House Intel chair left in dark on secret Iran talks

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee expressed concern Monday that Congress was left in the dark about secret negotiations between the Obama administration and Iran. 

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said he was never informed of talks that The Associated Press disclosed had been going on at high levels since early this year. 

He said it adds a level of unnecessary suspicion to the initial nuclear deal reached over the weekend.  

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“We have full access to every classified program, every covert action program, as we should in our role for oversight,” he said on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” “It was concerning that they didn't believe it was important enough to do this. And that just raises questions about what — what did they prearrange prior to the P5-plus-1.

“This is why you don't want to do this. It raises unnecessary suspicions about what was agreed to prior to the P5-plus-1,” he added. 

After the deal was announced Saturday, the AP reported that the Obama administration had held at least five high-level meetings with Iranian diplomats since March. Mid-level U.S. officials had been in meetings going back to 2011 in Oman. 

Rogers said he is under the impression that the Senate Intelligence Committee was also left in the dark. 

“There was no formal notification, certainly that I received,” he said. “And my understanding is that neither did the Senate, which is concerning.”

President Obama first told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the meetings during his trip here in late September. The United States’s other negotiating partners were alerted soon after that, according to the report.  

Lawmakers from both parties have come out against the deal. Rogers, who also opposes the agreement, said opposition from Congress might be why the administration kept it a secret. 

“A bipartisan group in Congress thinks this is a bad deal, which is apparently why they had secret meetings to talk about it, because most of the people who are concerned about it, including the neighbors of Iran who are most concerned, now don't think it's a good deal,” he said. 

Obama has defined the six-month deal as a first step. The U.S. has agreed to lift some sanctions on Iran in exchange for the country temporarily freezing its nuclear program and submitting to inspections, among other things. 

—This post was updated at 9 p.m.