Panetta pledges to keep Congress fully informed on CIA

CIA Director Leon Panetta pledged to keep all members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees fully informed days after his agency came under fire for allegedly misleading members of Congress in its briefings.

"What I intend to do is to make sure they're fully informed of what we're doing," Panetta said of his organization's relationship with the intelligence committees during a speech Monday before the Pacific Council on International Policy.

The director's remarks come after allegations last week from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that the CIA had misled Congress in its briefings, causing Panetta to shoot back in a memo that Pelosi had been briefed truthfully.

"My view is that it's important to inform all members of the Intelligence Committee," Panetta said, adding that he'll be having coffee with members of the Senate committee tomorrow.

"What I don't want to do is just have a 'Gang of 4' meeting," he added, referring to briefings given only to the party leaders in the House and Senate.

Panetta decried politicization of the CIA's role as well, saying it hurts not only the agency and the Congress, but also the nation writ large when it becomes politicized.

"There's been a lot of poison in the well these last few years," Panetta asserted, pointing to former colleagues who'd worked together on intelligence issues.

"Yes they had their politics. But when it came to the issues confronting this country, they worked together," he said. "I am a believer that that's the way our system works best."

Panetta also said Monday that he would prefer to move forward instead of investigating the policies of the intelligence community during the Bush administration.

The CIA and the Bush administration has come under fire from the left-wing of the Democratic Party for what roles they had in authorizing the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, on detainees in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Liberal activist groups and several lawmakers have called for an investigation into who was responsible for those policies.

Panetta said he understands that sentiment but worried that it could distract from the CIA's ultimate objective.

"I don't deny them the opportunity the learn the lessons from that period," he said. "But...we have to be very careful that we don't forget our responsibility to the present and to the future. We are a nation at war, we have to confront that reality every day. And while it's important to learn the lessons of the past, we must not do it in a way that sacrifices our capability to stay focused...on those that would threaten the United States of America."

-Michael O'Brien and Jeremy Jacobs

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