped in a bill in the middle of the night? How screwed up is that? It seems to me that our current "checks and balance" system is the problem. Where's the transparency we were promised?

    July 12, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  3. RC

    If it is against the law for Cheney to withhold information from Congress then why isn't he being prosecuted?? I read one article that said the CIA wasn't going to be prosecuted for torture at a point where the CIA thought it was known to be illegial. That sure wouldn't fly in any other court in the U.S.
    I have always heard that being ignorance of the law is no defence.
    That should surely apply here.
    I would think all court cases could fall back on a defence for being innocent because they didn't know it was illigal .
    Even O.J. would have been found not guilty with that defence.
    I hate to think our legal system is different for the common people as to the CIA, Justice department lawyers, and politicians.

    July 12, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  4. tigerakabj

    Furthermore, I expect to see Cheney rear his head shortly, accompanied by his daughter.

    It happened just after Pres. Obama announced procurement reform/end of no-bid contract (**cough Halliburton cough**) and the release of the torture memos.

    Lastly, turns out Pelosi was telling the truth. I'm sure the Fox News viewers will attempt to change the subject and go on and on about "libs, Obamabots, socialists, marxists, communists, and lefties" making America a worse place.

    July 12, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  5. Todd

    How about those in congress and the senate strap a gun on and a vest and try going out and doing the jobs of the in the intelligence agency. After they have cleaned the urine and feces from them selves, if they live to see another day, I am sure they might shut their mouths on the issue!

    July 12, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  6. Matt

    Thank god a democratic president didn't do this. We would have to see Palin almost in tears on TV along with all the Republicans calling for action. As it is republicans play it down. Sad really.

    July 12, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  7. Give me a Break

    You notice how Sen. Gregg kept trying to make it a case of fear; by trying to insinuate that if we look into the past, that the C.I.A will be less apt to do their job? And then immediately, as damage control, Sen. Alexander inisinuated that Republicans would then want to investigate as far back as the Clinton Administration? Typical Partisan Smoke and Mirrors, folks. The Truth will set you Free.

    July 12, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  8. Give me a Break

    You notice how Sen. Gregg kept trying to make it a case of fear; by trying to insinuate that if we look into the past, that the C.I.A will be less apt to do their job? And then immediately, as damage control, Sen. Alexander inisinuated that Republicans would then want to investigate as far back as the Clinton Administration? Typical Partisan Smoke and Mirrors, folks. The Truth shall set you Free.

    July 12, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  9. JonDie

    Cheney's actions were crimes.

    July 12, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  10. Scott in Tennessee

    I tell you what! All republican and democratic senators that tries to down play this. We need to remember them in the election. I am saying we need to vote these people out of office that tries to cover this up. Lets try war crimes for the past administration. This will bring back trust to America.

    July 12, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  11. Rob in Detroit Mi.

    why is it that when ever there is talk about investagating the Busch admin. the scumbag Republicans talk no threaten to investigate the Clinton Admin. lets get to the truth no matter where it leads,cheney is a dangerous man who should be in jail,Real Americans will not accept whats been going on the last eight years.

    July 12, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  12. David In West Virginia

    How ironic that the republican senators are defending the Bush Administration at all cost. Simply put, it reflects on their lack of oversight and the republican belief that the Bush Administration could do no wrong. President Bush totally destroyed the U.S. Economy and allowed his political contributors (Wall Street and Big Business) to run the U.S. economy into the ground while Big Business CEO got bonuses undeserved, the Bush Administration, including Cheney got extremely wealthy with their underhanded tactics with defense stocks and the unfounded War in Iraq. While they spent billions of taxpayer dollars, the Party of No wants to criticize Pres. Obama, who inherited the most awful mess on Wall Street, Main Street and around the world thanks to criminals to the like of Bush, Cheney, Gonzales, and the Republican Party.

    July 12, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  13. Ancient Texan

    Since this was a "program on the shelf" for future use if needed, this is not anything other than a non-issue trotted out to create a smoke screen to get Nancy Pelosi off the hook in her argument with the CIA over who lied about an alleged torture briefing. No mystery here. But the Democrats will fein concerned, dismayed , and shocked about this.

    July 12, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  14. Justin

    We need to settle all matters relating the Bush administration (attorney firings, prisoners…) and move on. The best way is doing in a transparent process: either by a legal proceeding or Congressional hearing. FOR ONCE, we need to resolve these problems in these tribunals, either guilty or innocence, and let the country move on.

    July 12, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  15. Brett

    Congress withholds information from the American public on a daily basis. Hypocrites!

    July 12, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  16. annie for Palin

    There is not a democrat in congress that USA taxpayers would feel comfortable with them knowing any high profile security secrets.

    July 12, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  17. David Self

    It's Cheney! What do you expect? He ran the country for about 7 years. We had a dictatorship! Omit it!

    July 12, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  18. Democrats Hate America

    Well, even if it is true and not made up like most Democrat's accusations, why would he want to have national security secrets released to Congress when Democrats run to the press with everything they can to hurt America's national interests? We've seen in the last 6 years how many national security secrets were reported in the liberal democrat supported New York Times. Where do you suppose they get their info? From Democrat members of Congress and their staff of course. I'm sure Democrats won't agree, but they will never say that their party has ever done anything wrong, so they totally discredit themselves anyway. Bush and Cheney tried to keep us safe. Democrats tried to bring down Bush and Cheney, by trying to foil the war effort by releasing secret sensitive information to the press. No wonder Cheney would tell them not to give any info to Congress.

    July 12, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  19. annie s

    Please, please, please investigate this despicable human being already. The Bush/Cheney administration made a mockery of our Constitution. Mr. Cheney came into office determined to wage war against Iraq (see the memo he wrote to Clinton in 1997) and determined that he was above the law. If America is ever to regain it's moral standing in the world, these two people must be held accountable for the wrongs they carried out.

    July 12, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  20. Luan Isuffi

    Bottom line is that those totally incompetent morons Bush and Cheney should spend the rest of their miserable life in jail.

    July 12, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  21. Jeremy

    The CIA is still a part of the government. And still required to follow our system of checks and balances, and be held accountable. The CIA does not belong exclusively to the executive branch; and they are not a tool for the executive branch to avoid the system of checks and balances. Like Senator Stabenow said, this is not a dictatorship.

    So this whole, "we can't hurt the morale of the CIA" defense is a load of crap.

    July 12, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  22. ruth cherico

    I am not an admirer of Cheney as I don't know enough to make an educated opinion about him.. However, he made the right decision. To tell those delinquent idiots in Congress about any move the CIA was about to make, would be a disaster for the United States. The CIA is a secretive agency so why in the world would it tell those eight big mouths in Congress anything.? The law should be changed to protect important state secrets and I hope Cheney can hang in there. I am wondering if there is a poll indicating the public's opinion on this controversy?

    July 12, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
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