Udall Presses White House to Limit CIA Involvement in Declassification of Senate Intelligence Committee Study
Mark Udall, who has led the push to quickly declassify the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's study of the CIA's detention and interrogation program, pressed the White House today to limit the CIA's involvement in the study's declassification. Udall, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the comments and behavior of current and former CIA officials cast doubt on the agency's ability to appropriately oversee the declassification process.
"White House leadership on the declassification process would also be appropriate, as Chairman Feinstein indicated in her recent letter, given that this study covers a covert action program under the authority of the president and the National Security Council," Udall wrote. "But the most pressing reason for the White House to step in and manage this process is the CIA's clear conflict of interest on this issue and its demonstrated inability to face the truth about this program. … The CIA is certainly entitled to issue a public response to the Committee's study, but not to impede the declassification of the study itself."
Udall's letter expresses disappointment in White House remarks indicating plans for the CIA to play a lead role in the declassification of the study. Udall also cites the recent problematic comments from CIA Director John Brennan and former CIA Acting Director Mike Morrell about the CIA's understanding of its role in the study's declassification and about intelligence resulting from the agency's brutal and ineffective detention and interrogation program.
"This conflict of interest — amplified by the CIA's recent unauthorized search of the Committee's computers and the CIA's criminal referral of Committee staff to the Department of Justice, both of which appear to be an effort to intimidate and interfere in a fully authorized Congressional investigation — makes it all the more clear that it is inappropriate for the CIA to lead the declassification process," Udall said in the letter.
Udall has been the leading proponent of swiftly declassifying the Senate Intelligence Committee's exhaustive study. Following the Senate Intelligence Committee's vote last week to declassify the study, he called on the White House to ensure the CIA does not oversee the declassification of the study.
To read Udall's letter, click HERE or scroll below:
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama:
I write in the wake of last week’s historic and bipartisan vote in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to declassify the Executive Summary and Findings and Conclusions of the Committee’s Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. I thank you again for your commitment to work with the Committee to declassify this important report.
Following the vote, however, I was disappointed to read the comments of a White House spokeswoman that the “CIA, in consultation with other agencies, will conduct the declassification review.” As I stated last week, I believe it is imperative that you oversee the declassification process to ensure that as much of this important document as possible will see the light of day. This could be done in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence or the Public Interest Declassification Board, for instance, with input from the CIA only as necessary. White House leadership on the declassification process would also be appropriate, as Chairman Feinstein indicated in her recent letter, given that this study covers a covert action program under the authority of the president and the National Security Council. But the most pressing reason for the White House to step in and manage this process is the CIA's clear conflict of interest on this issue and its demonstrated inability to face the truth about this program.
I want to draw particular attention to CIA Director Brennan’s statement in two letters to CIA employees and at a public forum this year that, “we also owe it to the women and men who faithfully did their duty in executing this program to try to make sure any historical account of it is balanced and accurate.” I have every confidence in the accuracy of the Committee’s study and that by drawing from six million of the CIA’s own records, the study is a factual representation of the program and how it was run. But whether or not the study is “balanced” or “accurate” is not relevant to those charged with the task of declassification. The CIA is certainly entitled to issue a public response to the Committee’s study, but not to impede the declassification of the study itself.
You may be aware that the CIA’s former Acting Director and current member of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, Michael Morell, stated in a recent interview that Committee members were briefed on the program early on and that they did not oppose it, that so-called enhanced interrogation techniques were effective and produced “unique intelligence,” and that these techniques did not constitute torture. This is all inaccurate. He also suggested that the real morality question is that, “if you don’t use these techniques, Americans are going to die.”
Former director Morell was involved in producing the CIA’s flawed response to the Committee’s study and served as the agency’s deputy director until the summer of 2013. His views on and strong support of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program are representative of the views of some senior officers at the agency today, many of whom played leading roles in this program. This conflict of interest – amplified by the CIA’s recent unauthorized search of the Committee’s computers and the CIA’s criminal referral of Committee staff to the Department of Justice, both of which appear to be an effort to intimidate and interfere in a fully authorized Congressional investigation – makes it all the more clear that it is inappropriate for the CIA to lead the declassification process.
I echo Chairman Feinstein’s request that the White House take the lead in the declassification process. I also appreciate your past statements – and those of your Administration, including Attorney General Holder this week – in support of declassification of the Committee’s study with only redactions as necessary for national security concerns. Only through strong leadership and direction from the White House will the declassification process be viewed as credible.