Some Senate intelligence panel members say CIA withholding secret interrogation review

McClatchy Washington BureauDecember 17, 2013 

US NEWS HUBBARDACT 5 MCT

Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia

RAFAEL SUANES — MCT

— The Central Intelligence Agency is believed by some members of the Senate Intelligence Committee to be holding on to an internal report on its post-9/11 interrogation practices, which aligns with the highly controversial findings of a committee report on the subject.

The possible existence of the secret report, commissioned by former CIA Director Leon Panetta, was revealed Tuesday during a tense confirmation hearing for Caroline Krass, who was nominated by the White House to serve as general counsel for the agency. Several committee members pressed Krass on the review’s existence and questioned why the agency is withholding evidence that the panel has requested in the course of its oversight responsibilities.

“There is word that there’s an internal CIA report that Director Panetta commissioned that by and large agrees much more with our report than it disagrees. We’d like to see it,” said Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado.

The committee’s report is a massive, 6,300-page investigation that cost more than $40 million and took years to complete. Its highly critical findings _ including information on the Bush administration’s secret “black site” prisons and interrogation techniques _ have been consistently disputed by the CIA and the White House.

Tuesday’s hearing highlighted the frustration of committee members over the continued resistance of the CIA. Several lawmakers say the report is the most significant exercise of oversight duties in the committee’s history, and that the agency’s pushback is interfering with the committee’s ability to do its job.

But not all of the panel’s members are sure of the review’s existence. Committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said Udall’s remarks were the first he had heard of the CIA’s internal report. Chambliss said he wasn’t convinced it even existed, let alone that it said what Udall alleged.

“I’ll be honest with you, that’s the first I’ve heard about it,” said Chambliss. “I don’t know what he’s talking about. . . . I didn’t hear anything in that hearing today that is consistent with the facts as they pertain to the detainee report, so I don’t put much credibility in that.”

The CIA has met continuously with the committee since members approved its report last year. Agency officials have publicly charged that some of the committee report’s findings are inaccurate and have asked that it not be released.

But despite these frequent meetings over the panel’s findings, Udall said the internal CIA report he believes exists has not been included in the agency’s responses, among them a more than 100-page memo challenging the committee’s conclusions.

“There’s a disconnect. You have the CIA and what they’ve said to us in that 60 hours of meetings back and forth with our staff, and . . . the report that (former CIA) Director Panetta commissioned,” Udall said.

Udall and several other panel members said they’re continuing to press the Central Intelligence Agency to release evidence critical to the committee’s investigation, including Panetta’s internal report and communication wires.

Krass said she was committed to working with the committee over the report. But she sparred with several lawmakers, including Democratic Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein of California and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., over whether the committee had the right to see the legal memos that justified the CIA’s interrogation programs. She said the committee was entitled to a legal understanding, but not to the actual memos.

Despite the agency’s reluctance to turn over the internal report, Feinstein said the panel is in the final stages of incorporating the CIA’s responses into the report’s 300-page summary. She said she plans for the committee to vote on the summary’s release sometime next month.

Email: awatkins@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @alimariewatkins

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