July 22nd, 2009
06:32 PM ET
13 years ago

Intelligence chief defends delay in government's interrogation review

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.

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. ib

    Then don't touch it; leave it alone if you want to keep it right.

    July 22, 2009 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  2. Hopeful Optimist

    Obama's not in this thing to impress. He wants to get it right for the sake of America. I know thats hard for all you GOP cynics out there to digest. For once in your meaningless lives put someone or something else first. You'll be surprised by the transformation you will see.

    July 22, 2009 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  3. amy shoot

    So this he wants to take his time and get right ... too bad he doesn't want to get health care right but that would not fit into his ( socialist ) PLAN that he keeps indicating he's following. Health Care could break the economy if not right. Democracy as it works is now is not a great system of government if you look only at the problems... but it IS the greatest system of government in the world and worth fighting for.. We have a good system of Health Care and can be great if we focus on the pink elephant in the room **. Personal responsiblity **( which Obama wants to trade for collective responsibility ) and Limited Resourses. Its not outrageous that some people may have it better than others - Its life -

    July 22, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  4. S M R

    Yes lets take our time and get it right for a solid guilty conviction. No need to rush because Cheney is being watched by the Secret Service, at his request, ( that worked out nice ) 🙂

    July 22, 2009 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  5. Raul

    whats funny is that we went to war to do the same thing .... and no results .... not to mention illegal. welcome to CUBA!

    July 22, 2009 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |