POLITICS

Dem Rep: CIA Officials Could Be Charged For Lying To Congress

08/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), chair of a key intelligence subcommittee, called for an investigation Friday to determine if the CIA lied to the Congress, citing "systematic deception by the CIA."

In a letter to Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Schakowsky says that such deception amounts to "a possible violation of the National Security Act and, at a minimum, a blatant disregard of this committee's oversight authority."

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Schakowsky added that the investigation could lead to charges against CIA officials being forwarded to the Department of Justice.

"I think it may be illegal that they failed to inform Congress," said Schakowsky, referring to a secret program about which CIA Director Leon Panetta only recently briefed Congress. Schakowsky said she couldn't speak about the program specifically. She could only say that the program was launched shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 and ended the day before Panetta briefed Congress. She said she could not say whether she thought the program itself was illegal.

"On at least one occasion the committee was actually lied to," said Schakowsky, unable to provide details but backing up an assertion made by Reyes earlier in the week. "There is a pattern here."

Schakowsky said that the recent meeting with Panetta was an "incredibly serious briefing." Following the meeting, seven House Democrats wrote a letter to Panetta urging him to retract an earlier statement he'd made, in which he assert that it is not the CIA's "policy or practice" to mislead the Congress. In response, CIA spokesman George Little appeared to concede that the Panetta had told the committee that CIA had, in practice, misled Congress in the past, but that Panetta had been the one to alert Congress to it in the briefing.

"As the letter from these six representatives notes, it was the CIA that took the initiative to notify the oversight committees," Little said.

Little, however, said that such an inference is incorrect. "Director Panetta did not say--and I didn't either--that the CIA misled Congress," he told the Huffington Post.

The committee members, in their letter, however, insist that he told them the CIA did just that.

Schakowsky wants the CIA assertion tested by an investigation. "We take very seriously this issue of being lied to, being misled," she said.

Meanwhile, President Obama has threatened to veto congressional efforts to expand the number of members who are eligible to be briefed on top-secret matters. Obama's veto threat, it's presumed, stems from a mistrust in the ability of Congress to keep the secret secret.

Schakowsky says the administration position is more politics than substance. "They'd like to control the leaks themselves," she said.

Read the letter:

Representative Silvestre Reyes

Chairman

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

HVC-304, U.S. Capitol

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Reyes:

Over the course of the past eight years, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) leaders briefing the House Intelligence Committee have purposefully withheld information from Congress dealing with the national security of our country. The systematic deception by the CIA is a possible violation of the National Security Act and, at a minimum, a blatant disregard of this committee's oversight authority.

I appreciate that you have begun taking steps to "gather information on the recent notification" from CIA Director Leon Panetta and that you are considering opening a full investigation. It is clear to me that the revelations Mr. Panetta provided create an imperative for an investigation to begin immediately by either the Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee that I chair or the full committee.

It is inexcusable for the CIA to lie, mislead, or withhold information from the Congress. The Intelligence Committee depends on the presentation of reliable and complete information when deliberating important decisions that impact the national security of the United States. Past practices of the CIA compromise the integrity of this committee and undermine the ability of committee members to fulfill our oversight obligations as members to the Select Committee. To ensure accountability and restore faith in the system, I strongly urge you to promptly launch an investigation into this critical matter.

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